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Mike Yeo, Armed with a New Deal, is Aiming High

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

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"I think he did a great job. There were times where the wheels could have come off and he kept it together. He was always level-headed. I think he did a great job and I think we're going to have a bright future with him, Ryan Suter said after the Wild were eliminated in Game 6 by the Chicago Blackhawks.

My goal, and our goal, is to win the Stanley Cup. So I think to allow any satisfaction or comfort to creep in before that happens is a mistake. -Mike Yeo

He, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo, was the person Ryan Suter was referring to in that interview with the Pioneer Press. Yeo was awarded with a shiny new three-year contract extension after leading the Wild to the playoffs for the second straight season. There have been very good things that have happened under Yeo's tenure - the Wild have made the playoffs two years in a row and have made it past the first round last season, Minnesota has moved away from the Dump & Chase to possession, and the team has developed young talent while drawing the big free agents to St. Paul. He has overseen the best two years possession-wise in the last six years.

Jacques Lemaire
2008-09: Rank: 25th CF% 47.3
79 gms
25th FF% 47.1

22nd GF% 47.4

Todd Richards
2009-10: Rank: 22nd CF% 47.8
82 gms
21st FF% 48.1

25th GF% 45.7

2010-11: Rank: 29th CF% 45.2
82 gms
30th FF% 44.7

25th GF% 45.8

Mike Yeo
2011-12: Rank: 30th CF% 44.3
82 gms
30th FF% 44.7

30th GF% 41.2

2012-13: Rank: 15th CF% 49.7
48 gms
16th FF% 49.6

24th GF% 46.6

2013-14: Rank: 21th CF% 48.8
82 gms
23rd FF% 49.0

9th  GF% 52.6

There has also been a lot to criticize. He has also overseen the worst possession Wild team in the last six seasons. The special teams have been middle-of-the-road the past three seasons with a mediocre penalty kill and a snake-bitten power play. While the talent level of the team has risen substantially, the same lack-luster results have been the same.

Yeo has been reluctant to play inexperienced youth in lieu of veterans that have become obsolete. It took Yeo entirely too long to make Dany Heatley a healthy scratch last season. Guys like Nate Prosser and Keith Ballard were given precedence over a guy like Jonathon Blum in last year's playoffs because of toughness rather than ability to provide offense from defense.

Yeo has had the benefit of an excuse in every year he has been coach. His first year was the year the Wild stormed out to the league lead only to plummet out of the playoff picture after a rash of injuries to an already limited talented team hit hard after the calendar turned over to 2012. His second year, the Wild had a large turnover in the roster and the problems were compounded by a lengthy work-stoppage that cut training camp and the season short. The Wild nearly missed the playoffs that season as his team stumbled down the stretch and only clinched a berth by tie-breaker. Then, last season, the team did clinch the first wild card in spite of three ankle injuries to Mikko Koivu, Jared Spurgeon, and Zach Parise. The goaltending situation saw incredible health problems and started five different netminders. Team health during Yeo's tenure has been anything but healthy.

Minnesota has had comically bad problems finding the twine behind opposing goalies. To be fair, a coach can only implement systems to help the team be successful, but it is up to the players to execute and score. With the news of Parise jumping on board with analytics and puck possession, it is even more imperative that Yeo pay special attention to deployment, match-ups, and icing the best team every night.

His first change this season is the addition of Andrew Brunette behind the bench to provide a kick-start to the power play. "I just want to be myself and create my own style or, at the very least, be something that's right for our group," Yeo said to the Pioneer Press. "I think that with that, you as a coach, if you're going to be successful, have to be willing to change and willing to be open-minded, based on what the team you have needs."

There may be a little more open-mindedness when the Wild made final cuts breaking training camp as players like Ballard, Prosser, and Stu Bickel are low on the depth chart in favor of Christian Folin, Mathew Dumba, and Jason Zucker. Minnesota is able to play three legitimate scoring lines and a real shutdown line. This should allow Yeo to roll all 4 lines and keep players fresh as each game wears on.

The expectations have justifiably been raised for this season. Yeo had a lot to do with that. At the same time, Yeo isn't above any of the criticism he's received and he will need to find a way to silence his doubters. He is bringing with him the same assistants in Daryl Sydor, Darby Hendrickson, Rick Wilson, Bob Mason, and Andrew Brunette, that helped him achieve two straight playoff berths. A playoff berth isn't going to be enough for Minnesota fans this time around. Yeo has his eyes looking a little higher.

"My goal, and our goal, is to win the Stanley Cup. So I think to allow any satisfaction or comfort to creep in before that happens is a mistake."