Wild fire coach Yeo following eighth straight loss

Dave Campbell
Associated Press

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild fired coach Mike Yeo on Saturday night and named John Torchetti the interim replacement, a few hours after their eighth straight loss and 13th in the last 14 games.

General manager Chuck Fletcher, who said a week ago that Yeo’s job was safe, announced the decision after the Wild matched the franchise’s longest home winless streak at eight with a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

“I would like to thank Mike for the hard work and dedication he provided behind the bench for the Minnesota Wild organization and wish him the best in the future,” Fletcher said in a statement released by the team.

Torchetti has been coaching the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa. He has nine seasons of NHL coaching experience, including stints as interim coach with the Florida Panthers in 2004 and the Los Angeles Kings in 2006.

Owner Craig Leipold declined to comment. Fletcher was scheduled to speak with reporters Sunday morning.

Torchetti also coached the Wild’s prior AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, for two seasons from 2011-13. The native of Boston was an assistant on Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup championship team.

Participating in his usual postgame news conference, Yeo was asked about his status after the loss that dropped the Wild to 3-12-4 in their last 19 games. That’s the NHL’s worst record in 2016.

“You can’t lose every game and expect to think that there’s not going to be changes,” Yeo said.

The 42-year-old Yeo was 173-132-44 in five seasons with the Wild, just the third coach they’ve had since entering the NHL as an expansion team in 2000. Yeo was 11-17 in the playoffs, taking the team to the Western Conference semifinals each of the last two years. The Wild have been eliminated by Chicago each of the last three seasons.

After signing stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million contracts four years ago, though, simply making the second round wasn’t going to be good enough for long. Leipold, Fletcher and the rest of the organization had much-higher expectations for a team that has fallen to 0-5-3 in the last eight home games for the longest winless stretch at Xcel Energy Center since 2001.

Yeo’s status became tenuous last season, too, when a 2-8-4 stretch into mid-January prompted a trade for goalie Devan Dubnyk.

The team’s struggles were more specific then, and Dubnyk was an immediate remedy. They went 26-8-2 the rest of the way to surge into the playoffs and finish with the franchise’s second-best record ever.

The most troubling part of this slump, though, was the variety of problems. Well-paid forwards like Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek have not produced enough scoring. But the Wild have allowed at least four goals in seven of their last eight games.

“I believe in the group, but they better start believing in each other, and they better start delivering,” Yeo said after the game.

When Fletcher gave Yeo a three-year contract extension after the 2013-14 season, he lauded his ability to develop several of the Wild’s young players.

“I’d be hard-pressed to sit here and name one player that wasn’t better now than what he was at the beginning of the year,” Fletcher said then.