Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wild Suffering from Deja Vu

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wild Suffering from Deja Vu

Article excerpt

ST. PAUL, Minn. --

The young coach, hand-picked by general manager Chuck Fletcher, had rallied the Wild into playoff contention, earning praise all around the league.

His temporary success only served as a prelude to the greatest challenge to and of his career.

By the time the public had reacted to a surprising stretch of winning hockey, the Wild had stumbled, and franchise player Mikko Koivu had suffered a pivotal injury. Worse, a key player, a talented veteran from Czechoslovakia, had revolted, and suddenly the affable young coach had to wonder how he was going to survive the season.

That's true today, in the wake of veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky complaining about his role under Mike Yeo on a day when the Wild blew a two-goal, third-period lead to lose, 5-4, to Nashville at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.

It was also true last winter, when Todd Richards rallied the Wild into playoff contention only to watch the team collapse down the stretch as Koivu broke down and a different talented Czech, Martin Havlat, ruined the locker room atmosphere with viral selfishness.

We know how the story ended last year. The Wild missed the playoffs, and Fletcher fired the first young coach he had hired, replacing Richards with Yeo.

Tuesday night, Yeo for the first time was forced to coach in an NHL game after being publicly challenged by a veteran. The results were not affirming.

"Everything that could have done wrong today," Yeo said, "went wrong."

For most of the game, the Wild, as usual, played better without Zidlicky on the ice. Then came one of the most gruesome collapses in franchise history, one that left the locker room all but empty after the game and led to Yeo speaking in terms a bloodied boxer would recognize.

"If you've ever been punched in the stomach really hard," he said, "that's pretty much what that one feels like."

As the Wild began its post-All-Star break portion of the schedule, there were reasons for optimism amid the divisiveness. …

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