The Wild had dramatic midseason slumps in each of the previous two seasons and recovered to make the playoffs. But Fletcher opted for a coaching change this time around, promoting Torchetti from the franchise’s minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League.
Minnesota was 22-11-8 and owned the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference when it went on the road and beat the Dallas Stars on Jan. 9. The Wild returned home and lost to the New Jersey Devils a night later, starting a slide which has seen the team win one of its last 14 games.
Along the way, Minnesota slipped out of playoff positioning, and Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Boston tied the franchise’s home winless streak at eight games.
"Starting with the New Jersey game the next night, things have just fallen apart for us," Fletcher said Sunday. "We’ve had a tough four weeks. We had some good meetings last week in St. Louis and I really like the way we played the three subsequent games, and then yesterday we took a step back. So I made the decision after the game to let Mike go."
Yeo had seen the team through tough times during his five seasons with Minnesota.
Last year, the Wild traded for goaltender Devan Dubnyk and went 26-8-2 the rest of the way, finishing with the franchise’s second-best record ever. But Minnesota was swept by Chicago in the second round of the playoffs.
The answers for this season’s fall have been tougher to diagnose.
"Last year we were struggling in net and we made that change and it got us out of it," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "This year, I think we were playing well. I just think we weren’t able to get the results. That’s a tough spot to be in when you can’t figure out what it is."
Torchetti is familiar with many of the players from his time coaching the team’s Houston Aeros affiliate from 2011-13 and this season in Iowa. He has nine seasons of NHL coaching experience, including stints as interim coach with the Florida Panthers in 2004 and the Los Angeles Kings in 2006, as well as being an assistant on Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup championship team.
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"I’m going to hold them accountable and push them hard," Torchetti said of the team’s veteran leaders. "They’re your leaders and that’s why on your team moving forward, to get better, you have to have your leaders echo your words in the room when you leave the locker room. That’s what we need to make sure we’re all on the same page moving forward."
Minnesota is five points behind Nashville for the final wild card in the West heading to Monday’s game in Vancouver. With 27 games remaining this season, players, coaches and Fletcher are on notice.
Fletcher has hired and fired two coaches in Todd Richards and Yeo since being named GM in 2009.
"I take full ownership," Fletcher said. "I’ve hired the coaches. I’ve brought the players in. So, obviously, when you’re the general manager, you’re accountable for everything. I take full ownership."