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Wild trade for Dubnyk, but problems run deeper than goaltending and coaching

01/14/2015 04:40 EST | Updated 03/16/2015 05:59 EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Mike Yeo doesn't read newspapers right now and he's not perusing Twitter. If he did, the coach of the Minnesota Wild might already think he's out of a job.

Instead, with his team on a six-game losing skid, Yeo is determined to ignore the chatter and focus on the task at hand.

"I'm not going to sit around and mope and feel sorry for myself," Yeo said. "I've got a job to do, and now is when I have to do it better than ever."

On Wednesday, the Wild traded a third-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for goaltender Devan Dubnyk, but that's no guarantee it'll solve enough of Minnesota's problems to turn this season around.

The issues go beyond Yeo and beyond goaltending. Zach Parise said the Wild have been "fragile," and meeting after meeting won't solve what's ailing a team that went into the season with legitimate playoff aspirations.

"There's been a lot of talking around here for the last, gosh, four weeks maybe," Parise said. "At some point we have to start to deliver. The coaches can only do so much. As players we have to have thicker skin and hold each other accountable. We're missing that right now. It's too easy internally to not compete and it's too easy for us to quit."

Players have repeatedly said they haven't quit on Yeo or each other. Their play over the past several weeks, including 12 losses in the last 14 games, has prompted that question.

Yeo knows his job is in jeopardy, as the coach is usually the first victim of a skid like this. But his players don't want the blame placed on his shoulders.

"Yoezie's a really good coach," said defenceman Ryan Suter, who will miss the next two games after being suspended. "He's a guy that we want to play for. That's the disappointing thing. I don't know what's going on, we play so well and then we let in a goal or two goals and the wheels just come off."

The Wild's last loss was a 7-2 thumping at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The players spent much of Wednesday afternoon at First Niagara Center going over video of mistakes from that game and others and then practised working on the basics.

"It's an awareness of unfortunately, this is what Minnesota Wild hockey is right now, and we have to get it back to what it was," Yeo said. "It's just work. It's not about trying to embarrass anybody or trying to lift anybody up, it's just recognition of where we're at and what our game looks like and realizing that we need to get it back to what it needs to be."

The Wild have allowed 29 goals in the past six games as they've fallen to 12th in the Western Conference and eight points out of the second wild-card spot. The season appears to be slipping away.

In an effort to keep that from happening, general manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Dubnyk, who represents an immediate upgrade over Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom. Dubnyk went 9-5-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .916 save percentage as the Coyotes' backup goaltender.

Dubnyk could get the reins from Yeo as soon as Thursday's game at the Buffalo Sabres. The Wild are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for the worst team save percentage in the NHL at .889.

Goaltending is no doubt a concern, but Parise said the responsibility falls on everyone.

"That's a position that's always magnified and the way that position works if you have an off night it unfortunately can cost you the game easily," Parise said. "There's way more that happens before the puck getting to our net that can't happen. The way we're turning the puck over, the way we're not tying up guys. I mean, we're there but we're getting outworked and outmuscled."

The Wild's overall work ethic is one thing that has come into question.

"If we think we're competing hard enough to win games right now, we're kidding ourselves," winger Jason Pominville said. "We'd be cheating ourselves to say that. I think our compete (level has) got to go up, that's where it starts. Obviously the goaltending is always an easy thing to point out when things aren't going well, but it's what's done before that in every zone."

Parise said the Wild are stuck in a mindset that has contributed to their struggles.

"Our D-zone coverage hasn't been good enough, our neutral zone transition hasn't been good, our forecheck hasn't been good," he said. "We know how to do it. That's not a question. We've done it, we know how to do it, we know it works. It's just right now for us it's a mindset. It's not there."

The lack of answers is why Yeo's job has appeared to be in jeopardy. The Wild made the playoffs each of the past two seasons, and with high expectations have faltered and almost fallen out of the race with 39 games to go.

Yeo said a couple of coaching colleagues around the league reached out but he doesn't expect sympathy.

"It's an eat or be eaten type of game," Yeo said. "That's why we can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, either. We know that nobody's feeling sorry for us. Why should we? That's not going to help us in any way. We have to find a way to get out of this, and the only way is with a clear focus on the way that we need to play the game and a desperation and a work ethic that can't be matched."

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