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Mike Yeo learning new surroundings with Blues

Hitchcock's successor getting accustomed to life in St. Louis

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Mike Yeo hasn't wasted any time getting to know the St. Louis Blues.

On June 13, Yeo, 42, was hired by the Blues not only as an associate coach for this season, but as coach Ken Hitchcock's successor starting in 2017-18.

Since joining the Blues, Yeo, who was fired as coach of Minnesota Wild on Feb. 13 after four-plus seasons and three Stanley Cup Playoffs appearances, has been communicating with members of management, the coaching staff and players.

From July 5-8, Yeo was at Blues development camp with Hitchcock, general manager Doug Armstrong, assistant GM Martin Brodeur and others, soaking in the atmosphere and getting initial impressions of skaters he could one day coach.

Video: How significant the '15-'16 season was for the Blues

"It's actually been pretty busy, to be honest with you," said Yeo, who signed a four-year contract with the Blues. "But to start to get to know the rest of the organization, it's been a real good experience and it's fun to watch some hockey again. 

"I guess what it feels like, it feels good. It feels good to get working, to get to know the people. What's great is you see the support staff, the people that are working with [Armstrong] and the people that are working with [Hitchcock], and how capable they are, you just want to come in and be part of that.

"It's fun to come here and you start to learn the prospects. Obviously I had a pretty good idea of who's on the team and who's played here in the past and who's got a real good shot at making our team. But to start to get to know the rest of the organization, and even a lot of the staff for that matter, it's been a real good experience. It's fun to watch some hockey again."

Yeo, who went 173-132-44 as coach of the Wild and won the Stanley Cup as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, will spend his first season being Hitchcock's right-hand man and take over the Blues when Hitchcock retires after the season. There are those who question whether the two-coach system, or coach-in-waiting, can work, especially with Hitchcock.

"I think it's really good for him to be able to coach a year without the pressure and learn a different way because he's going to have a heavy responsibility when it's over," Hitchcock said of Yeo, who went head-to-head against Hitchcock in 2015 when the Wild defeated the Blues in six games in the Western Conference First Round. "He's going to have to steward a franchise that's awful important to this city. I think he's getting a clear understanding of that now. He's able to give opinions and not get opinions, which is a good thing. We all like to do that once in a while, and I think his experience doing it is going to do nothing but help."

Video: Chatting with Doug Armstrong on free agency

Armstrong had to make the final call on who to hire as Hitchcock's successor. Yeo, who Armstrong tried to hire in 2010 when the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate was in Peoria, Ill., was on top of the list again.

"I think he comes as advertised," Armstrong said of Yeo. "He's got a good personality, he's a hard worker and I think he's going to fit in really well with the group. I think for someone like Mike, I don't want to say that he fast-tracked to the NHL, but he got there very quickly. I think the opportunity to work with Ken, somebody who's experienced, somebody to see a different way to do things, is going to be helpful."

The Blues advanced to the Western Conference Final last season for the first time in 15 years and haven't reached the Cup Final since 1970. Yeo will continue to immerse himself into the culture and lifestyle the Blues put forth, and so far, the learning process has been a smooth transition.

"A lot of the things are very similar, whether it's the way that they run things day to day or the way the development camp is run," Yeo said. "But there's always things that are new, and that's what is great for me. We started getting into conversations about how we run training camp and it's a different format than what I'm used to, and that's what I'm excited to see.

"I believe in some of the things that I've done, but never so foolish to think that there might not be a better way out there. So I'm looking forward to some of these changes and seeing in all honesty, what I like better."

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