MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Wild have made Mike Yeo their new head coach, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the hire. The Wild called a Friday news conference at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, their home arena.
Twin Cities radio station KFAN-AM first reported Yeo’s hire.
Yeo will be the third coach in club history, replacing Todd Richards. He led the Wild’s top farm club in Houston to the American Hockey League finals this season, his only year as coach of the Aeros. Richards was fired after two years without a playoff appearance.
The 37-year-old Yeo spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, helping them win the Stanley Cup championship in 2009. He has never been an NHL head coach, like Richards, but his NHL experience was more significant than his predecessor.
Yeo played four seasons of junior hockey and five seasons with the Aeros in the minor leagues before a career-ending knee injury. The native of North Bay, Ont., was an assistant for six seasons with Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before making the jump to the Penguins in 2005.
Jacques Lemaire was the Wild’s only coach from their inception in the fall of 2000 until he resigned in April 2009. Under Richards, the Wild were often undermanned, with injuries piling up and a lack of top prospects who were contributing, and they had an eight-game losing streak last March and finished in 12th place in the Western Conference.
The Wild went 39-35-8, 11 points out of the final playoff spot. The 44-year-old Richards went 77-71-16 in his two seasons.
The Wild have made the playoffs three times in their 10-year history: 2003, ’07 and ’08. They’ve passed the first round once.
They are still one of the most strongly supported teams in the league, but for the first time in their existence did not sell out every game this season.
General manager Chuck Fletcher—hired in May 2009—said after firing Richards that fan frustration with the continued mediocrity didn’t fuel the change.
“My job is to put a winning hockey team on the ice and build a team that ultimately gets to where we all want to get to,” Fletcher said. “When we do that, the season tickets will follow. This was not a reactionary move.”
Andrew Brunette, John Madden and Antti Miettinen—three of the top 10 scorers this season—lead the list of unrestricted free agents, and the roster is sure to turn over. With little room under the salary cap, trades could be coming.