After missing the playoffs for a third straight season and sensing their fans' frustration, the Minnesota Wild were very busy this summer.
They hope to see some dividends from their active offseason when they open 2011-12 against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
Another season without playoffs prompted general manager Chuck Fletcher to fire coach Todd Richards and replace him with Mike Yeo, who led the Wild's top farm club in Houston to the AHL finals in his only season as coach of the Aeros.
The 37-year-old Yeo spent five years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
"There's a real presence to him," Fletcher said. "He's a very fair guy, a very good communicator, yet he's demanding. If you don't play the way he wants you to play you won't play."
Minnesota finished 12th in the Western Conference last season, 11 points out of the final playoff spot. Generating offense continued to be the biggest problem for the Wild, who ranked near the bottom of the league with 203 goals and had one 20-goal scorer.
In desperate need of a top-notch sniper, the Wild acquired two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley from San Jose for Martin Havlat in July. Heatley slumped to 26 goals in 2010-11 after scoring 39 each of the previous two seasons.
Fletcher also picked up speedy forward Devin Setoguchi from the Sharks in exchange for All-Star defenseman Brent Burns. Setoguchi has scored 84 goals in his four seasons, including 22 in 72 games last season.
"I don't think there's a sense we're the savior or anything," Setoguchi said. "We're going to bring what we can do and play how we play. That's all we can control."
While the newcomers should boost the team offensively, Minnesota also needs a healthy return from forwards Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Latendresse was limited to 11 games last season after reporting to camp overweight and needing surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip and bilateral sports hernia.
"I know what kind of player I am. I know I can score goals. I know I can play in this league," said Latendresse, who scored 25 goals in 55 games for the Wild in 2009-10 after being acquired from Montreal.
Bouchard returned from post-concussion symptoms and had 38 points in 59 games, numbers he hopes to better with a full season in good health.
"It's a fresh start. It was fun this summer to be able to go through my training and my normal life," Bouchard said.
The Wild are still one of the most strongly supported teams in the league, but for the first time in their existence did not sell out every game this past season.
"My job is to put a winning hockey team on the ice and build a team that ultimately gets to where we all want to get to," Fletcher said. "When we do that, the season tickets will follow."
Without Burns, who tied for third on the team with 46 points, Minnesota figures to have trouble getting offense from its defensemen. Marek Zidlicky, Mike Lundin, Greg Zanon and Nick Schultz will be asked to log the most minutes and protect goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
Columbus opened its season with a 3-2 home loss to Nashville on Friday. Captain Rick Nash and newcomer Vinny Prospal scored for the Blue Jackets, who got 28 saves from Steve Mason.
The club's new top line of Nash, Prospal and Jeff Carter combined for two goals and four assists. Carter, acquired from Philadelphia in June, had two assists.
"Every time they're on the ice, they seem to have at least one scoring chance,'' Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. ``Or at least they try to shoot and try to create every single shift."
The Blue Jackets went 2-1-1 against the Wild last season, winning a pair of one-goal games - one in overtime - at the Xcel Energy Center.
Nash had three goals and four assists versus the Wild last season. No other Blue Jacket had more than one goal.
Mason is 0-2-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average in Minnesota.