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With Evason on board, Wild coaching staff finding old chemistry

Current bench group worked together in Washington for parts of three seasons

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- In hockey, chemistry is an often used cliche when judging how well a group of players functions together. 

How quickly players can find a chemistry can directly correlate to how long that group plays together and the kind of success it has.

But chemistry is no less important on a coaching staff, in fact, it's quite possibly more important.

While players spent plenty of time around each other, they go their separate ways after a practice or a game. Meanwhile, a coaching staff spends countless more hours working together, watching film together, traveling together and eating together. 

Despite the fact the Wild brought in a new assistant coach during the summer, the chemistry between head coach Bruce Boudreau and his assistants Bob Woods and newcomer Dean Evason is undeniable. 

The new-look staff is actually an old look: the three worked together for 2 1/2 years with the Washington Capitals 

"I think we have to have a chemistry as a coaching staff, no different than we want one in the room," Evason said. "You have to be cohesive, you have to communicate and you have to have one theme and one voice. When we go into the locker room, regardless of whether it's 5-on-5, power play or penalty kill, we're all united and we're on the same page. 

"We want to be as good a coaching team as we want our players to be as a hockey team."

Just how good this staff can be together in Minnesota will become clear next week when the Wild opens the regular season Oct. 4 against the Colorado Avalanche. But it's hard to argue with the results it had together in Washington, where it posted a 114-47-25 record.

Evason was an assistant already in Washington when Boudreau became head coach midway through the 2007-08 season, a promotion earned from the team's AHL affiliate in Hershey. 

Woods came aboard in 2009-10 and the trio worked on the same staff until Boudreau was relieved of his duties 22 games into the 2011-12 season. He was unemployed for less than two weeks before he was named head coach of the Anaheim Ducks, where Woods re-joined him in time for the 2012-13 season.

In the meantime, Evason took over as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, a position he held for the past six seasons, serving under general manager Paul Fenton.

Once Fenton got the top job in Minnesota, he re-united the staff again with the Wild.

"I think it will be seamless for them to get back together," Fenton said in June. "It's nice to have the familiarity there. I think they'll just hit the ground running is the way I'm portraying it. With Bruce, I think from a comfort zone, it'll put Bruce in a good spot because he's had him before."

Through the first week and a half of training camp, the staff has started to re-gain some of that chemistry after being apart for seven years. While players see the fruits of their labor come together with a pretty pass or great shift, coaching staffs see it when running a practice or putting together a plan.

"It's interesting, sometimes when I say, 'Here's the drills that we're doing today,' it'll be, 'Yeah, I remember that one' or, 'I remember that one,'" Boudreau said. "A lot of them are very similar and he used them where he went. The easy thing is the vernacular; we use a lot of the same lines. Sometimes, you get a new coach and they use totally different verbiage." 

Evason has found a role on the staff running the Wild's power play. But he didn't come in and simply tell the players to run things the way he wanted them. 

First, the coaching staff discussed things. Then Evason entrusted the opinions of several veterans on the team, asking for things like their strengths and weaknesses, what they liked doing, what has worked for them in the past. 

Then, Evason went about building systems around the talents of the players who will be executing it.

"They're in the arena, they're in the battle," Evason said. "They know what works for them and once you put a structure together, you can tweak it between the two units. We all do it together, but the players have to believe in what they're doing."

That group-think approach comes from years of working around Boudreau, who has a very similar philosophy when it comes to his coaching staff.

"In Washington, we all had input. Everybody always has input into every system that we do," Evason said. "When we first met again, some of the systems had changed through the years with Bruce's system, and tweaked it here and there. 

"But everybody has input. And he wants input ... players like that they have input, assistant coaches love that they have input too. That's the way it should be if you're going to have a cohesive unit."


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