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!