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With interim label gone, it's Evason's turn to put his stamp on things

Wild coach will have a full offseason, training camp to implement changes he wants to see moving forward

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

Dean Evason had four months to plan what would be his first training camp as an NHL head coach, all the while not knowing if the job would be his past the end of the 2019-20 season.

The long-time NHL assistant and former head coach of the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, Evason was named the interim head coach of the Wild on Feb. 14, with no guarantees of anything beyond the end of the season. 

Minnesota went 8-4-0 down the stretch, however, putting itself into playoff contention when the season went dark. But it was his preparation during the layoff that left a lasting impression with Wild GM Bill Guerin.

The break in the schedule allowed Guerin to think about what he would be looking for in a full-time head coach once his search would eventually begin, and the more and more he thought about it, the traits displayed by Evason were what he was looking for in that man.

So, instead of waiting until the offseason before conducting a search, Guerin removed the interim label from Evason's title at the beginning of Phase 3 training camp and sent the Wild to Edmonton with the man that will hold the job for the foreseeable future. 

Evason will now begin his first offseason as an NHL head coach, where he will get a chance to once again plan a training camp and a season schedule ... this time under a more traditional time line. 

Video: Dean Evason on the bubble & the offseason work ahead

"Exciting to put training camp together, put even little details like the rooms, the locker rooms, putting our twists on how we want to set up visuals for the guys to come into," Evason said. "Structurally, as far as dialing in our three zones. Sitting with the coaches and just having that completely prepared when we get to training camp from day one to do the right things and do the right things structurally, but most importantly details."

In terms of that staff, there will be some changes. 

While Bob Woods and Darby Hendrickson will return next season, longtime goaltending coach Bob Mason, who has served under every head coach in team history, will not be back. 

The search for a new goalie coach has already begun. 

"I just think Bob is a great guy and he's done a lot of great things and helped goalies here over the last 17 years," Guerin said. "I consider Bob a friend. He's a wonderful person. Like I said, he's got a great track record. He had an incredible run here. I have nothing negative to say about him. Sometimes you just need change and at that position we needed a change."

In terms of a next step for Evason and the coaching staff, finding a way for the Wild's younger players to take another step is high on the priority list.

While Kevin Fiala did just that this season, the belief is that he has the ability to take his skill even another notch or two farther.

Kirill Kaprizov is in Minnesota and will embark on his NHL career next season. 

But there are plenty of others on the front halves of their careers still who the Wild will need more from. Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, and Joel Eriksson Ek are among those that may have opportunities to take on an increased role next season.

"We need a lot of people, everybody, to step up," Evason said. "For us as a coaching staff, it's exciting going forward that from Day 1 we'll be able to implement everything we want to do structurally and really dial in the details of the game. We thought we lacked a bit of detail throughout the playoffs and ... some discipline issues that can be corrected in the first month of the season. 

"You get in a playoff situation and we had the guys for 12 games and you can talk but you can do more than talk when you have a group for a full season. That's exciting for us as a coaching staff. There's no question that going forward people have to step up and they're going to because they're going to take a step forward, they're going to mature, and they're going to be better hockey players hopefully because of the situation we went through in the bubble."

Having a "normal," traditional offseason and a training camp will help Evason and his staff monitor those improvements and help to foster a sense of accountability because the guys in the locker room know that they are no longer dealing with an interim coach.

They know the plan is for Evason to be around a lot longer than that. He'll now have a real opportunity to put his stamp on the franchise. 

How will he do it?

"I think that just comes naturally. We've got a lot of players coming back that know what to expect now from us as far as the accountability, structurally, how we want to play the game," Evason said. "But as I said, we'll have an opportunity from day one to teach, not only systems, but accountability and discipline and all of those good things right from day one, so the details of our game will be something that's extremely important to us as a coaching staff from the first day that the guys step into the locker room. 

"That's something that we will be very concentrated on and you get the whole season to work on that, to correct, to adjust and have adjustments with players individually and as a team. Then when you do get into that situation in the playoffs, hopefully you've been through all those learning experiences to go forward and have success when you get there."

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