Let’s be honest: Mike Yeo had plenty of opportunities, and the Minnesota Wild spent many resources - money, picks for trade deadline rentals - to equip him with a team to compete. He did OK, but OK isn’t good enough when you’re betting the house.
The thing is, I’m not so sure that GM Chuck Fletcher should be around any longer, either. Maybe he’s on borrowed time, but he’s the one who re-upped a broken Niklas Backstrom, the one who hired Yeo and the one who’s spent all that money on a team that hasn’t sniffed a division title and peaked at the second round.
As far as interim head coach John Torchetti goes, he likely hates the word “interim.” He might even pick on interns for the sheer reason that the two words are structurally similar.
Torchetti was the head coach of the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, so he has firsthand knowledge of some of the tweeners and young players on Minnesota’s roster. One would think that the high end guys like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are pretty easy to coach, so maybe it comes down to getting a … free spirit like Thomas Vanek to buy in.
(I don’t like bashing talented and often misunderstood players, but I’d wager that Vanek’s closer to being a headache than Alex Ovechkin or any other number of finesse players supposedly might be.)
Systems wise, I’m not sure if much will change, as Torchetti ran Yeo’s systems in Iowa.
It might be most useful as a wakeup call for a team bloated with players who are in big, long-term contracts. One can imagine that situation just getting cozy enough to be a little too comfortable.
Or … maybe they’re just not good enough?
Anyway, the one area I’d be curious about is goaltending; maybe Torchetti would be less likely to start Devan Dubnyk when Darcy Kuemper is producing better work more often (as has been the case lately)?
I don’t know, but it’s a situation to watch, if nothing else.
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RED WINGS 6, BRUINS 5
-- What an odd, high-scoring game, at least through the first two frames.
Brad Marchand kicked off the scoring eight seconds in, authoring the quickest goal for in Boston Bruins history. The super-pest was effective overall, adding an assist, +4 rating, two PIM and two SOG in 18:01 TOI. He matched his career-high for goals with his 28th and already has more points (43) than he did last season (42). He has a great chance to set a new career-high in points, as his previous mark isn't that far off at 55.
-- Speaking of history/milestones, Pavel Datsyuk crossed the 900-point mark on Sunday. He's actually at 902 in 928 career regular season games after his two-goal, one-assist performance. He was something of a buzzsaw overall, delivering two fairly big hits and firing six SOG while winning 58 percent of his draws.
Datsyuk's now on an impressive five-game point streak: five goals and four assists for nine points. He was limited to an assist in his previous five contests, so this is a welcome burst from the future Hall of Famer.
Petr Mrazek wasn't much better, giving up five goals on just 22 shots, although he got the win and made it through the entire game.
DEVILS 1, KINGS 0
-- You guessed it: this was a low-event game. The Kings carried much of the play, firing 28 SOG while the Devils were forced to block 13 shots (while New Jersey generated 18 SOG and made the Kings block nine).
-- There weren't any even-strength goals, as the only tally was credited to David Schlemko (assist by Travis Zajac) on the power play. The Devils went 1-for-3 while the Kings couldn't connect on their only PP opportunity.
-- Keith Kinkaid could get a decent number of easy nights behind the cloggy Devils system, but he had to work for his first career shutout, as you can see that the Kings carried much of the play.
Jhonas Enroth absorbed the loss for Los Angeles. He might get a decent run with Jonathan Quick injured, although it's difficult to tell how bad the issue is and there's always the possibility that the Kings will instead decide that Peter Budaj (yes, Peter Budaj) is a little sharper right now.
For those who add/drop G's a lot, monitor this situation. The Dose will too.
SABRES 4, AVALANCHE 1
-- I wonder how many head-to-head weeks were wrecked by Semyon Varlamov’s sleepy afternoon. Patrick Roy - always a pillar of patience and rationality - pulled Varly after the Russian netminder allowed two goals on as many shots.
Colorado only scored one goal in the game, so Varlamov took the well-deserved loss. He's now at 21-15-3 in 2015-16.
-- It’s about time that Jack Eichel answered Connor McDavid’s highlight reel bat signal with a beauty of his own. I find it difficult to gauge Eichel’s potential in the short-term as far as sheer production goes, but I could see reaching for him even as he develops just because he’s so freaking fun to watch.
-- Ryan O'Reilly collected two assists for the second straight game, giving him 49 points in 57 games as he's fit in very nicely with the Sabres. If you want another bullet point for your weird "Why plus/minus is dumb and you're dumb and everyone dumb dumb" list, consider the fact that ROR is -15 this season and -28 for his career.
If that doesn't clue you in to the caliber of teams he's been playing on, I don't know what will. The guy's legit. He should employ a chauffeur, mind you, but he's legit.
-- Robin Lehner inches closer to a .500 record, improving to 3-4-1. His save percentage is evening out a bit with more reps, but .921 is still quite promising. Buffalo might not want to start him TOO much or he may endanger the whole tanking business.
BLUES 2, LIGHTNING 1
-- Brian Elliott produced one heck of an effort, stopping 37 out of 38 shots to make his record 14-7-6 with a fantastic .933 save percentage. Jake Allen's injury issues could very well be a blessing in disguise, as Elliott deserves another chance to prove that he can be St. Louis' desperately needed difference-maker.
-- This ended a nine-game home winning streak for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay plays its next two games at home, but then things get a little scary. From Feb. 20 to March 3, they play six of seven games on the road. There's another bumpy run in mid-March, so if you have borderline Bolts, you may want to take a siesta until the true stretch run of the season begins.
-- After scoring a goal and an assist in his first game back from injury, Jaden Schwartz couldn't generate much on Sunday. Still, he could really be a boost to a Blues team that hasn't received enough credit for weathering some serious injuries this season. If they can get healthy for the playoffs, this could be that year where they're actually a little scary.
At least, playing the underdog might be a more comfortable role for them.
RANGERS 3, FLYERS 1
-- Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 out of 22 shots in this game, moving to 28-14-4 on the season. He's now on a five-game winning streak.
-- Derek Stepan came up big for the Rangers with two goals, being joined by Derick Brassard (goal and an assist) and Mats Zuccarello (two helpers). One surprising name: oft-criticized Dan Girardi, who generated two assists as well.
-- Shayne Gostisbehere's productivity is beginning to border on the absurd, as his assist gives him 31 points in 37 games. He's scored a point in 12 consecutive games.
Brayden Schenn collected the Flyers' only goal on that Ghost assist.
-- Steve Mason is struggling a bit with losses in three of four games. The Flyers have to hope that he gets things back together once their talent base improves.