Hot and not
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Luongo has hit a bit of a bump in the road recently. He allowed all five goals in Florida's 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators, after giving up three goals on 13 shots and being pulled in the first period of his previous start.
What's next for the Minnesota Wild?
@ESPN_Burnside: Maybe Mike Yeo simply believed too much in players who didn't deserve it. How else to explain the free-falling Wild, a team many thought was ready to take the next step, losing eight games in a row and 13 of 14 overall? The most recent loss, to Boston on Saturday, cost Yeo his job. A week earlier he'd scratched veterans Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker, defending his decision not to scratch veterans until that point by saying he believed his players could turn it around. They didn't, and John Torchetti will now serve as interim coach. The Wild are five points back of the Nashville Predators for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference and six back of Colorado for the first wild card, with four games in hand. Vanek responded to the benching with points in three straight games, but who else besides the perpetually underachieving Vanek needs to step up for the Wild to stay in the hunt? Do you think they even have a shot at getting into the postseason at this stage? Torchetti would likely have to get the Wild to the playoffs to have a chance to get the job full time, and if he doesn't, what about a hometown boy like Phil Housley? Thoughts?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: If the Wild miss the playoffs, I suppose one has to wonder about the job security of GM Chuck Fletcher, too. For my money, Fletcher is one of the sharper minds in the GM world, but at the end of the day it's still a business and missing the postseason wouldn't sit well with ownership. As for the here and now, it must have killed Fletcher to fire Yeo. It was truly the last resort. Fletcher and I have spoken in the past about the belief of his father and former GM, Cliff, that you don't fire coaches midseason if you can help it. Chuck also believes in that mantra, but the Wild were clearly in a total free-fall and something needed to be done. Moving forward, Fletcher's No. 1 issue remains the same: finding a No. 1 center, or at least boosting his offense in some form or another.
@CraigCustance: This felt a lot like the Columbus Blue Jackets' firing of Todd Richards to me, which was the last thing Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen wanted to do to start the season. One timely goal or win might have changed the course of the season for a fragile team, but it never happened. Columbus became a team that needed an outside force to shake it out of its funk, and the same can be said for Minnesota. In reaching out to those in Minnesota, the refrain was the same: Yeo is a great guy who is a great coach, and deserved better. There is criticism to be given to Fletcher, but rushing to fire his coach isn't one of them. It's clear that even a trade for one player probably wasn't going to be enough to send a jolt through the team. The Wild players believe there is still time to turn this thing around, and it's now on them to prove it.
@ESPNJoeyMac: A season ago, it was a trade for goaltender Devan Dubnyk, and Dubnyk's performance down the stretch, that saved Yeo's job. Minnesota reached the postseason and defeated the powerful St. Louis Blues in the first round, then were dispatched by the Chicago Blackhawks for the third straight season. Based on the team's talented roster, I actually picked the Wild in our preseason poll to win the Central. Despite an eight-game skid, Minnesota is only five points out of the playoff structure. Yeo's message obviously fell on deaf ears and the organization needed to make a change. Torchetti was promoted from the AHL as interim coach, and he's well-respected by the players. Maybe a coaching change will spark the Wild, and if not, GM Chuck Fletcher will have to look elsewhere for the team's next bench boss. How about another hometown boy in Jordan Leopold?
Around the league
Torchetti is opting not to rock the boat much in Minnesota, saying he will retain the team's assistant coaches and that all players have a "clean slate" after the coaching change.
Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was not diplomatic about a pair of losses over the weekend, saying, "Our team was pathetic."