MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Mike Yeo’s three-year run in Minnesota has been anything but easy. The Wild coach has had to navigate key injuries to his roster, his own growing pains in his first NHL head coaching job and the considerable expectations brought forth when the team’s owner spent nearly $200 million on two players two summers ago.
The Wild have improved under Yeo in each season, and Yeo has improved himself enough to earn the faith of the Wild leadership going forward.
Yeo signed a multi-year contract extension with the Wild on Saturday, the team announced. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement was expected after Yeo guided the team out of the first round of the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history in the final year of his original deal. He has gone 104-82-26 in three seasons with the Wild.
“Mike has done a very good job the last three seasons as our head coach and we look forward to his leadership going forward,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Yeo was an unproven coach with no NHL head coaching track record to go by when Fletcher picked him to take over for Todd Richards three seasons ago. The Wild faded after a strong start to Yeo’s first season and never found a rhythm in his second year, an abbreviated 48-game schedule due to the lockout. The Wild did snap a five-season playoff drought in his second season, but were dominated by Chicago in a first-round defeat.
His status was tenuous at best by New Year’s Eve last season, when the Wild lost their sixth straight game and Yeo felt compelled at the next practice to tell the players he wouldn’t coach simply to save his job. But despite foot injuries that kept stars Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu and key defenseman Jared Spurgeon out for long stretches of the winter, Yeo helped hold the group together while the wins picked up. The Wild played all season with a carousel in the net, too, with four different goalies starting 10 games each or more.
“There were times where the wheels could’ve come off, and he kept it together,” said defenseman Ryan Suter, one of several players to endorse Yeo after the season-ending loss to Chicago.
The Wild solidified his status in the playoffs with a seven-game victory over Colorado in the first round when the Avalanche led 2-0 and 3-2 in the series. They gave the Blackhawks a fight, too, until falling in six games.
The late-season surge, and Yeo’s impressive strategic decisions both rounds of the playoffs, gave Fletcher the faith that he had the right man for the job.
“I am very excited to continue to coach the Minnesota Wild and pursue a Stanley Cup for the State of Hockey,” Yeo said. “Our fan support has been amazing and it went to a new level during the playoffs this season. We are all motivated to reward them.”
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