Just two weeks after being named the permanent head coach, Dean Evason is about to lead the Minnesota Wild in their play-in series against the Vancouver Canucks.
First off, imagine the relief from having that interim tag removed before the series. It would be very stressful for him to have to go into this play-in series while he still doesn’t officially know if he are going to be the full-time head coach. Taking that tag away seemed to be a no-brainer move from the Minnesota front office.
While Evason will have to go through the stress of navigating that five-game playoff series, he finds himself in a peculiar situation among his critics — more commonly referred to as Wild fans — in that he is in a win-win situation.
Here’s why he can’t lose in this series against the Canucks:
Say the Wild win the series. Evason will get praised for his work getting the team ready to play and having them buy-in after just 12 games of head coaching in the NHL under his belt (from before the pause when he was the interim). He will have made the right line changes and roster moves through the series that provide some boost offensively. He will also undoubtedly get praised for picking the right goalie, as the Wild will need their goaltending to be decent to give them a chance in the series.
Evason has already been praised by his players for the freedom on the ice, and this should manifest as well if Minnesota gets past Vancouver. Getting a team into the playoffs — or round of 16 as it’s going to be called — with subpar goaltending and no true No. 1 center will have some credit for the head coach.
On the other hand, say the Wild get bounced from the play-in round by Vancouver. Wild fans will be ecstatic that Minnesota has just given themselves a one in eight chance at winning the draft lottery following the loss.
The mentioned problems above — no top center, sub-par goaltending — do not get blamed on Evason. He gets off here because he just inherited this team. It will be up to his boss, general manager Bill Guerin, to fix these problems in the offseason. And Guerin has already indicated he is working on them.
Unless Evason has the Wild goalie pulled for the duration of the series, he can’t lose here. Literally. It’s a win for him and that has to be an extreme comfort to the new guy on the block.
Having a situation like this, coupled with the fact he is no longer just an interim, will lead to a more relaxed head coach behind the bench. No pressure whatsoever, no panic moves, nothing. You will find more smart, calculated decisions. It will serve the Wild much better in this series, and it could ultimately be a difference-maker.
Because at this point, is there really an advantage in head coaches between the Wild and Canucks? Travis Green is not exactly highly touted among media types, so Evason could easily give the Wild an upper hand in the series.
But even if the goaltending fails and the Wild head home after a short stint in Edmonton, Evason is completely off the hook. Not until next year, at least, when he has to figure out where to slot in one Kirill Kaprizov.