The postseason is right around the corner, and the Minnesota Wild are in the midst of a battle with the Colorado Avalanche for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference.
After the Wild’s Saturday afternoon win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota is only one point back (77) of catching Colorado (78). With a win Sunday, and a Colorado loss, the Wild could be back in the playoff picture – but maybe that’s not what this team needs.
Wild for the Wild Card
The playoffs are undoubtedly the most exciting time of the year; it’s the reason teams play so hard all season long.
It’s understandable that the Minnesota Wild and its fan base want to secure this last wild card spot so badly. However, the playoffs might not be the best idea for Minnesota this year.
This, I’m sure, is not a very popular opinion, and you might be wondering why missing the playoffs for the first time in three seasons would be a good thing, but here’s why:
Throughout the season, the Minnesota Wild has lacked something essential: motivation. The coaching change in February helped temporarily, but it still seemed like many nights, this team just lacked the passion and motivation needed to win. Yes, the Wild found a way to win enough games to still be in the playoff race, but quite a few of those win were ugly, and Minnesota just barely squeaked by with the two points. Over the past six months, it’s hard to recall more than a handful of a games that the Wild truly won in dominant fashion.
This motivation problem isn’t just going to change if the Wild make the playoffs.
This year, something just hasn’t clicked with this team. Something has always been off, and the postseason isn’t magically going to give this team the chemistry and motivation the Wild have lacked all season long.
Wild found a way to win. Still, absolutely nothing about this teams play suggests they are even remotely interested in making the playoffs.
— Kirk Wise (@KirkWise) March 19, 2016
The First Round
The lack of motivation brings up the question: if the Wild make it to the playoffs, would they even make it past the first round? How enjoyable would it actually be to watch Minnesota face Dallas or St. Louis? Maybe this is just an incredibly pessimistic view, but this team has vastly underperformed all season long, and it’s hard to imagine Minnesota is suddenly going to become a different team with a wild card spot secured.
The way I see it, this team doesn’t need a wild card spot. They don’t need to make it to the playoffs so at the end of the season, the players, coaches and management can look back at this year and claim they had a good season. The 2015-16 season, whether the Wild make the postseason or not, was decent at times, unbearable at others. It was not good, and it was far less than this team is capable of, whether the playoffs happen or not.
Making it to the postseason will only cover the fact that this team has serious issues that need to be addressed during the offseason. The Minnesota Wild, as they are now, are not a playoff team. If this team does somehow manage to secure a playoff spot, it’s due to luck and a lot of one-goal games, not because the Wild played with skill, determination and desire to make the postseason.
This team would be better off not making the playoffs, putting this season in the past and focusing on the coming season.
Playing a few games in the first round is not going to help this team in the long run. A higher draft pick might, though. Working on making the right moves to improve this team in the offseason might, as well. There are many things the Wild need more than a trip to the postseason only to end the year in the first round. Yes, it’s the playoffs and anything is possible, but how likely is it that Minnesota suddenly starts playing like a new team and makes a run past the first round?
I don’t want to rip this team apart. The Wild hasn’t had the most amazing season, but this team has had moments of brilliance throughout the year. My only concern is that the Wild will make the postseason, and that will become an excuse in the offseason for not making significant improvements and searching for other possible coaching options. This team needs to miss the playoffs to wake up and realize things aren’t clicking, and this summer, serious changes need to be made.
Minnesota doesn’t need the wild card spot; this team needs a reason to improve and strive for better next season.
Alli covers the Minnesota Wild and has been a contributing writer with THW since August 2014. She is currently a journalism and sports management student at the University of Minnesota. For all of your Minnesota Wild news and updates, follow her on twitter: @allibaker23