ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Nine days ago, mired in an eight-game losing streak, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher played the only card left in his deck and fired coach Mike Yeo.
Predictably, the Wild have been a juggernaut ever since – winning four blowouts in a row under interim coach John Torchetti, capped off by Sunday’s thrilling 6-1 victory outdoors over the rival Blackhawks.
It seems every season needs a savior. Last year it was Devan Dubnyk. Four games in, Torchetti is off to a good start.
“He’s done a very admirable job coming into obviously a difficult situation,” Dubnyk said. “And fortunately we’ve been able to respond.”
Torchetti has gotten players who have produced in the past, but haven’t for a while, suddenly to be prolific once again.
Erik Haula, who looked like a breakout star two years ago in the playoffs but has been quiet since, is now surging with seven points in the last four games.
Thomas Vanek has goals in back-to-back games after scoring just once in his previous 13.
And Jason Pominville has six points the last three games, after just two in his last 23.
“I think Torch has definitely stepped in and kind of gave us some freedom to make more plays offensively,” Pominville said. “And came in with some new ideas, and has created a spark for our team. And we’ve seen it with a lot of guys on the score sheet and it’s been fun.”
The effects of the coaching change have been profound. Which makes you wonder, why did the coaching change trigger such a massive change in results?
“It’s tough to say,” Dubnyk said. “I think when you bring in somebody new like Torch, Torch has got a ton of energy and he’s excited. And the simple fact is, is everybody here is on a clean slate. And that’s not, guys aren’t saying, ‘Oh, thank goodness, I have a clean slate,’ it’s that you have to go show him why you deserve to play.
“It puts everybody on notice,” Dubnyk said.
Sunday’s win, in that atmosphere, by that margin, was quite the moment. And perhaps it can be a rallying point too, that they can reference back to the rest of the way.
It’s a galvanizing moment to provide momentum for the rest of the season.
“When you get the momentum, you want to keep it,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “And you want to build on it.”