Photo - Christian Petersen (Getty Images)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
St. Paul, MN - The news has been out for a nearly a week now, but Friday provided the first opportunity to hear from Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and newly extended Head Coach Mike Yeo.
The new deal, a three year extension landing Yeo nearly one million a year, comes on the heels of the franchise's second deepest run in the playoffs. Only the second time in team history they've been able to breach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It is a contract extension that is richly earned," Chuck Fletcher exclaimed Friday morning in St. Paul. "Through a lot of blood sweat and tears this season, Mike and his staff took our team to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in club history."
Fletcher was understandably pleased with the team's run past the first round of the playoffs in 2014. Still, the real reason he explained for giving Yeo the rich contract extension stemmed from the development that Mike and his staff were able to get out of the young talent that the front office has provided.
"When I initially hired Mike a few years ago I asked him to do two things," Fletcher explained. "One, was win hockey games. And two, was to do so while developing young players. When I look at Mike right now and the job he and his staff have done, we've become a team that's recognized around the league. We've started to create an identity of being a hard working, fast and resilient team....We've also become a team that's won a lot of hockey games and again we've done so by playing a lot of young kids. All of whom have developed nicely under Mike and his staff's direction."
In the 2013-2014 season, the Minnesota Wild dressed ten players under the age of 24. The most encouraging part, from Mikael Granlund to Nino Niederreiter, many of them had quite the impact for the team during the post season.
"When you look now at most of our young players, I'd be hard pressed to sit here and name one player that wasn't better now then he was at the beginning of the year," Fletcher continued. "Development is a huge part of our industry. We can't just go out and sign unlimited numbers of unrestricted free agents. Mike, what he has done developing these players and making them, hopefully good NHL players down the road, certainly many of them look like they're on that path now. It's just a tremendous advantage for our franchise."
For Yeo, the development of his young players is obviously a plus but his mind continues to focus on the bigger picture. His original plan of building an identity for the Minnesota Wild and creating a culture within the locker room remains focal point number one.
"When I talk about creating a culture, it's about being a winner," Mike Yeo said Thursday. "I think the biggest thing that winners have is an attitude where they're never satisfied...We've got a great mix right now. Our core players, our leaders are great players but they're great people. Our young players, they're very talented but they've got the right attitude."
Through the development of the young players and the advancing leadership of the veterans, Yeo has established a confidence in the locker room that goes beyond the excitement of landing big name free agents. By building key pieces from within, Yeo and Fletcher have been able to instill a sense of confidence that could not be found or purchased in any other way.
"We felt this year was a very important step on the road to winning a Stanley Cup," Chuck Fletcher said. "Yet again we recognize that we have a lot of work to do."
"We have an end goal in mind and that's to win a Stanley Cup," Yeo added. "We know that we still have an awful lot of work to try to give ourselves the best chance at achieving that. That said, we do believe we're on the right track and we should never slow down until we get there."
The full press conference with newly extended head coach Mike Yeo was broadcast LIVE on KFAN 100.3FM and can be replayed by using the media player below.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Wild updates and breaking Wild news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN