Mike Yeo unleashes tirade on slumping Minnesota Wild in practice
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Before the start of practice Monday, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo gathered his team at center ice at the Xcel Energy Center and delivered an impassioned, expletive-laced speech.It looked and sounded a lot like the fiery tirade...
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Before the start of practice Monday, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo gathered his team at center ice at the Xcel Energy Center and delivered an impassioned, expletive-laced speech.
It looked and sounded a lot like the fiery tirades he unleashed on his players during similar slumps this time of year the past couple of seasons.
This time, he blasted his team for moping and for its eighth-place standing in the Western Conference - but mostly for its poor play of late. After winning 10 of their first 15 games, the Wild have won just one of their past seven.
Tension is running high, and Yeo isn’t the only person upset.
Veteran defenseman Ryan Suter made it clear he isn’t happy with his coach’s recent lineup changes. Zach Parise tried to restore calm by defending teammates’ effort on the ice.
In the end, Yeo put the team through a grinding workout Monday.
“It was not designed to be a fun practice,” Yeo said. “It’s about looking in the mirror and (realizing) we’re not good enough right now. It’s about some harsh reality, and that’s not fun. It’s not fun to hear, it’s not fun to accept, but winners respond.”
The Wild responded by defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks 2-1 on Tuesday in Chicago.
As Yeo shuffled his defensive pairings, Suter, a left-handed shooter, was placed with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin even though Yeo and Suter decided during the offseason that it would be best for Suter to play with a righty.
“I don’t know what’s going on there,” Suter said after the Monday practice. “He decided to change things up. I don’t know what they’re thinking. … I need to play with a right-handed defenseman to give me more options (in the) neutral zone, offensively and even coming out of D zone. It’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”
Suter said later he is willing to play with whomever coaches want him to play with if it means the Wild win.
Still, it is clear that frustration is mounting after the Wild’s most recent loss, 4-3 in overtime against Dallas Saturday in a game Minnesota led 3-0 in the third period.
“We can’t do much about what happened against Dallas,” Parise said. “The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and get better as a team.”
Monday’s intense practice featured plenty of work on the Wild’s defensive zone play.
“We spend all game there, so we might as well be good at it,” Yeo told his players.
The Wild tied a record for the franchise’s best start through 15 games, going 10-3-2. Since then, they are 2-4-2.
The recent homestand, which produced just one win in four games, brought out the first hint of disconnect within the Wild.
Players blamed their Saturday collapse on a willingness to sit back defensively. Yeo blamed it, at least in part, on selfishness among players chasing a fourth goal.
On Monday came the shakeup of defensive pairings.
Because righty Matt Dumba hasn’t played below expectations, the coaches reverted back to last season’s top-four pairings, placing Suter and Brodin together.
While Suter said he has plenty of respect for Brodin, his defensive partner the past two seasons, he has enjoyed, both statistically and otherwise, playing with a right-shot defenseman this season.
Yeo countered that by saying: “Our group of defensemen is as good as any group in the NHL, so we should be able to put different guys on the ice with whoever, and we should be able to be successful as long as we’re all on the same page.”
But perhaps the Wild’s biggest problem has been poor play in their own zone. Yeo said that was a problem even during the Wild’s early winning ways.
“I think we got away with some things for a while, but getting away with things, if you do that over time - even if you get to the playoffs - you’re not going to have any success,” Yeo said. “We have to build the type of game starting right now that gets us in the playoffs (and gives) us a chance to succeed in the playoffs too.”