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Wild hope Torchetti can turn around team

Players think fresh voice from new coach will help

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

John Torchetti - 2/14/16

John Torchetti - 2/14/16

John Torchetti answered questions on being named the interim head coach of the Minnesota Wild

  • 09:41 •

VANCOUVER -- Minnesota Wild players aren't sure yet exactly how much will change under new coach John Torchetti, but the voice is different and for now, that is enough.

Torchetti, who was promoted from the Wild's American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa after Mike Yeo was fired on Saturday, made sure every player got to hear his voice in person before they play their first game for him Monday against the Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV). Torchetti met with each player in person either after an optional practice Sunday or on the flight to Vancouver after practice.

"It puts everybody at ease," Torchetti said after the morning skate Monday. "I go over what I expect them to do moving forward or what hasn't been working for them before. Is there something else we can fix for them? It's all about making us better and making guys better. The quicker we get everyone's game back on track the quicker we become a winning team." 

The Wild haven't won much since mid-January. Minnesota lost its eighth straight game against the Boston Bruins shortly before Yeo was fired Saturday, and has one win in its past 14 games (1-11-2), falling five points out of a Stanley Cup Playoffs spot. Confidence has waned, to the point Zach Parise suggested it was hard for them to put consecutive passes together without one ending up in someone's skates.

"We have to get back to feeling like we are good players and feeling good, which there hasn't been a lot of going around in a while and you can tell," Parise said.

Veteran forward Thomas Vanek hopes a fresh voice can help restore that confidence.

"What changes is it's a new voice and some guys that haven't been going good or not feeling good about their game it will be a fresh start and we'll see if that helps," Vanek said. "The quick message is just it's a fresh start, play your game, know your role and he wants to play a fast game so we'll see how it translates."

Torchetti also changed three of the forward lines and two of the defense pairings before the game in Vancouver, but for Parise, the biggest change is between the ears.

"I feel like it got really mental for us," Parise said. "I'm sure as things go along there will be a tweak here and there and maybe stuff to generate more on the offensive side of the ice, but I really believe a lot of it became so mental that it really started to hurt." 

Since the slump started, Minnesota dropped from seventh in the NHL standings to 22nd on Monday. A lack of scoring was the biggest problem before the All-Star break, but in six games since, the Wild have also given up 25 goals. 

"We just have to get back to playing hard and being responsible and playing the game the right way, we have been getting away from that a little bit," Parise said.

For Torchetti, that doesn't mean changing the system, but the effort within it.

"Systems is the least of my worries," Torchetti said. "It's about competing and wanting that puck. No more stick checks. Making sure we're playing the right way."

Players conceded that isn't a lot different from what Yeo was asking for lately. But hearing it from a different voice after five seasons with Yeo behind the bench may help.

"Just a different mentality, a different voice altogether," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who will return to the lineup against Vancouver after missing three games with a deep bruise. "He could be saying the exact same thing but coming from someone else it just sounds a bit different. … We're looking forward to it."

Torchetti hasn't been behind an NHL bench since the 2010-11 season as an associate coach with the Atlanta Thrashers, and hasn't run a bench since he was an interim coach for the Los Angeles Kings for 12 games in 2005-06. He admitted it might take a while to figure out matchups because he doesn't know the opponents as well as he did in the AHL, where he has coached the Wild's affiliate since Nov. 11, 2014. But Torchetti said the transition will be easier because he knows Minnesota's players, including 12 who played for him in the minor leagues at various points, and the coaches.

That knowledge was enough to tweak the lineup for his first game. It was also enough for Torchetti to suggest the leadership structure also needs to change.

"We all know we have to get tighter in our structure of the leadership because if it was going the right way we wouldn't be here," said Torchetti, 51. "We have to make sure moving forward that we do more team-building stuff and make sure structure-wise all 22 guys are a part of it. Younger guys have to start having a bigger voice in locker room; some of those guys will start to speak up and identify this is their team, too."

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