This blog has always had an appreciation of Mike Yeo. Most of it comes from the 2014 Central Division Final, the second consecutive season of three the Hawks would run up against Yeo’s Wild, where Yeo threw everything at the Hawks. The Wild would go from trapping to furiously forechecking and everything in between, sometimes period to period. For the last four games of that series, the handicapped Wild had the Hawks flummoxed, and really only the Hawks superior talent saw them through. There wasn’t much Yeo could do about that. The next year he simply tried to run with the Hawks, and they got swept.
It always seemed like Yeo was maxing out the Wild. They finished with 98 points and 100 points in ’14 and ’15, his last two full seasons there. Given that there was never a #1 center there (still really isn’t) and some of the kids never quite developed, that definitely seemed the ceiling. Two straight trips to the second round was the best result the Wild ever managed. Which is a sad statement, but that’s not on Yeo.
And yet given what’s gone on since in St. Paul and St. Louis, now you wonder.
Certainly, the Blues had something of a bounce when Yeo took over for Ken Hitchcock last year. As any coach would. The players had tuned out Hitch a few times over the last couple seasons, and simply not having him there was a lift. Yeo managed a 22-8-2 record over the final 32 games, whereas Hitch was barely over .500. And once again, Yeo got a team to the second round, though he only had Jake Allen to thank for it as Minnesota severely outplayed the Blues in that first-round series. And again, Yeo ran into a machine in the second round, this time in Predator yellow instead of Hawk red, and went home.
But now the Blues are barely hanging on in the playoff race, and looking over this roster you have to think it should be more. No, there’s not much Yeo can do about Jay Gallon once again going into the tank, where he seems to have a vacation home. But he’s also gotten a .930 season out of Carter Hutton to mitigate that a bit. Yes, Fabbi Robbri or Robbi Fabbry hasn’t played a game, and that’s a big miss. Jaden Schwartz has missed a lot of time, as have Carl Gunnarsson, Jay Bouwmeester, Patrik Berglund, and Robert Bortuzzo. On the other side of the coin, Bouwmeester, Berglund, and Bortuzzo suck. It’s not Yeo’s fault his GM basically gave up on the season and traded Paul Stastny, and yet the Blues have remained on the scene, barely.
Yeo has gotten a career year out of Brayden Schenn, still has Tarasenko, Pietrangelo, and some promising kids. The Blues seemed destined for 95 points or thereabouts, and that’s just where Yeo’s teams finish.
Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Bruce Boudreau got a division title last year and another 100-point season on the cards this year. Now, that’s what Bruce Boudreau does, and part of his problem is going all out in the regular season and leaving his team with tongues on the floor when it matters. Still, these will be the best consecutive seasons Minnesota has ever had, yet another sad statement. When this one also doesn’t go anywhere, most will wonder if it matters.
Still, Boudreau has gotten production out of Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund that Yeo never could. Yeo never had Eric Staal at the X, but Eric Staal is pouring in 40 goals for Gabby. Again, it’s all full of sound and fury and almost certainly signifies nothing, but Yeo had his share of veterans who flattened out as well.
Yeo may pay with his job, though it’s really Doug Armstrong who probably needs to go. But a new GM is going to want his own coach. Yeo would argue he should get a crack with a remade, younger roster that the Blues could boast next year with Schenn, Tarasenko, a healthy Fabbi or Robbri, Schmaltz, Thompson, Dunn, Barbashev, and one or two others. He would also argue he needs a non-enigma in net, meaning someone who isn’t Jay Gallon.
But the grounds for him to get that season seem awfully loose. And given how Granlund, Zucker, Dumba blossomed after Yeo left Minny, one wonders if he should be given a ton of kids to work with.
Game #80 Preview