General Hockey

Yeo-ing, Yeo-ing, Gone…

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The sound you heard was the collective applause of Penguins fans everywhere as they celebrate Mike Yeo’s departure from the Penguins coaching staff. According to multiple outlets, Yeo has agreed to become the next head coach of the Houston Aeros. The Aeros are the top affiliate of the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild are managed by former Penguins’ assistant GM Chuck Fletcher. Fletcher also calls the shots for the Aeros and chose to bring Yeo on board. That fact alone tells you that Yeo can’t be all bad. Fletcher is a great hockey guy, who has a knack for hitting AHL home runs. Could this be his next? Time will tell…

Yeo’s departure has been greeted by such exuberance from Penguins’ fans because they hold him responsible for many of the team’s shortcomings over the past few years, especially on the power play.

The Penguins power play has produced as such over Yeo’s tenure…

2009-10 – 17.2% – 20th in the league

2008-09 – 17.2% – 20th in the league

2007-08 – 20.4% – 4th in the league

2006-07 – 20.3% – 5th in the league

2005-06 – 19.0% – 6th in the league

I have never been as hard on Yeo as some, because I think it is hard to hold him accountable when all he can do is lay the plan out for his star studded unit. The players on the ice have got to execute, which they didn’t do often enough over the past two seasons. You can see that the power play did thrive under him at one point in time. It improved during his first two full seasons in Pittsburgh from 19 to 20.3 and then 20.4 percent in 2007-08. Did he suddenly become a worse coach after that season?

No… but there were some personnel changes that could have effected his power play more than anything he did on the dry erase board.

During the 07-08 season the Penguins got significant production from the likes of Ryan Malone, Ryan Whitney, Petr Sykora and Evgeni Malkin with the extra man. They put up 16ppp (11ppg), 22ppp (7ppg), 27ppp (15ppg) and 40ppp (17ppg) respectively. Sykora and Whitney were essentially specialists notching a huge percentage of their points on the power play. You could also attribute a lot of the production to Malone’s big frame being in front of the opposing goaltender all season long… something the team has yet to replace.

Malone and that traffic causing frame walked following the 07-08 season, which could be the biggest reason why the PP dipped by 3% in the standings. The team still got decent production from Malkin (41ppp) and Sykora (13ppg), but they lost Whitney in the Kunitz trade and Sergei Gonchar was out for a significant period of time. The team finished with its lowest power play percentage under Yeo… is that the coach or is it the personnel who was gone or on the shelf?

Flash forward to the 09-10 season, no Malone/traffic in front, no Whitney, no Sykora, Gonchar again on the shelf early in the year and Malkin’s production dropped to just 28 power play points – the lowest of his career.  This all combined to hurt the power play more than the plan Yeo laid out.

Now I am not saying that he doesn’t shoulder some of the blame for the lack of production, as he nor the rest of the staff, did anything to alter the strategy that had been so successful while they possessed the aforementioned power play specialists. However, when you look at the complete picture, you see that there are many reasons why the power play failed over the past two seasons.

So keeping all of that in mind, it is worth noting that the Penguins coaching staff got weaker today and they have a very important hire to make moving into next season. Here is hoping that they look outside the organization for the right candidate as they did last year with Tony Granato.

Good luck to Mike Yeo in his new endeavor!

More later…

Comments

About Brian Metzer

Profile photo of Brian Metzer

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brian Metzer has been covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and National Hockey League since 2004. He is the host of Penguins Live Weekly, a show that airs Saturday mornings on 105.9 the X and iHeart Radio. He serves as the Pittsburgh Penguins correspondent for NHL Network Radio on SiriusXM, and is the NHL and Penguins correspondent for the Beaver County Times. Metzer is also a contributing writer for NHL.com and is the primary contributor for this site www.fromthepoint.com.

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11 Comments

  1. Evilpens

    June 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY is all I can say !!!

    No they didn’t get weaker !!! Rick Tocchet or Adam Oates to run the PP Or Maybe let Tony run the Forwards & PP & Hire a Defensemen & have him run the PK & D Men

  2. OneSmugPug

    June 16, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Pretty funny, Brian….I blamed the execution of the players, as well. Still though…..

  3. Evilpens

    June 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Pug Yeo has to put the Big Boy Panys on & Tell Sid Geno to do it his way or Grab some bench !!!

    That is one of his HUGE weaknesses the Players don’t respect his “Knowledge” they don’t fear reprisals

  4. Ozman51

    June 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Well I’m happy to see him go. The PP might not just be his fault but sometimes a shakeup is the only thing left when something just isn’t working

  5. Gunner Staal

    June 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I for one am indifferent about him leaving. I never understood how people thought he was the lone reason for the power play “struggling” at 29% in the playoffs.

    At the end of the day the players are the ones accountable. If Crosby thought it was an awful power play he would have spoke up and it would have been changed. Injuries were more of a concern to the power play than anything Mike Yeo drew up.

  6. ixnay8

    June 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I have to agree with the notion that the execution was the main problem. You can come up with a great PP setup that gives you several different high percentage scoring options but if the players insist on forcing the low percentage plays time and time again you will consistantly fail. Now if a coach can’t get his players to buy into his plan then maybe some of that blame has to fall back on the coach as well but certainly the players carry a large portion of the responsibility. When Therrien was replaced but Yeo was kept it told me that the organization had a lot of faith in what he was doing. He was supposedly well liked by the players and maybe that was part of the problem. Maybe the players need a hardass to force them to make the smart plays.

    And when it comes to execution, there was nothing more frustrating than watching Gonchar or Malkin set up for a one-timer over and over only to get a sloppy pass from Letang or Goligoski so we were forced to watch them play catch with the puck constantly. Any PP with those two shots should convert 25% easily if you just have someone putting a nice flat pass right in the wheelhouse. With all of the offensive talent on that PP unit I really can’t understand how difficult they made it look to put a 20ft pass in a good one-timer spot for their big guns. No matter who coaches the PP, if they can’t pass they’re not getting anywhere.

  7. roberge

    June 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Two words on a suitable replacement – ROB DAUM

  8. Armandhammer

    June 18, 2010 at 7:09 am

    To say that Yeo could only lay out the plan and that it wasn’t his fault is wrong.

    Yeo’s PP setup was setting the team up for failure. It had nothing to do with the players not executing. It had to do with things like using Malkin and Crosby as puck retrievers, not utilizing Letang’s RH shot, not allowing Crosby or Malkin to use their creativity, not allowing any movement at all on the PP, etc.

    You’re going to tell me that it’s the player’s fault and that Yeo’s setup was fine? Then why is it that these players weren’t benched for not following Yeo’s orders? The reason they weren’t benched was because they were following Yeo’s orders to a tee…..hence the reason they were unsuccessful.

    Yeo failed to adjust the PP setup to reflect the personnel he had. I can’t wait to have a coach run the PP properly. Thanks for your time Mike, but it’s time to move on.

  9. ixnay8

    June 18, 2010 at 9:24 am

    I’m not gonna say Yeo did nothing wrong. There was obviously room for improvement in the PP setup but just because Crosby and Malkin weren’t benched doesn’t mean they were following his orders. Not many people have the balls to bench one of those two and really even if they weren’t doing what they were supposed to they still represent the best chance to score on that team. The only constants on the PP were Malkin, Crosby, and Gonchar. Gonchar looked to be following orders to a T. Carefully bring the puck up ice, making a pass if it’s there but otherwise dumping the puck in. He would look to set up a one-timer in the zone and whenever it didn’t materialize due to defensive pressure or bad passing he would move laterally to open a lane and snap a wrist shot through to the net. I obviously haven’t sat in on any Pens PP meetings but I would imagine that’s just about everything asked of him by the coaches.

    I wouldn’t blame Yeo for not utilizing Letang’s RH shot. He was given a ton of chances to shoot and seldom took them because more often than not he didn’t get the puck within 5 feet of the net. His lack of accuracy from the point was unreal this year. I love him as a player and hope he is able to improve that part of his game because he was just awful shooting from the blueline this year. One reason I would like to see Gonchar stick around a bit longer is because Letang can learn so much from him about moving to open up a shooting lane, taking something off your shot to hit the net, and putting your shot just off to the side of the net (somewhere retreivable) when it’s about to be blocked and go the other way. Gonchar is a master of those three skills and I feel like Letang and Gogo need to pick up on some of that stuff if they want to be successful.

    The main problem with the Pens PP is the fact that they don’t utilize the 3rd forward properly. They tried a bunch of different guys but it didn’t matter because all they did was stand in the slot as a screen/decoy and never touched the puck.

    I’m not letting Yeo off the hook by any means. He shares a good bit of blame here too. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new PP coach have the pens clicking at 25%-30% on the PP next year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up only in the 15%-20% range either. Yeo didn’t get the most out of the scoring potential of these players but anyone who wants to lump all of the blame on him just wasn’t watching the games this year. He absolutely could’ve changed the setup to use everybody better but the players also needed to make the right plays when they’re out there. If there was only one player/coach to blame for the PP’s troubles it would’ve been fixed by January.

    Here’s hoping next year things work out better.

  10. Profile photo of Brian Metzer

    Brian Metzer

    June 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    @Armandhammer I am saying that it isn’t fair to lay the entire blame for the Penguins power play at his feet… period. Not that he is blame free… yes he should have tried to make some adjustments, but those players also didn’t get it done… and losing several players that could be considered “power play specialists” hurt the entire unit. Sure there was a ton of talent available for it, but they never were able to replace the PP scoring of Sykora, Whitney and Malone… just saying. I get the fact that you hated Yeo’s approach, but he wasn’t solely responsible for the failure…

  11. George

    June 21, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Anytime I think about Yeo as being in charge of the Powerplay- I remember what he said during the intermission of a Pens-Rangers game early last year (I live in NY and watched the MSG feed where he was interviewed). The Rangers guys asked him how he coaches the powerplay, his words were: “We don’t have specific strategies and plays. I’ve said all along to the players go out there and be creative and try new stuff.” Why he wasn’t fired on the spot for that is beyond me- that sealed the deal for me on thinking Yeo had no idea what he was doing.

    I’m hoping the Pens go for someone like Paul Coffey, Ron Francis or Adam Oates to be their powerplay coach- you know someone who actually has spent time on an NHL powerplay might be a better coach than a career AHL guy who didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing.