Yeo got tips from Adelman on lockout
ST. PAUL, Minn. — It wasn't long ago that Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was dealing with a shortened season after the NBA lockout cut last year's schedule from 82 games to 66. It presented the veteran coach with many challenges in his first year at the helm in Minnesota.
A year later, second-year Wild coach Mike Yeo will have a similar task on his hands when the NHL season starts later this month. The league's lockout lasted 113 days, which will mean teams will likely play 48 games in a truncated schedule. With games expected to begin Jan. 19, Yeo has plenty to do to get his team ready for the year.
In anticipation of this year's shortened schedule, Yeo turned to Adelman for advice on how to handle things.
"I think we'll spend a lot of time on our 3-point shooting," Yeo joked Monday, the first day Wild players took the ice at Xcel Energy Center and the day after the NHL and its players association agreed to terms to end the lockout.
"It was helpful in that obviously the game is different, but the challenges in a lot of ways are the same — shortened camp and the compressed schedule," Yeo added of his talks with Adelman, who is in his 22nd season as an NBA coach. "He had a lot of insight and a lot of good things to say about both of those. That part and understanding how important rest will be and understanding that you might have to give up a little bit as far as the tactics and the details of your game to make sure your team is rested and prepared as far as the energy level to go out and compete the way they need to."
The 39-year-old Yeo took over last season as Minnesota's head coach. Prior to taking the Wild job, Yeo was the coach of the Houston Aeros, the Wild's AHL affiliate. He also spent time on the Pittsburgh Penguins' coaching staff from 2005-10.
Minnesota got off to a hot start during Yeo's first few months, jumping out to a 20-7-3 record to ascend to first place in the Western Conference. But the Wild lost 15 of their next 17 games and faded down the stretch. Minnesota finished 33-35-10 and missed the playoffs, then made several offseason acquisitions it believes will produce a championship contender. Among the biggest signings were forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.
Since acquiring those two free agents in July, however, Yeo and the Wild have had to wait to see what Parise and Suter could bring to Minnesota.
"It's kind of like having a toy at Christmas that you're not allowed to play with," Yeo said. "We talked about last year, the purpose of last year was to set the table for future success. The way that these conduct themselves, the core guys that we have returning, the guys that we've added to the group, I'm real confident that we're going to go out and do what winners do day in and day out."
The next few weeks will be a balancing act for Yeo and his coaching staff as they figure out just how hard and how often they can push their players in practice. Teams won't have much of a training camp to prepare for the regular-season opener in a week and a half, so it's a fine line between getting in shape and not wearing players down for what will be a busier travel schedule.
Fortunately for Minnesota, many of its players have stayed in the state and skated at Twin Cities rinks during the lockout. It's not the same as a team practice, but it likely helped develop some chemistry for some of the new guys, including Parise.
"There are some guys out here that haven't been taking part in those skates, but a lot of these guys have been skating together for quite some time now," Yeo said. "It won't take long, especially when you're dealing with the quality of players that we're talking about."
Yeo still isn't able to be on the ice with his players until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. But he and general manager Chuck Fletcher have been able to watch the Wild skate this week for the first time since the lockout.
Even as a distant observer, Yeo has noticed a jump in his players' step. As frustrating as the lockout was for everyone, the Wild were equally excited to be back on the ice this week.
"It's been building for a couple months. To know that it's upon us now, we're real excited. You get a sense that the players are excited, too," Yeo said. "It's obviously a great turnout right now that we have. Guys were in a great mood. I felt like we're just picking up right where we left off, to be honest with you. When you hear the guys in the room and they're laughing and they're joking, just to get a chance to see everybody again, it's nice."
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.