Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild: Mike Yeo

Two summers ago, Mike Yeo was the new bench boss in Minnesota. He was brought in after pitching to GM Chuck Fletcher his plan to give this team an identity, make them more aggressive, and get them to push for higher goals (like winning). This coming after his predecessor on the bench, Todd Richards, seemed to lack the aforementioned aspects.

Now its two years later, and fans have Yeo in the hot seat. Whether he is actually on the hot seat with his boss Fletcher and Fletcher's boss Craig Leipold remains to be seen. In two seasons with the team, Yeo has compiled a 61-55-14 record, and just barely got the Wild in the playoff last season.

To Yeo's defense, in those previous two seasons, the team has not been overly deep and injuries have brought out that lack of depth. But that is in the past. Entering this season, Yeo has a team that is deep at forward and goaltending, with a defense that looks to be solid for the first time since the Jacques Lemaire era.

Now after making the playoffs last year, all expectations are that the team needs to make a deeper run in the playoffs or else Yeo needs to go. But how much should we really expect after looking at the team and seeing how many young players fill crucial spots on the team? Make the playoffs and lose in the first round? Second round?

Mike Yeo said when he was hired that he wants to give this team a winning culture. Well this here is his golden opportunity. He has the best Wild team since the 07-08 division champs squad (this is by no means implying the Wild will win the division), and has a chance to give the Wild its first back to back trip to the postseason since 2007 and 2008.

A big challenge for Yeo this season, compared to his first two, is he does not get to face the weak Northwest Division anymore. The days of getting to play weak teams like Calgary and Edmonton are far gone. Realignment has put the Wild in a competitive Central Division, with defending Cup Champs Chicago and Cup favorite St Louis (both teams have had the Wild's number under Yeo's watch). Dallas and Nashville are two teams who had down years in 2012-13, but look to rebound this year and pose the biggest threat to the Wild for getting into the playoffs.

So really we come back to the question, how much should we really expect from Mike Yeo and the Wild this season? Would it really be that disappointing if the team made the playoffs and got bounced in say 6 games by St. Louis? Because it seems likely that the Wild will draw the Blackhawks or Blues in the playoffs again this year due to the new playoff format.

If Mike Yeo is truly pushing this team for greater things then perhaps it is logical to assume he has this team set on a deep playoff run. But from a fan's perspective, the best thing to do right now is manage our expectations. A second straight playoff appearance would be a good expectation. Maybe taking the first round to a sixth or seventh game is a good one too. But saying a second round playoff appearance might be too much here.

Oh and by the way, Yeo does have Stanley Cup experience as a coach too (PIT-2009). That will come in handy at some point down the road. So don't give up on him just yet...

Yeo and PIT HC Dan Bylsma in 2009.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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