Tag Archives: Mike Yeo

Quick Skate And Off To Canada

The Wild were on the ice today for a short, yet, strategic practice before heading North of the Border to face the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow night.

Working mostly on systems, breakouts and the transition game, the Wild seemed to be dialed-in and focused after last night’s 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh.

Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he wanted the team to be intense and on-point today, and the team responded with an up-tempo, concise practice. He describe the effort as practicing with “snarl.” Although Yeo was disappointed with his team’s performance last night, especially in the first period, today was not the time nor the place for conditioning drills with a quick two-game road swing, capping with a Saturday afternoon game in Vancouver, on the docket.

Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi were reunited on the top line after spending some time apart against the Pens. Yeo said that sometimes a team needs to mix up the lines in an attempt to create a spark. Of note, the wings were playing their strong sides (LW for the left-handed Heatley and RW for Setoguchi), possibly, to help with D-Zone and transition play. Yeo didn’t show his hand in regards to how long any line combination will last or how quickly it will be split.

Defenseman Greg Zanon sat out practice, but not because of the second period blocked shot to the midsection against the Penguins, but to rest a tweaked groin.  He is expected to be ready tomorrow night.

Finally, if you think the team would be down in the dumps, they didn’t show it, at least not the young’un, Brett Bulmer.  At the end of practice, Bulmer and Yeo dropped their gloves and engaged in a mock-fisticuffs standoff and good-natured phantom punching.

After practice, while talking to the media, Yeo joked that Bulmer made some mistakes in the D-Zone and had to be taught a lesson.

Lesson number one Rookie: Don’t mess with the coach; he determines your ice time.

Yeo Quick To Deflect Spotlight

In the episode of “Becoming Wild” which featured the hiring of Mike Yeo, there was a scene in which Yeo was notified by General Manager Chuck Fletcher that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be on the exhibition schedule. Yeo gave a little fist slam on Fletcher’s desk with a “Nice!”

Tomorrow night, Yeo gets a regular season crack at the Penguins, where we served as an Assistant Coach under both Michel Therrien and Dan Bylsma and won a Stanley Cup.

At least in front of the media, Yeo isn’t showing that same excitement, saying each game is about winning and about the players involved. If there is a little extra churning in his stomach, he’s doing a great job of hiding it.

Yeo admitted that he wasn’t overly saddened that the Penguins may be without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are expected to be sitting out. He also knows the worst thing his team could do would be to relax due to their absences. The Penguins are still 3-1-2 and have already pumped in a league-leading 18 goals (They are the only team to have played six games thus far).

You can watch Yeo talk about facing Pittsburgh (kind of) here.

Mike Lundin was the only player not on the ice today, but he once again was in the shooting cage and firing pucks.

The lineup is expected to remain the same tomorrow night, other than Niklas Backstrom getting back in goal.

Finally, if you still can’t wait for Mikael Granlund’s debut in a Wild uniform, hopefully this NHL.com feature will tide you over for another day.

Preseason Starts Tonight; Thoughts On Mark Johnson

First and foremost, let’s talk about tonight’s Wild preseason opener against the Edmonton Oilers. Let’s face it, preseason games don’t compare in any way whatsoever to a regular season contest, but we really, really need some hockey around here.

Most years, we’ve still got the Twins distracting us because their in the middle of a pennant chase. Judging by how little buzz their is about the Twins right now, I can only assume they locked up their postseason bid a long time ago.

Josh Harding will get the starting nod between the pipes tonight. It was a long and painful recovery for Harding, who blew out his knee in a preseason game at St. Louis a year ago. He’s the feel good story of the night, and he’ll get the chance to continue his progression toward feeling 100% comfortable.

Mike Lundin was originally slated to make his Wild preseason debut tonight, but some back issues have taken him out of the lineup. Tyler Cuma, another comeback story after a knee injury, will take his place.

The Oilers are playing two games tonight, so the Wild won’t see 2011 first overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Instead, they’ll get a look at 2010 first overall pick, Taylor Hall. Former Wild players Eric Belanger and Cam Barker will also be in the lineup, as will Wild draft pick Ryan Jones and former Centennial Cougar, Tyler Pitlick.

It was also announced today that Mark Johnson, Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Pulford, long-time USA Hockey executive Toni Rossi and Wisconsin coaching legend Jeff Sauer will receive the 2011 Lester Patrick Awards.

I just wanted to get a few words out there about Mark Johnson. About five years ago, I came across a co-workers desk where he had VHS tapes of every single USA Hockey game from the 1980 Olympics. The Sweden game, the Czechoslovakia game, the Romania game…all of them were there. The co-worker was nice enough to let me borrow them, and I spent the next two weeks watching every…single…minute.

Here’s what I will always remember: Mark Johnson was an absolute beast on that team. In every single U.S. game, he was the best player on the ice. He led the team in scoring in the Olympics, and was dominant in the biggest games.

If you’ve seen footage from the game against the Czechs in the preliminary round, you might remember footage of Herb Brooks, caught on camera threatening to stuff a Koho down the throat of a Czech player. He was just a bit incensed because that player had taken a run at Johnson, and Brooks knew an injured Johnson meant a chance for a U.S. medal of any kind was gone.

Johnson scored two goals in the “Miracle on Ice” game against Russia: one of which tied the game at 2-2 when he stormed the net and buried a rebound with one second left in the first period. Then, in the third period, he again tied the game at 3-3 by making a great play to catch a wayward puck and slide it home.

Of course, Mike Eruzione got the game-winner and Jim Craig held the Russians off the board the rest of the way, but Johnson came up even bigger two days later against Finland in the game the U.S. had to have to win the gold medal. With the score tied at 2-2, Johnson made an unreal pass from behind the Finnish net with two defenders on him. He found Rob McClanahan on the doorstep for the game-winner. Check out the play here. And while you’re at it, check out his game-winner against the Czechs.

Johnson later added the shorthanded insurance goal in the 4-2 win.

I was always a little miffed when the Kurt Russell version of “Miracle” came out, due to the lack of attention on Johnson. In fact, the little that was shown of him portrayed him as some type of talented hot-dogger (or Hongo as folks in Duluth might call him) unwilling to play Brooks’ “team-first” game.

By all accounts, this was a complete misrepresentation of who Johnson was. From what I’ve gathered was that he was one of the most unassuming and humble players on a roster filled with unassuming and humble players. Watch any interview with him, and it won’t do anything to change that perception.

After watching those videos, Mark Johnson easily became my favorite non-Wild, non-UMD Bulldog player of all time. And it’s not easy to say that about a Wisconsin Badger (with obvious exceptions like Dany Heatley, Robbie Earl and Sean Hill).

So, congratulations to Mark Johnson, who in my mind is the greatest U.S. Olympic hockey player of my lifetime (I was 10 months old during the Miracle On Ice, so it counts).

Guide To Camping Out

If you’re hip to the jive on the Twittersphere, you may have come across an erroneous “tweet” sent out by some nimrod claiming at 10:30 a.m. that the first fan was in line to buy tickets at Saturday’s single game on-sale presented by the fine folks at Kwik Trip.

If you know anything about Twitter, there is little to no accountability, and that tweet was just plain false. The first person in line didn’t arrive until 4:00 p.m. yesterday. Lesson learned. Do not trust the person who sent out said tweet. He goes by the name of @Glenny34us, and I encourage you to follow this doofus on Twitter just so you can let him know that false tweets are not cool. Never were and never will be.

Being a responsible “journalist” (also known as media bottom feeder or low life) I visited with the happy campers this morning to get the full story. Of course, new Head Coach Mike Yeo had already been there before me today, and he was there yesterday as well. You know how those new guys are. Always kissing up.

Anyway, Mike Donnelly, Manny Gomez and Alan Dick set up shop on Wednesday around 4:00 p.m. and St. Cloud State student Jess Crane (not the former Canadian Twins reliever with a fastball straighter than a goal line) joined them this morning and pitched her own tent.

The quartet still had smiles on their faces, so the first 24 hours have been good to them. Maybe because they’ve got some good foot traffic to gaze at as folks go in and out of the Visa Gymnastics championships going on this week.

This year’s on-sale presented by Kwik Trip is earlier than in past years, so weather is less of an issue than in mid-September. But these folks are still at the mercy of the elements and time that ticks away slowly until the mad rush for tickets begins on Saturday morning.

All four of these super fans have camped out in the shadows of Xcel Energy Center for at least five years. They’ve got some recommendations for those who might think about joining them between now and Saturday.

1. Be respectful and get along with everybody. Like any team, they don’t need some cancer coming into the mix and wrecking the chemistry. That means no cuts, no stealing, no littering and no fighting. You’ve got a beef tough guy? Take it to Vancouver. They love hooligans in the streets out there.

2. Bring the necessities like a chair, a cooler, a baseball glove, a cell phone, but most importantly, something “Wild.” Showing up in a Red Wings jersey is like showing up at a Slipknot concert in a Justin Bieber T-shirt and slap bracelets.

3. Be able to chat. You’re going to be hanging with a lot of folks for a couple straight days. It’s best you get to know them and have fun with it. These folks share a bond and always say hello to each other when they see each other at games. You can share that bond too…if you’re not a jerkwad.

4. Lastly, and I can’t stress enough how important this one is. If you see Alicia Sacramone walking into the arena for a gymnastics event, don’t tempt fate by asking her to punch you. I know it sounds appealing, but it will not end well. Trust me.

Remember those four rules, and you’ll be good to go. Have your pick of games at the ready when you get to the ticket window. Donnelly has his eyes on the Penguins game. Manny is anxious to see the Winnipeg Jets make their first visit to St. Paul. Alan’s got dibs on the first Vancouver game on November 3 and Jess is all about celebrating her birthday with a win over the Ducks.

Which game are you itching to get to?

“Becoming Wild” Presented By Toyota Debuts Tonight On FSN

The first of six “Becoming Wild” presented by Toyota episodes will debut tonight on Fox Sports North following another Minnesota Twins pummeling of the Chicago White Sox.

Tonight’s episode begins immediately after the last Wild season ended on a somber note with the dismissal of Head Coach Todd Richards. The episode focuses on the Houston Aeros, and in particular Head Coach Mike Yeo as he readies his team for a crucial game against the Milwaukee Admirals in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Keep in mind that this footage was shot well before Yeo was offered or even interviewed for the Wild head job. But in under a half hour, you should get a strong sense for his ability to communicate with his players in a multitude of situations. Certainly, the climax of the episode will be his addressing his team during a timeout after his team fell behind 3-0 in Game 6. It’s must see TV, unless you have little ones and/or you don’t like a series of bleeps, because you’re going to get some of that.

Also, if any readers out there are friends with Manny Pacquiao, tell him to tune in. If he doesn’t get FS North, he can watch the entire episode after the original airing on his favorite website, Wild.com.

Wild Signs Powe, Taffe; “Becoming Wild” Premieres July 8

Good afternoon, Wild fans!

There was plenty of big Wild news over the 4th of July holiday and there continued to be more announcements today. OK, so maybe today’s news isn’t quite at “blockbuster” level like the trade Sunday night, but there is certainly plenty of cool stuff to tell you about.

Firstly, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher announced this afternoon that the Wild has signed center Darroll Powe to a three-year contract and center Jeff Taffe to a one-year, two-way contract.  You’ll remember, the Wild acquired the 26-year-old Powe from Philadelphia for a 2013 third-round draft pick on June 27 and held his rights as a restricted free agent. He registered 17 points (7-10=17) and 41 PIM in 81 games for Philly last season, leading the Flyers with 196 hits and setting career highs in assists and points. The Saskatoon, Sask., native played three NHL seasons with the Flyers after signing as a free agent out of Princeton University. It was also announced that Powe will wear No. 14 with the Wild. Hear what Powe had to say about the contract here.

Many Minnesota hockey fans remember Taffe, the former Golden Gopher from Hastings. The 30-year-old notched 67 points (30-37=67) in 74 games for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last season, skating in one game with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 1999 Mr. Hockey Minnesota has posted 44 points in 175 NHL games with Phoenix, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Florida and Chicago. Stay up to date with all of the Wild signings on the transactions page and contract chart on wild.com

Of course, many fans are still talking about the trade the Wild made Sunday night with San Jose, acquiring Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. If you were too busy having picnics and lighting fireworks to get all of the details on the deal, click here for audio, video and more. The Hockey Lodge also sent over the first photo of Heatley’s new Wild jersey, which is currently available at the Xcel Energy Center Hockey Lodge location and is available for pre-orders on hockeylodge.com. It’ll take some time to get used to the new names on the No. 10 and 15 jerseys, but there have been plenty of fans making us aware that they are excited to see the former Sharks skate with the Wild.

Secondly, the Wild also announced today that it has named John Torchetti as new head coach of the Houston Aeros. Torchetti fills the spot of Mike Yeo, who of course left Houston to become the new Wild head coach. The 46-year-old Boston native comes to the Aeros after serving as an associate coach for the Atlanta Thrashers last season. His 27 years of professional hockey experience as a player, coach and manager include NHL coaching experience with Tampa Bay, Florida, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. For the full announcement and audio of Torchetti’s reaction to the announcement, click here.

Finally, the Wild announced a really cool project with FOX Sports North and Olson that I’d bet Wild fans will love. “Becoming Wild,” presented by Toyota, is a six-part TV series that documents the Wild offseason through unprecedented, behind-the-scenes coverage of the hockey operations department. I’d say it’s similar to the NHL’s 24-7 series on HBO this year. One of the best parts about the series, which will premiere on July 8 after the Twins game on FS North, is that filming started before any of this summer’s excitement and drama happened, meaning it was caught on camera and fans will get to see it. For more on the series, including broadcast dates and clips of the premiere episode, click here. Outtakes and full episodes will be available on wild.com after the premiere of that episode airs on FS North. I was lucky enough to get to watch the first episode, which covers the Aeros run to the Calder Cup Finals, and will tell you two things: 1. I don’t know how anyone will watch the episode and not be incredibly excited to see Mike Yeo coach the Wild and 2. While the coaches-healthy scratches scrimmage is a great scene, not all of the best parts are given away in the preview clips. There’s a Matt Kassian vs. the rest of the team discussion about whether he could fight Manny Pacquiao that could well be a fan favorite.

Yeo Finalizes Coaching Staff

It will be announced later today that Mike Yeo has concluded his search for an assistant coaching staff. In addition to retaining Rick Wilson, Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason, Yeo has hired Darryl Sydor, who was an assistant in Houston last season.

Sydor is obviously familiar with Yeo, but he also knows Wilson very well. Wilson coached Sydor as an assistant with the Dallas Stars, and the two were members of the 1999 Stars team that captured the Stanley Cup.

The hiring of Sydor means the Houston Aeros will have a completely new look behind the bench this season. Yeo’s other assistant, Brian Wiseman, recently accepted an assistant position with the University of Michigan, his alma mater.

There will be more on the staff hirings on Wild.com today.