For the fifth consecutive year, the Minnesota Wild qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and subsequently failed to make much of a splash.
Minnesota Wild fans are thinking one of three things right now:
- Well, now it’s baseball season
- At least the Blackhawks were eliminated before us (2 days earlier)
- Next season will be better
Life of a Minnesota sports fan is not a blessed one. Minnesotans are eternal optimists when it comes to sports, and hockey is king. The tendency is to suppress the memory of another painful early playoff exit as quickly as possible and start thinking about next season. Why not take a moment to look back at the last five seasons before we look ahead? Because talking about it is the best medicine.
The Beginning of an Era for the Wild
On July 4, 2012, regarded as the most important day in franchise history, the Wild signed American superstars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13 year/$98 million deals. Although the Lockout-shortened season prolonged their debuts, excitement was at record levels. The Wild finished second in the Northwest Division but were bounced by the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs (formerly known as the Conference Quarter-Finals).
In 2013-14, the Wild again finished fourth in the newly named and aligned Central Division. Despite electrifying the fanbase with a thrilling game seven OT victory against the Colorado Avalanche, Chicago once again sent the Wild home, this time in the second round.
As the saying goes: Once is an incident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern. Well, the Wild created a pattern in 2014-15. To the surprise of many, the Wild defeated the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. Unlike the series victory against the Avalanche in the previous season, the defeat of the Blues felt like a decisive win. However, in the second round, not only did the wild again get knocked out by the Blackhawks… they were swept.
At this point, Mike Yeo was on a short leash. Approximately two-thirds of the way through the 2015-16 season, the Wild fired Yeo, and interim John Torchetti took the reins for the remainder of the season. The front office believed that the team had the talent to win the Cup but was underperforming and a shakeup was necessary. Although they finished the 2015-16 season 5-0 against the Blackhawks, any pride vanished after they fell in the first round to the Dallas Stars.
Shortly following the loss to the Stars, the Wild hired Bruce Boudreau to be their next head coach. In his career, Boudreau has a 458-217-88 regular season record and is 42-43 in the playoffs (presently). Maybe finishing top three in the division and gaining home-ice advantage would be the answer to playoff success?
At least after year one…not quite.
What the Wild Need to Change
Despite the greatest regular season in Wild history with 106 points, the team was eliminated in the first round by the Yeo-coached St. Louis Blues (talk about full circle). The Blues were coming into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NHL, and a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen shut down the Wild in five games. Whatever the reason for another early offseason, fans have had the same feeling for five consecutive years. My colleague at The Hockey Writers has an idea for fixing the problem.
It is difficult to pinpoint where the problem lies regarding their postseason success. It may be that they need a pure goal scorer, a schematic change, or something a bit more drastic. Needless to say, something has to change if the Wild want to bring home the first Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey.