Mike Yeo had planned to spend Thursday getting his Minnesota Wild ready for Game 7 of their Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Instead, the third-year coach was addressing the media at Xcel Energy Center about the bad break that ended the Wild's season.
An overtime dump-in hit a stanchion in the glass behind the Minnesota net and caromed right to Chicago's Patrick Kane, whose goal won Game 6, 2-1, on Tuesday and sent the Wild home for the summer. Yeo's pain was apparent two days later.
"To be perfectly honest, I'm still a little bit bitter," Yeo said. "There's still a little bit of disbelief. You wake up in the morning and think 'OK, I'm on my way to work.' Obviously it's a season, it's long, it's hard. There's a lot of incredibly great emotions that go along with some of the tough parts and it just comes to a grinding halt."
Yeo said it was too early to start dissecting the season, which saw the Wild win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 2003.
"We just have to keep improving," Yeo said. "That's individually, that's our players continuing to grow and continuing to get better. And that's as our group. One thing that we've done here year after year is we've taken a hard look at our game and we'll continue to do that."
Under Yeo, the Wild have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after five consecutive misses.
"The other very important goal for me was to create a culture, a culture of winners," Yeo said. "The two main parts to that are understanding how difficult it is to win and taking pride in doing those little things that it takes to win. I believe that our guys have done that too."
With a nucleus of young talent, Yeo is optimistic the Wild can improve next season. But he said he couldn't get over the feeling of what might have been.
"There's a lot of what ifs, and a bit of an empty feeling that there was more hanging there for us," Yeo said. "But what I do want them to take out of it is the belief that we can beat anybody. We have an end result in mind here and that's to win the Stanley Cup. We've been building towards that and we should feel that that's an attainable goal for ourselves."