Minnesota Wild name Dean Evason full-time head coach

Minnesota Wild interim coach Dean Evason spoke Thursday about practice at TRIA Rink as training camps for the NHL could open as early as Monday.

The Minnesota Wild begin training camp Monday in preparation for the 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they no longer have an interim head coach.

The Wild announced Monday morning they’ve named Dean Evason the full-time head coach, agreeing to a two-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season. Evason was named the interim head coach after Bruce Boudreau was fired on Feb. 14.

He led the Wild to an 8-4 mark in 12 games as the interim head coach before the NHL suspended play on March 11 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the Wild was one game out of the final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs with 13 regular season games remaining.

Wild General Manager Bill Guerin told reporters Monday morning via Zoom that he made the decision in his head probably about a month ago that Evason was the right guy to lead the Wild. He spoke with front office staff and owner Craig Leipold before making it official.

Geurin said he had planned to do a full search, but didn't need to once he saw Evason interact with the team.

"This is the type of guy that we’re looking for and if he’s right under our nose right now, I didn’t really feel like I needed to go any further," Guerin said. "I wanted Dean to be able to walk into the hub as the head coach and get rid of that interim tag. This is something that he’s worked long and hard for, and he’s earned it. I’m confident that this was the right decision."

The Wild are the No. 10 seed when the NHL resumes play. They’ll face the No. 7-seeded Vancouver Canucks in a best-of-five series, starting on Aug. 2. The winner advances to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Wild was 7-3 in its last 10 games under Evason before the NHL stopped play on March 11 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Evason, who spoke with reporters Monday via Zoom after the team's first training camp session, credits the players for buying into an interim coach.

"It’s been good because the team has played well. The players have committed, wins and losses are the most important thing but the way we played, the way we conducted ourselves together as a team, as a group, how they came together. That’s what was exciting for us as a staff," Evason said.

Guerin and Evason addressed the team with the news on Monday as they got set to start a training camp before heading to Edmonton for the NHL's 24-team tournament. Evason described the meeting as comfortable, with positive reaction to the news.

"Everybody was happy. I think everybody thinks the same way I feel about Dean. Last year when I came in, everybody liked him. He’s a great communicator, everybody can talk to him. Everybody is happy," Wild forward Kevin Fiala said Monday.

One of he biggest selling points for Guerin? The way Evason kept in touch with his players during the Covid-19 quaratine. He was constantly checking in, seeing what players were doing, where they were and checking on their physical and mental health.

"He didn’t act like an interim coach. He was a coach and he understood that," Guerin said. "Dean’s got a really good mix of intensity and fire, and then compassion for the guys. He handled it perfectly."

For the first time in four months, Evason stepped on the ice Monday as the team's full-time head coach.

"Obviously I’m very excited to have the opportunity. Is it a relief? I don’t know if it’s a relief, it’s just extremely exciting to have the opportunity going forward here and we’re looking forward to getting it going," Evason said. "It was very comfortable today, we had a really good meeting and then stepping on the ice, it felt great. It felt great to put your skates on, felt great to step on the ice for the first time. It was great to be back out there."