If you've been living under a rock for the last 11 days, the Minnesota Wild have made a coaching change. The Wild immediately came out of the gate like a team rejuvenated and looking like it had pressed the "reset button." And through four games, it looked as if the change was significant. Twenty-one goals were scored in four straight wins. Minnesota was dominating the scoreboard.
But the change may have just been the "new coach bump." You see, there is a thinking out there that Mike Yeo had been scapegoated because his players had "quit" on him. Which is pretty convenient, since those that think along those lines could essentially have it both ways. Had the Wild got off to a winning streak it was, "The players quit on the coach." But if the Wild lost right away it would be, "See! The players are to blame!" Now that the Wild are coming off two straight losses, the chickens have come home to roost.
See, a professional coach in every pro sports league everywhere must do one thing: provide winning results. If that doesn't happen, the franchise moves on. Obvious enough, right? Coaches don't, all of a sudden, forget how to coach. And in this sports market, we should be all too familiar with coaching changes. There are plenty of good coaches that lose their jobs. Barry Trotz, Jacques Lemaire, Joel Quenneville, Peter Laviolette...I could keep going. But the fact still remains, whether they deserve it or not, coaches will lose their jobs. Yeo was no different.
To not understand why he was fired, is to misunderstand the profession as a whole. Fans are loyal to players and to the franchises that invest millions of dollars in those players. A coach, more or less, is a figure head that manages and babysits personalities. The buck, no matter what, when it comes to the way the players perform on the field, court, or ice, always stops at the coach.
Regardless of the coach, we knew that the players were the main problems with this team. And after the new coach was named, the players have remained the same. The Wild may have been good while in the offensive zone during the four game win streak, but the advanced stats say that the Wild didn't control the flow play outside of the Vancouver game.
Some may not want to put much stake in those numbers. And that's fair. Hockey is a funny sport, full of unpredictability. However, those stats only show patterns of a team's of player's overall performance over time. Stats from one game is nothing but a snapshot in time. Put those snapshots over time and you have trends.
Chris recently wrote about those stats giving him pause to believe that anything has really changed with the Wild. It's true that teams can win even when they get heavily out-shot, and out played. But it's just not a recipe for long-term success. Shooting percentage and an effective power play can be the greatest equalizer, even when the team doesn't have its best game.
Below is the running Corsi (shot attempts) charts of the six games so far in the John Torchetti era of the Wild.
Digging further into the numbers, since Torchetti, the only thing that has improved was High Danger Scoring Chances For. At 10.1 HSCF per 60 minutes 5v5, the Wild have improved in the five games after Yeo was fired to 11.6.
Minnesota had been attacking the front of the net inside the offensive zone with shots, centering passes, and bodies in the crease. If there was one area of the ice I noticed a change, it was that. Even with the eye-test, the Wild just haven't been controlling games at an elite level. In the gif below, you can see the centering pass set up the goal.
The players, up until the Islanders game had been getting to the middle of the ice and putting the puck on the sticks of shooters going to the net. It's the one fundamental change this team ha accomplished. Getting to the net with a purpose was one thing this team was missing. But that's not the only thing this teams needs to continue to improve upon.
IF, and that's a big "if," Torch can get this team to play a possession style game while attacking the net with purpose, this team could regularly achieve winning results. In turn, a winning team will need no excuses, nor a need for a scapegoat. It's a shame Yeo couldn't get the squad to do those things with a season-long consistency, among other issues that propped up in the locker room. He is a good coach, that couldn't get his players for perform at the right level, night-in and night-out. And it still doesn't change that, whether fair or not, he was scapegoated by the players, because professional teams are comprised of the players. And the buck, regarding on-ice performance, stops with the head coach.