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Report: Craig MacTavish might be leading candidate for Wild head coaching job

May 6, 2011, 12:08 PM EDT

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Craig MacTavish AP

The Minnesota Wild franchise is searching for answers after firing Todd Richards. The problem with this Wild team is that their roster is nearly devoid of bargain contracts (and cap space), so this team’s success will depend heavily on the quality of their coach.

Right now, it seems like that man might be former Edmonton Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, according to Michael Russo.

My first thought when I heard this news was “Wait, isn’t MacTavish fighting cancer right now?” That still is the case, but MacTavish said that he has a “good prognosis” so perhaps he’ll be ready to re-enter the coaching ranks.

Beyond having the ultra-cool designation of being the last player to play in the NHL without a helmet, MacTavish was known as a strong defensive forward in his playing days. He coached the Oilers from 2000 to 2009, with his greatest achievement being that magical run to within one win of a Stanley Cup in 2006.

Here’s what former Oilers captain Ryan Smyth had to say about a coach often known as Mac-T.

“He’s one of my favorites,” Los Angeles Kings veteran forward Ryan Smyth, coached by MacTavish for six seasons, said in a phone interview Thursday. “He knows and understands the game very well and was exciting to play for. He understands the players very well. He knew me more than I did at times.”

Russo writes that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hasn’t reached out to Ken Hitchcock yet while former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Michel Therrien has reportedly expressed interesting in that job. Here’s a bit more on potential alternate candidates from Russo.

The Wild is also believed to be interested in speaking with Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, former Florida coach Pete DeBoer and Atlanta Thrashers associate coach John Torchetti.

Fletcher is also expected to strongly consider Houston Aeros coach Mike Yeo, who has the Wild’s chief minor league affiliate in the second round of the American Hockey League playoffs. Yeo spent five seasons as a top assistant in Pittsburgh, winning a Stanley Cup in 2009 one year after going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Many believe Yeo is a future NHL head coach, so the thought is if the Wild doesn’t hire him now, it could risk losing out on him.

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