HAZELWOOD, MO. - With a little bit of prodding, Mike Yeo admitted that being told he was no longer wanted, it hurt.
Naturally, when the Blues coach was fired as coach of the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 14, 2016, the shock was raw.
"As a player, as a coach at any level, I'd never been traded and I'd never been fired," Yeo said. "The emotions of what happened at that time, it was gut-wrenching, to be perfectly honest. You have a job where you put your heart and soul, it's not just a job where you show up and punch a ticket and you work hard, you put literally your heart and soul into it and that gets taken away from you. It's a tough thing to deal with and that was my first experience, but I believe that has made me a better coach and looking back at it I'm not disappointed I went through it."
And with that in mind, Yeo wants to make one point perfectly clear prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series [8:30 p.m. ET; FS-MW, NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM] between the Blues and Wild: nothing is personal.
"Because there's too much at stake and I will not allow it to get personal because my team, they need me to have the right mindset, have the right focus, have the right composure. For me, this is playoff hockey, for me there's something much more at stake, something that's way bigger in my eyes than a little revenge here. It's the pursuit of winning the Stanley Cup, that's our focus and so we have a real tough opponent in our way and we'll be ready for that."
Yeo spent nearly five seasons guiding the Wild with a regular-season record of 173-132-44 and included a record of 11-17 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; he was behind the bench when the Wild eliminated the Blues in six games in the first round in 2015.
But Yeo now is focusing on the Blues, who went 22-8-2 since he replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach on Feb. 1 after serving the first four months as Hitchcock's associate coach.
The Blues went 15-2-2 in the final 19 games and after teetering on the edge of qualifying for the playoffs, they went on a run to not only get in but secure their place as the third seed from the Central Division.
"He has really been a calming presence behind the bench," Blues right wing David Perron said of Yeo. "We know when we make mistakes on the ice, we know we're going to go right back on the ice and we need to make sure that all the details are there and obviously we don't want to keep making the same mistakes."
The underlying story may be that Yeo knows the ins and outs of many of the Wild players he coached, who are still on the roster. But Wild players could feel a sense that they will know how the Blues will try and play with Yeo's system in place.
"No. Not for us," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "We know their players. We know their identity, the way they play. They know us. We’re familiar with each other, so it’s not about who’s behind the bench and all that. It’s about the team right now, and we’ve got to make sure that we worry about ourselves going into this series and make sure we’re ready to go when the puck drops."
Blues finally get a practice in; power play struggles; Olympic disappointment; line shuffling By LOU KORAC HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's been so long since the Blues held a full team practice not including a morning skate, that those asked couldn't even remember. "I don't know. It's been a long time," Blues coach Mike Yeo said.
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