Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo was installed as head coach of the AHL Houston Aero's last night. For many Pittsburgh fans this has been received as welcome news; Yeo has become a personal whipping boy for anything from power play struggles to too many men penalties. Some criticism is deserved, some isn't. What is known is Yeo has been a stabilizing factor in the Penguins organization for the past 10 years.
Yeo's first job with the Penguins was that of player, back in the 1999-2000 season, the first season of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. When a knee injury cost the then 26 year old forward the rest of his playing career the team offered Yeo the chance to join as the club's first assistant. Yeo served in this role for the next five plus years; the first three seasons under Glenn Patrick, the rest with Michel Therrien when G. Patrick was removed. This wouldn't be the only time Yeo would survive when his head coach was fired.
Therrien's promotion to the NHL in December 2005 brought Yeo to Pittsburgh. When Therrien was relieved from duty in February 2009, Yeo again hung onto Dan Bylsma's staff and again survived a coaching transition. Fans may not have taken to Yeo, but that so many different coaches and general managers did makes one think this guy could be a good coach.
Yeo's move from the AHL to the NHL saw a lot of his WB/S players who formed the core of future Stanley Cup runs made it with him. Brooks Orpik, Ryan Whitney, Maxime Talbot, Colby Armstrong, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury would gradually join their former farm coaches and become NHL mainstays. Yeo has coached Orpik every season of his pro career, dating back to the 2002-03 season. Other young players like Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang don't know what an NHL bench is without seeing Yeo behind it.
In a league known for it's coaching instability, that's an amazing run for Yeo with Pittsburgh's organization. And he's leaving to get the chance to run his own bench now.
Returning to Houston and the AHL will both be fimiliar for Yeo. He spent the first five years of his playing days with Houston (then with the International Hockey League) and he of course has experience in the AHL from his days with the Baby Pens. Houston's affiliated with the Minnesota Wild, who's GM Chuck Fletcher was hired away from the Pittsburgh organization as well.
Mike Yeo hasn't always been flashy, he hasn't always been the favorite; but he's been a survivor and now he's moving on to become a head coach for the first time, and he's getting the chance at a very high professional level. Yeo helped develop a lot of young players and we wish him the best as he embarks on his new gig.