The Minnesota Wild began a new era Tuesday, as John Hynes took over as the seventh coach in franchise history.
Hynes will be behind the bench at Xcel Energy Center for his first game as the team’s coach when the Wild host St. Louis on Tuesday night.
On Monday, the Wild fired Dean Evason amid a seven-game losing streak. The Wild entered the season with high expectations but have lost 14 of their first 19 games.
Hynes and Wild General Manager Bill Guerin spoke to reporters earlier Tuesday. Hynes — who previously coached New Jersey and Nashville — acknowledged it isn’t easy taking over a team mid-season.
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“Everybody’s hurting. It’s a tough situation for the coaching staff, the training staff, particularly the players,” he said. “I think it's important to really come in and connect with those guys, connect with the coaches, get feedback — particularly from the players on some of the things that they’re seeing and feeling. ... That’s the start of it.”
“I think it’s first ‘who,’ then ‘what’ — I think when it comes to the ‘what’ side, it’s really just pinpointing simple things. You’re not going to come in in-season and make wholesale changes, but ... you want to work on identity, I think you want to work on the mindset of the team. And I think you come in and make some slight tweaks.”
Hynes said the goal of those simple changes is to help the team reach its potential.
“I think when you when you can pinpoint certain things — you come into the team, say OK, ‘these things don’t necessarily need to be changed. They are strong points of the team. Here's some things that we think are going to be tweaks that you can do on the fly’ — I think that invigorates the players, invigorates the team, and then I think you can get up and running in an in-season change,” he said.
Hynes previously coached some of the Wild players, and he’s familiar with the passionate Minnesota fan base, having coached against the Wild numerous times. He also has family ties to the area — his wife, Sarah, is from Hammond, Wis., only about 30 miles east of the Twin Cities.
Guerin, the Wild general manager, was candid Tuesday — he said the team just hasn't been good for a long stretch this season, and has lacked “the feeling that you when you step out on the ice, you’re going to accomplish something.” But he said he’s optimistic the coaching change can get things on the right track.
“The slate’s clean for the guys. It’s a new day, it’s a new voice, they’re gonna get a new message,” Guerin said. “You know, like John said, he’s not going to come in here and reinvent the wheel or make wholesale changes, it’s little tweaks here and there. ... I know this team really well, I know these players really well, they’re buy-in level is really high. ... If they can make this team better or be better, they’ll do it.”
The Wild host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night; the puck drops at 7 p.m.