Six straight playoff appearances is a tremendous accomplishment for any franchise in sports. Only two teams in the NHL have more or an equal number to the Minnesota Wild, and those are the Anaheim Ducks (six) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (12). Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau helped begin the streak for the Ducks and has now helped continue the streak for the Wild. The 2014-15 season for Anaheim led to a Western Conference Final bid, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3 in the series.
The Wild have not sniffed a Western Conference Final trip since they began their streak during the 2012-13 playoffs. In addition to Boudreau, Mike Yeo and John Torchetti (interim) each had stints in leading the Wild to the postseason. Many high-profile players have come and gone including Dany Heatley, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson. All the changes have led to the same constant of making the playoffs but failing to push the barrier.
Roster changes happen to every team in every season for each sport. The Wild are a team that hasn’t made too many significant roster moves since their playoff streak began — more so tweaking or plugging in holes. The basic roster core has remained a constant since the big signings of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to pair with longtime center and captain, Mikko Koivu. The trio of veterans was expected to help guide the young prospects coming up to push for a Stanley Cup title.
Things haven’t gone well with many players going on big hot streaks then disappearing for weeks at a time. Almost the entire roster seems to play this odd style of hockey. Very few players in the last half-decade have been consistent point producers, which could very well be the contributing factor to a lack of any major playoff push.
Chuck Fletcher on the Hot Seat?
Chuck Fletcher was hired to be the Wild’s new general manager prior to the 2009-10 season. He watched the Wild miss three consecutive playoffs before the big franchise-altering signings. Between the 2012-13 and 2016-17 seasons, the Wild have accumulated a 14-25 postseason record while only advancing past the first round twice—in 2013-14 and 2014-15—both times being eliminated by the Blackhawks.
Many teams would value six playoff appearances very highly, but the goal has been to hoist a Stanley Cup. Boudreau is a perfect example of how being good isn’t good enough in professional sports. He has guided both the Washington Capitals and Ducks to division titles, winning the Presidents’ Trophy with the Capitals and four straight division titles with the Ducks. If Boudreau can get fired after all his success, nobody is safe if Stanley Cups are not being won.
Laughingstock of Central Division
If Minnesota does lose to the Winnipeg Jets, nothing good will come out of it. The Central Division contains seven teams including the Wild, Jets, Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, and the St. Louis Blues. Since the division realignment, the Wild have been eliminated by the Blackhawks, Stars, and Blues. Adding the Jets would leave only Colorado and Nashville. The Avalanche should be counted because they were with the Wild in the old Northwest Division and managed to eliminate them back in the 2007-08 postseason. That leaves Nashville as the only team in the Central Division to not eliminate the Wild in the postseason, and they were just the runner-up for the Stanley Cup.
The Wild are actually the only team to not miss the playoffs since the Central Division was reorganized. That is a pretty neat accomplishment when one thinks of how much talent is in the division and how hard it is to clinch a playoff spot. However, does it really matter when it’s always quick eliminations? Winnipeg and Minnesota are the only two teams to not win the division since the realignment, while every year the winner has switched to a different club.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider in the importance of this year’s playoffs is the fans. The Wild owe their fans some series wins and playoff success. Minnesota fans deserve a quality product after years of supporting their team and earning the third-highest sellout streak in NHL history, being only 79 games short of the all-time record. The fans in the State of Hockey are so good that even if the Wild lose, most of them will continue to support their team.