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Wild coach Yeo excited about additions

Monday, 07.09.2012 / 5:33 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

By Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo has had plenty of offseason time to spend at his family's lakeside home in North Bay, Ontario. His dark tan is evidence of that.

But lately, Yeo has taken on a different summer glow.

After sitting on top of the NHL standings early last season, the Wild struggled down the stretch, finishing out of the playoffs in 12th place in the Western Conference.

Now, suddenly and without playing another game, Yeo jokes he's morphed into a better coach overnight. And who wouldn't be? With Zach Parise and Ryan Suter now in Minnesota, Yeo said he's spent hours at the drawing board thinking of ways to use his newest forward and defenseman.

"That's the fun part of the job," Yeo said.

Suter and Parise were officially introduced by the Wild on Monday at Xcel Energy Center. The free-agent duo signed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts to play together in Minnesota.

PARISE AND SUTER COVERAGE

Parise, Suter introduced by Wild

By Dan Myers - NHL.com correspondent
Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were formally introduced as members of the Minnesota Wild on Monday, greeted by fans and media at Xcel Energy Center. READ MORE ›

With the Wild also starting their development camp Monday, Yeo said it was the first time the coaching staff had been together since the deals were made July 4.

"The first thing that happens is we all start drawing up our line combinations and power-play setups and personnel," Yeo said. "There is a lot of time between now and training camp, but that's what happens. That's the excitement of it. The idea of what you can do by adding these two players to your lineup and the trickle-down effect it has as well."

Last season, Yeo's first as an NHL coach, he often used "north" to describe his philosophy of keeping the puck moving up ice. Through mid-December, the Wild used that motto and an aggressive forecheck to build a lead in the Northwest Division.

But injuries to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse, captain Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi, among others, flipped the roster upside down and forced many players into roles they probably did not suit. Minnesota limped down the stretch, finishing with the seventh-worst record in the League.

That's where the "trickle-down effect" of adding Suter and Parise will help.

"We've been talking about this for just over a year now, about changing the culture and creating an environment here where people want to go to and people believe they can win with," Yeo said. "These guys just jumpstart that whole idea. We've got players here, who last year did a tremendous job and really started to shape things in the direction we want to go to.

"But now, you add these guys in -- the way they compete night in and night out, the way they conduct themselves night in and night out, these guys really help springboard us."

Yeo, who played with an edge for many years in the IHL and now demands his team play with one, said he looks forward to having a target on his team's back starting this fall. For perhaps as long as the Wild have been in existence, they have never faced much scorn when entering an opponent's building.

But now, after a high-profile free agency chase and $196 million invested in two players, it's certainly possible Minnesota will command a bit of a spotlight.

Yeo said he looks forward to that, saying maintaining the edge will be the key to success.

"I think fear is a weapon, and that's one thing we want: We want to be a team other teams are afraid of," Yeo said. "Whether it's our physical play or our counterattack or creating turnovers or our skill level that we have in our group, we want teams to know, going into our games, that it's going to be a tough team to play against."

Though Parise and Suter likely have made Yeo better overnight, their addition adds pressure to produce better results.

"People talk about pressure, but the reason we're all sitting here is we want to win a Stanley Cup," said Yeo, who hoisted the trophy as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. "You can talk about pressure, and to me, that just sounds like a negative thing. I think it's a good thing. It's going to change the way we view ourselves."

At the very least, a new goal for Yeo may include being a bit paler this time next year. After all, long playoff runs typically don't leave much time for sunbathing.

"What we're capable of, and now with these guys coming in, we believe that we're just that much closer," Yeo said.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery