It really all depends on who you ask.
Did Mike Yeo’s message get stale for the Minnesota Wild, and will firing him and hiring John Torchetti help get that message through to the players now?
“I think it can definitely help,” said forward Thomas Vanek on Sunday. “Sometimes the message goes stale or whatever. And a new voice is a new beginning.”
But seriously: Did Mike Yeo’s message get stale for the Minnesota Wild, and will firing him and hiring John Torchetti help get that message through to the players now?
“I don’t think so,” said defenseman Ryan Suter. “Like I said, I have a lot of respect for Mike Yeo. I think he’s a very good coach. And it’s too bad that we get the wins we needed to turn this thing around. For him, and for ourselves.”
You can’t fault the Wild for being confused. Their heads are spinning after losing 13 of 14 games, and after coach Mike Yeo was let go on Saturday.
The bigger question is why GM Chuck Fletcher decided to pull that trigger now, and why AHL Iowa coach John Torchetti was, in Fletcher’s words, “the only candidate we could look at.”
The answer to the first question is “because he had no other choice.”
This season was swirling the drain. He’s been as loyal and patient with Yeo as an general manager has been with a coach on the hot seat. There was no doubt pressure from owner Craig Leipold. There were no doubt long nights of soul-searching for Fletcher, who truly credits Yeo for “stabilizing this franchise after we brought him in” and being one of the five teams to make the second round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
The answer to the second question is related to the first one: At this point in the season, you can’t go with a stranger. You have to go with someone that has some understanding of the roster, the system and its dynamics.
“He has familiarity with a lot of our players. He’s coached many of them, in either Houston or Iowa. He’s been to our training camps. So he’s much more familiar with our team than anyone on the outside would have been,” said Fletcher of Torchetti. “But he’s also a fresh set of eyes. He’s a new voice. A demanding guy. And a great communicator.”
This is a classic dynamic for an interim coach. Torchetti has coached a good number of the “grunts” and young standouts on this NHL roster while in the AHL – Mathew Dumba, Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Charlie Coyle among them.
“He’s hard-nosed. He says it how it is. He was my first pro coach, just coming in, having a coach like him, he tells you how it is,” said Coyle. “I loved playing for him. He likes hard workers. That’s how you earn your ice time. And he likes that. He’s high on character, and I think we’ll play well for him.”
So you have a great number of players already buying into Torchetti based on what they remember about him from the AHL. But the Wild will succeed or fail on how well their star players – absent from impact for the last month – play for him.
“I’m going to push them,” said Torchetti, “and push them harder.”
Maybe he gets “his guys” going, and they inspire the big money players?
“Our effort level, our intensity level has to go up. I think we can really start there,” said the Wild's Zach Parise. “And everyone has to be on board, and well get out of it.”