Published May 02, 2016
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - There's still too much time left in the 2014-15 campaign to officially call the Minnesota Wild's season a disaster, but it's certainly heading in that direction.
On Wednesday, all the frustration over his team's lackluster play finally sent head coach Mike Yeo over the edge and it's difficult to blame him.
Yeo stopped practice and laid into his club for not showing up with the right attitude for a team that has lost eight of its last 10 games and is fading fast in the Western Conference playoff picture.
In case you haven't seen it, there's video of Yeo's tirade here (with the numerous expletives bleeped out, of course): http://tinyurl.com/obthdhn
Clearly, Yeo's actions are those of a man who knows he's fighting for his job, and it's tearing him apart to see his players aren't battling right along with him.
"We're not in a position where we can come in and be, let alone decent in practice, bad at practice. I'm not going to accept that," Yeo offered in defense of his meltdown.
Although the passion is real, there may have been a bit of calculation behind Yeo's harangue because it comes at a time when it would be easy for Minnesota to feel sorry for itself. The coach knows if the Wild go down the road of self pity they are already lost and, in all likelihood, so is his job.
But there may be an even more poignant (and less self-centered) reason for Yeo's frustration, and it has to do with the off-ice tragedy that has beset his two best players.
One couldn't blame Yeo for being pushed to the limit by watching what his star players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have gone through this season on personal levels.
Of all the Wild players, Parise and Suter are the guys who have real reasons to feel sorry for themselves, as both players lost their fathers over the last several months.
Suter's father, Bob, a member of the Miracle on Ice team, died suddenly of a heart attack shortly before the season. Parise, meanwhile, watched his father -- former NHLer and longtime Minnesota North Stars forward J.P. Parise -- battle lung cancer over the last several months before he passed away Wednesday night at the age of 73.
Yeo and the Wild had been doing everything in their power to allow Parise to be with his family during this tragedy. He was allowed to skip practices when needed and Parise recently said Yeo had basically been telling him to "just show up for games."
Yet, through it all Parise showed more personal accountability for his team's struggles than anybody else. So, to see the rest of the team sleepwalk through practice Wednesday while Parise was spending the last few hours he would ever have with his father, could have added to Yeo's frustration.
To hear the coach explain it, hockey should serve as an escape for Parise and Suter but there has been little solace to be found at Xcel Energy Center.
"I have so much respect for the way he's coming to the rink and everything he's trying to put in to help our group," Yeo told the media Tuesday about Parise. "What's disappointing for me, right now there's more stress here."
Hockey teams are supposed to be like families in that they support each other the most in times of great distress. To see his players not give maximum effort at practice during extremely difficult times for their teammates is nothing short of disrespectful. It's disrespectful not only to Parise and Suter, but also to their families and the memories of both Bob Suter and J.P. Parise.
And if the Wild can't rally around two of their best players at times like these, it's be easy to see how Yeo could reach the level of frustration he showed on Wednesday.
But, the good news beneath it all is there is still plenty of time for redemption. Including Thursday's home game against Chicago, the Wild have 44 games left in the regular season to put the disappointment of the last several months behind them.
The first step for the Wild should be playing like their hair is on fire tonight against the Blackhawks. After all, leaving it all out on the ice is a great way to show Parise they care and are thinking about him during such a difficult time for his family.
It's a cliche, but sometimes it's true that it only takes one game to turn things around. And if Yeo's tirade and Parise's tragedy aren't enough to shake the Wild out of their slumber soon, it may already be too late to save their season.