No Joy In Iceville And More….

Marc Elliott

ST. PAUL…. Friends, over the weekend we were witnesses to the downside of professional sports coaching. You know the clichés too don’t you? You are hired to be fired, it’s just a temporary job, keep the moving companies phone number on your speed dial and so on. It was getting hard to look at or watch former Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo the past month. The stress etched upon his face and showing through in his eyes was unbearable. No job should ever put a person through that type of ordeal. And it is an ordeal. Just ask any coach who has been a high level pro or collegiate Head Coach. The highs are incredible, the lows are nausea inducing. There are days when you can’t down enough anti-acids to calm your stomach not to mention the multitude of sleepless nights.

Mike Yeo is a good man, and 20-some other men let him down to twist in the wind for the past 44 days. I don’t think he is Joel Quennville or Mike Babcock good, but he knows his stuff. I look at him in the sense that he is probably situated in that next tier of coaches, and most likely in the middle of that grouping. Most certainly, if you follow the team you have already heard all of their substantial woes. Veterans on huge contracts not producing, young players not developing, roster depth that became invisible, weak farm club, poor drafting, and little in the futures pipeline. By the time you read this all of that stuff will have worked it’s way into and out of the news cycle. So I won’t rehash it for you.

Those are the obvious things. What I want to know is the real story. I don’t have it of course, and it is most likely not forthcoming anytime in the near future. Usually what happens in “the room” stays in “the room”. That granite walled room, that sanctuary, is probably more sacred amongst those who play this manly game then in any other sport. Some stuff leaks out now and then, but no, not usually. So anything I might think and then write here is pure conjecture, and then opinion. On the other hand, based upon a previous life’s work, I learned how to read people quite well. I had to. It was a necessary skill. So, what really went on here? Some thoughts, and if they are really “out there”, I don’t care, I’m just thinking out loud.

How does a team win it’s last two games before New Years day, and have an 8 point cushion for a Wild Card playoff position then proceed to go 3-19? Did the Coach suddenly forget how to coach, players how to play? Inside of the stretch that led to Yeo’s demise, there weren’t what you could call any “blowout” games. Even if they appeared to be non-competitive, the final scores didn’t indicate that. What happened to this teams once razor sharp focus? I can say from experience that from Mini Mites up to High School hockey, one single mistake can determine the outcome of a game. Multiply that by 500 times for the NHL. Watching the Bruins tilt yesterday, you would have needed pen, paper and a clipboard to record the steady parade of mistakes made by this club.
So, here it is, was or is there some kind of internal power struggle going on within this team? And yeah, they occur in the NHL too. You would be naïve to think otherwise. Yeo was here before both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed their mega-contracts. Did they end up believing he wasn’t the guy that could guide the team to the promised land? Parise worked under one of the best GM’s (Lou Lamoriello) in hockey history in New Jersey, and Suter played under Barry Trotz in Nashville, do they or have they looked at Yeo and Chuck Fletcher as being inferior to the level they think they are at?

Is there a power struggle for the leadership of the team between Parise and Mikko Koivu? Parise is spit and fire while Koivu is the mostly staid Scandinavian type, strong but quiet. Between the two of them do they send a mixed message to the team if they aren’t on the same page? Because of the contracts they signed, what kind of power do they wield within the organization and thus, exert upon the team? Did Parise use some of that power to get his friend Chris Porter on the roster? 5 points in 48 games? If so, how did that go over with the team? Suter criticized Yeo’s defense pairings earlier in the year, publicly at that. How much impact did that have on everyone in the room?

Hockey is as much of a mental, psychological game as it is physical. Didn’t Herb Brooks once say if you gave him two teams that were identical in physical ability, he would take the one that was smarter and more cerebral? Something behind closed doors has driven the psyche of this team right down the tubes. The NHL is all about confidence and this team has none right now, and sadly I don’t see any on the way. This season is done with and now it is time to asses the future direction, a direction that probably won’t be including Chuck Fletcher either. Yeo’s tenure ended at 173-176. Craig Leipold, roll up your sleeves and call Phil Housely right now. (after securing permission) This guy has the pedigree and he is ready to go. Make the call….

I DIDN’T SEE THE SUPER BOWL, but a birdie told me that I should watch a recording of Lady Gaga performing the National Anthem. I did. Probably about 20 times. I could not possibly name you one song or album of hers, but I will tell you that was as superb, as heartfelt of a performance that you could ever see. Even my Mom, who normally is against the diva anthem showboating that occurs at moments like these told me she was blown away by her rendition. Me too. From the very core of her soul, top notch, first class…. PEACE