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Evason ready for challenge of applying many lessons learned

Wild's interim head coach has spent two decades working his way up the coaching ladder

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- Dean Evason's Friday morning began like any other normal Friday. After walking to the rink from his downtown condo, he and the Wild coaching staff had a pre-practice meeting, watched some film of Thursday night's game against the New York Rangers and began putting together a plan for the day.

Very quickly, the tone and direction suddenly changed.

Wild General Manager Bill Guerin entered the room, pulled Evason aside and informed him of his decision to relieve Bruce Boudreau of his duties as head coach. 

He was also told that he would be named the Wild's interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

It was a bittersweet message for Evason, who has spent eight years in two different stops as one of Boudreau's assistants.

But it also marked the culmination of a two-decade climb to the top of his profession. After years as a head coach in the Western Hockey League, a stop as an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals, six years as head coach of the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals and the past year and a half in Minnesota, Evason will get a 25-game tryout as an NHL head coach. 

"You never want to see a good man, a good person, get let go," Evason said. "I have nothing but the most respect for Bruce and what he's taught me through the years that I've worked with him. It's a really, for lack of a better word, crappy part about our job.

"But it's an opportunity that has presented itself for myself and I've gotta do the best I can do for our hockey club to win games. Our first step and our first goal is to make the playoffs."

Video: Bill Guerin discusses coaching change

Evason's rise to head coach of the Wild began following a 803-game NHL career where Evason established himself as a hard-nosed, uber-competitive centerman with five different franchises. 

His final three years as a player came in Europe, and when he retired following the 1998-99 season, Evason returned home and immediately got into coaching, taking over the WHL's Kamloops Blazers in 1999-00. 

He spent three years in Kamloops; his final year there, he coached a young, 15-year-old goaltender named Devan Dubnyk, who joined the team fresh out of bantam. 

"What a roundabout, small world it is," Dubnyk said on Friday. "I was 15 years old, a 15-year-old call up and now he's my head coach in the NHL. 

"Deano was very intense back then and he was a great coach who demanded a lot out of the guys. Me, coming from bantam to junior, it was a big change in a lot of ways."

Dubnyk said he remembers playing a lot of post-practice 3-on-3, where Evason was not just a stationary member of the coaching staff. Only a couple years removed from his own playing career, Evason loved to jump right into the play and was not one to shy away in any aspect of the competition.

"He's definitely mellowed, which will happen as you go on and you don't have to deal with a bunch of teenagers on a junior team," Dubnyk said with a chuckle. "But you still see that intensity is there and that drive is there. 

"He's an easy guy to talk to. He's not gonna BS you, he's going to tell you how it is and he's built a great relationship with just about every guy in here, so that certainly helps."

Evason smiled when reminded of his intense, more youthful days in Kamloops, but doesn't shy away from the fact that the same fire he had as a player in the NHL still burns hot inside him today.

He's just learned how to channel it better.

"I think maturity, you have to mature, not only as a coach, but as a person," Evason said. "You have to learn from all the situations that you've been through both positive and negative."

One of the biggest challenges Evason may face will be his evolving relationship with the locker room he is now tasked with guiding. 

Dubnyk lauded Evason's commitment to working his way around the dressing room over the last year and a half and cultivating relationships with the players on the Wild's roster.

Assistant coaches are often tasked with keeping the head coach abreast of the "temperature" inside the locker room and having a feel of the pulse of the room.

Evason said he won't change who he is, however, and that he looks forward to maintaining and building on those relationships he's worked hard on. 

"If you do what you do and you are who you are, if you're straight up and you're honest and you try to do the right things in those situations, I don't think you have to change," Evason said. "There are certainly dynamics as an assistant coach where you're maybe joking around a little bit more than a head coach. 

"But why can't you have fun as a head coach? As long as you have respect for the individuals, I think you can conduct yourself the same way. So I'm not going to change just because the title that I have has changed. I'm gonna try to be the same person and try to do the same things I was doing prior to getting this position to try and help our hockey club win."


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