Confidence, in attitude and action, was what Bill Guerin felt the Wild were missing as their early-season slump spiraled into a quarter-mark quandary.
"It's the swagger. It's the ability to make plays, the feeling that when you step out on the ice you're going to accomplish something," the Wild president of hockey operations said, "and it just didn't seem like that was coming back."
Recapturing their confidence is top of mind for the Wild, and John Hynes is the head coach they brought in to help them do that after firing Dean Evason.
"Right now, they're in the foxhole," Hynes said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday morning before making his debut behind the Wild bench that night against St. Louis at Xcel Energy Center. "They're trying to dig their way out, and I'm gonna jump in with them and the rest of the coaches and Billy, and we're gonna fight our way out of it."
The Wild cut ties with Evason and assistant Bob Woods on Monday after the team dropped a seventh straight game Sunday afternoon in Detroit, but that wasn't the last straw.
This decision was "a build-up," Guerin explained, and while he sensed some improvement, like the shootout and overtime losses in Sweden, the feeling was still off. The Wild had lost their identity.
"It had just gotten to that point where almost no matter what they did, the guys were having a hard time executing and generating and generating offense," Guerin said. "Something had to change. 'We can't trade 23 players,' is the old saying."
Instead, Guerin provided the roster with what he described as a clean slate that'll include a new message from a new voice.
"It was time," Guerin said. "I'm not blaming anybody. This is pro sports. This happens. We just need to move on."
Cue Hynes, who was at home in Nashville when the Wild reached out.
He secured a multi-year contract and has been in this position in the past; Hynes took over for Nashville in 2020 barely a month after he was let go by New Jersey, and the Predators responded by winning 16 of their next 28 games before the season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When you come into these situations, the team is hurt in certain ways," Hynes said, "whether that's individual player's confidence, whether it's belief and execution of what you want to do."
Hynes' first order of business is to get to know the players (he previously coached Marcus Johansson, Pat Maroon and Jon Merrill) and hear their feedback on what they're seeing and feeling.
Then he'll pinpoint changes — not a teardown, but tweaks.
"That invigorates the players, invigorates the team," Hynes said, "and then you can get up and running."
In his first game, Hynes didn't overhaul the lineup, only subbing in call-up Vinni Lettieri for the suspended Ryan Hartman, but he'll make adjustments soon.
He believes the Wild have skill, size and speed, "a group that you can win with," but he sees an opportunity for the Wild to pick up the pace. That means being organized defensively to snuff out pressure and transition up ice with possession and as a five-man unit, a style that enables the team to play within structure and on instinct.
Leading the defense and penalty kill will be new assistant Patrick Dwyer, who was promoted to Hynes' staff from Iowa in the American Hockey League.
"We can be predictable in our room but unpredictable to the opponent," Hynes said.
A minor-league coach with Pittsburgh before graduating to the NHL, Hynes, 48, also worked with the USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.
That's where he initially met Guerin before the two reunited with the Penguins, Guerin skating with the national team program while in a contract stalemate with the Devils.
"Hynesie was the only one really around close to my age and willing to go out and have dinner and beers with me every night, keeping me company," Guerin said. "So, that's kind of where we started our friendship."
Communication is key for Hynes.
He's direct — "not a lot of gray areas," he said — and considers his rapport with the players a collaborative partnership.
"John's just a guy I believe in," Guerin said. "He's extremely professional, detailed, passionate about coaching this game. He brings a lot of elements to the table that I really believe in, and I think he's gonna have a tremendous amount of success here."
How successful Hynes' addition is will be revealed on the ice.
Guerin has noticed Kirill Kaprizov skating more like himself recently and as for Matt Boldy, Guerin made it clear it's the team's job to help Boldy out of his scoring funk.
"Put money aside. Put contracts aside. This is a 22-year-old kid, and we're asking a lot out of him," Guerin said. "He knows he's struggling more than anybody else, more than any experts out there, and I guarantee you the experts that are out there have never been through something like this.
"This is weighing on him like a ton of bricks."
Getting everyone to play up to their potential is the focus as the Wild try to U-turn a still-salvageable season.
Guerin and now Hynes can supply the directions, but it's the players who are behind the wheel.
"I think the buy-in will be right away," Guerin said. "You just feel like a weight's been lifted off your shoulders. It's tough because it comes with a tough message, a tough decision, but it's a new chapter."