HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Mike Yeo didn't need any subtle reminders what this date a year ago meant to the Blues coach.
"Oh yeah, thanks," Yeo joked when reminded he was fired as coach of the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 13, 2016.
"Mason, do you have any more questions," Yeo said as the media scrum laughed, referring to a five-year-old boy who was at practice Monday visiting his favorite player, Jake Allen.
But the 43-year-old knew exactly what transpired 365 days ago, and it's the toughest when you're told you're not wanted or needed anymore.
For Yeo, who was hired by the Blues on June 13, 2016 to be the associate coach for one season under Ken Hitchcock before transitioning to head coach for the start of the 2017-18 season, he was thrust into the role sooner than expected when the Blues fired Hitchcock on Feb. 1.
Yeo, who has the Blues off to a 5-1-0 start, including tying a season-high with four straight wins heading onto their next game Wednesday at the Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV), has been able to change not only as a person but most certainly as a coach during the past year.
Yeo was 173-132-44 in four-plus seasons with the Wild, including a 46-28-8 mark in 2014-15, which was the second-best record in Wild history. Yeo also guided Minnesota to three Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, including back-to-back trips to the second round in 2014 and 2015 and is eager to elevate the Blues to the next level.
"For me, I wouldn't be here today if that didn't happen and I don't think I'd be the coach that I was today if that didn't happen," Yeo said. "... At the time, it was very hard. Now, I'm actually happy that I went through it, to be honest with you. I know that I'm a better coach for it today. I know I still have to get better, but that's part of the process."
Yeo was one of the first to reach out to former Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien, who was fired this past Friday, just as Julien did when Yeo was fired. And Yeo, who received what he called a number of calls from coaches who have been in a similar situation, took those calls to heart.
"The coaching fraternity is a pretty close group," Yeo said. "I had a number of guys reach out with experience and basically tell me how good it would be for me and to use that opportunity to kind of unwind a little bit and spend some time with your family, but more importantly to really dig in and figure out and to learn from that experience. I think if you look around the League, you've seen a lot of coaches who are the top coaches in the League who are not still with their first team, and I think part of that is because of that experience of learning when things went well, what you did, but even more so things that you can do better."
The Blues (29-22-5) have outscored opponents 20-8 since Yeo took over, and what's helped the players is that not too many philosophies have changed from Hitchcock.
"It's a different voice, a different message, but a lot of the things are still the same," said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. "It's still the same personnel in here. He's not trying to come in here and reinvent the wheel.
"He'll be the first to tell you when he first came, he did say to me it's a learning experience for him. He wanted to obviously change things. He took the time to come in here and learn from Hitch and learn from the guys that are here, kind of take a step back to figure out what he did well, what he didn't do well. He's kind of implementing all that now."
Goalie Jake Allen, who was named the NHL Second Star of the Week Monday after going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .967 save percentage, said there's been a noticeable difference since Yeo replaced Hitchcock.
"He's to the point, everything he says is a valid point, he's a realist, he's knows that there's going to be mistakes, there's going to be turnovers, but it's the way we come back from those mistakes, those turnovers, those tough minutes in games," Allen said of Yeo. "I think he's done a really good job so far. He's upbeat, he's positive, he brings a lot of energy to our practices, they're intense, execution's been good. It's been really good so far."
Yeo has continuously given tons of credit to Hitchcock, who was 248-124-41 in parts of six seasons with the Blues, for helping transition him into his second coaching role in the NHL. But now that he's in change, he hopes a few minor changes will continue to elevate the Blues back into the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
"I know what Hitch is going through right now, I know what all these coaches have gone through," Yeo said. "Once you get through it, you're better."
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