VANCOUVER – April 17, 2006 was the last time John Torchetti stood behind an NHL bench in an interim head-coaching role.
His Los Angeles Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks, 4-0. It was the end of a 12-game spell in which he was the bench boss for Los Angeles.
Nearly a decade later, Torchetti will walk out of the tunnel on Monday night at Rogers Arena, again a head coach, exactly the position he's always wanted to find himself back in.
VANCOUVER – With a new head coach, the Minnesota Wild will look to end an eight-game losing streak against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Monday.
John Torchetti, previously the head coach of the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, took over in Minnesota in an interim role on Saturday.
While the Wild is under new leadership, the situation it finds itself in is unchanged, and the players said they know they'll be the most responsible for a potential turnaround.
Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said given the situation of the Wild's coaching change, John Torchetti was "the only candidate you could look at that brought all those qualifications to the table."
Those qualifications included familiarity with a roster despite the season being 55 games old, a sense of the style the Wild wants to play, experience at the NHL level, and the ability to pull a team out of what Minnesota is going through.
"He’s watched our team, so he’s much more familiar with our team than anybody on the outside would be, but he’s also a fresh set of eyes," Fletcher said. "It’s a new voice, a demanding guy, emotional guy and a great communicator."
When Head Coach John Torchetti walked into the Minnesota Wild's locker room Sunday morning to address the team, there were some familiar faces looking back at him.
Having coached in both Iowa and Houston, minor league affiliates of Minnesota, Torchetti is no stranger to the majority of the Wild's locker room.
Taking over the reigns in game number 56, and that existing-cohesiveness will help with the transition.
The morning after Mike Yeo was relieved of his coaching duties, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and interim Head Coach John Torchetti each addressed the media, painting a picture of a team in the middle of a slide, but one capable of getting out of it.
On Jan. 9, the Wild defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 at American Airlines Center, and sat in seventh place overall in the NHL.
On Sunday, 36 days later, the Wild is five points out of a playoff spot, one that Minnesota has comfortably been in for most of the season. Since that game in Dallas, the Wild has gone 1-11-2, and dropped out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon did not participate in Minnesota Wild practice on Friday, and is questionable to doubtful for its Saturday game against the Boston Bruins.
Spurgeon sustained a deep bruise during the Wild's game against the St. Louis Blues last Saturday. He missed each of the Wild's past two games, but practiced on Wednesday, and took part in morning skate on Thursday.
"Knowing him, I'm not ready to rule him out," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "If he's ready to come out and battle and compete at the level that he's capable of, then obviously we'd love to put him in the lineup. But if he's not there, then we're confident with the group we have, too."
Devan Dubnyk said he's never been in a stretch like this in his career before. "And everybody knows I've had a bad stretch before," Dubnyk said.
As the Minnesota Wild has tried to claw its way out of a losing streak and a tough five weeks, Dubnyk has shouldered the brunt of the workload in the crease. The Wild has lost 11 of its past 12, and Dubnyk has been the goalie of record for nine of those.
The lone win came when Darcy Kuemper shut out the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-0 victory on Jan. 21.
The Minnesota Wild will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Thursday when it hosts the Washington Capitals at Xcel Energy Center.
Spurgeon missed Minnesota's game on Tuesday with a deep bruise. The injury, sustained on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, forced Spurgeon out of that game in the second period.
After practice on Wednesday though, Spurgeon was hopeful of making a return against the Capitals, who pace the NHL with 82 points this season.
The Minnesota Wild has scored a power-play goal in six of its past seven games, one in each, but that's not the only common thread for when Minnesota finds itself on the man-advantage.
The Wild has been focused on taking a great volume of shot-attempts. And the results, in the experiment's early stages, have been positive.
"It's going to create havoc, create lanes, and kind of open more things up," Matt Dumba said. "That shooting mentality has been good for us."
After falling to 1-8 in games decided in three-on-three on Tuesday with a 4-3 loss against the Dallas Stars, Head Coach Mike Yeo did not want to talk about the negatives of the Wild's loss in the postgame.
But on Wednesday, Yeo addressed the Wild's three-on-three struggles, saying change is on the way.
"Hopefully we get there a whole bunch more times and you guys get to see," Yeo said. "Going forward, I've got some different ideas we have that we're going to try, and we'll continue to do that."