When Head Coach John Torchetti walked into the Minnesota Wild's locker room Sunday morning to address the team, there were some familiar faces looking back at him.
Having coached in both Iowa and Houston, minor league affiliates of Minnesota, Torchetti is no stranger to the majority of the Wild's locker room.
Taking over the reigns in game number 56, and that existing-cohesiveness will help with the transition.
"He’s been to training camps. He’s watched our team, so he’s much more familiar with our team than anybody on the outside would be, but he’s also a fresh set of eyes," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "It’s a new voice, a demanding guy, an emotional guy, and a great communicator.
"He’s got that familiarity but yet, there’s also a clean slate here. In my opinion, he was the only candidate you could look at that brought all those qualifications to the table.”
Both Torchetti, and the 12 players in the Wild’s locker room who have called Torchetti their coach previously, echoed the personality that Fletcher described.
"The guys respected him a lot down there, and he's a guy who literally sleeps hockey," said Mike Reilly, who, in his first year pro, has played 40 games under Torchetti in Iowa. "He's always watching video, he's always trying to tweak things to get the best out of guys, and he's really up front with you, too.
"It's a little bit of black-and-white, kind of letting you know if you're playing well, or if you're not. He was great to me down there, and it's going to be a new, fresh breath with him up here."
Torchetti faced a similar challenge in Iowa to the one he's walking into in Minnesota. The Wild's AHL affiliate began this season 5-23-2, but has gone 10-6-1 in its past 17 games with Torchetti helping to right the ship.
"He’s really stabilized our franchise in Iowa," Fletcher said. "We threw him into a tough situation last year. The last two months we’re playing great hockey, winning a lot of games and he’s really stabilized that franchise."
Torchetti said, as time passed, things began to fall in place.
"It took a while to get our culture going," he said. "We had to get some players dialed in and the accountability within the room. To me, I can say the message but what is it backed up with when I leave the room?"
In Minnesota, it will be much of the same.
"Moving forward, that’s the number one thing to me," he said. "Once your team competes and knows, ‘I’m here for the team, every decision I make is for the logo and to win a hockey game,’ I’m not here to take away your ice time, I’m here to give you more ice time because you’re working for the logo.”
During those tough times though, both Reilly and Christian Folin, who played 15 games for Torchetti in Iowa this season, said the coach was paramount in maintain the right environment.
"He's a charismatic guy, and he's fun to be around," Folin said. "He did a tremendous job down in Iowa.
"It's tough losing that many games, and he kept the mood light, and as you can tell now, they've been playing better."
By all accounts from his former players, Torchetti is a straight-shooter, who doesn't hold back.
"He's hard-nosed," Charlie Coyle said. "He says it how it is, and he was my first pro coach, so just coming in and having a coach like him — he tells you like it is.
"I don't know how else to say it: I loved playing for him."
Torchetti said he probably knows 50 or 60 percent of the locker room, smoothing the get-to-know-you period, and he plans to meet with every player individually before the Wild's next game.
On Sunday, during his introduction, he kept things simple.
"He just basically said it's a clean slate, and we have to start winning games," Folin said. "We have to have fun, we have to compete, and we have to win our one-on-one battles."