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  • How Likely Are the Wild To Get Over the Hump and Make the Playoffs?

    Image courtesy of Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
    Sean Flick


    Hello Minnesota hockey faithful, and welcome to the first annual “Where Will They End Up” forecast of our local professional hockey team. For some background, I’ve been doing this for a while now. I’m attempting to determine where the Minnesota Wild will end up in the standings, regardless of if they make the playoffs. Who could they face in the first round, or where’s the highest they could pick in the draft? Will they get past the first round? (A seemingly daunting task for the home team.) Or who might be available to them when they pick? (Spoiler alert: at the rate we’re going, we’re not picking first overall. Sorry to all those Macklin Celebrini hopefuls.)

    This very scientific and methodical process has been painfully altered and adjusted for millennia, and now I’ll share it with you. I go through the team's schedule, take both teams' current point total, and give the home team an additional 3 points (line matching bonus). The winner with the most points, wins. For example, on March 23rd. St. Louis is coming to St. Paul to play Minnesota. Minnesota has 74 points, St. Louis has 75, and we give Minnesota the additional 3 points. That makes it 77 for Minnesota and 75 for St. Louis. Minnesota wins. In the event of a tie, flip a coin, do rock, paper, scissors with your spouse or significant other, roll a dice, whatever. Give the win however you want in those situations. Wash, rinse, repeat for the rest of the season, and keep track of wins. 

    We’re only concerned with wins. As I said, truly scientific. Award points to their current points total and align the standings afterward. Do this for every other team in the same situation as the Wild. So, if they are in the playoffs, do this for every other playoff team in their conference. If not, you’ll have to do this for all the other 15 non-playoff teams. Yes, it’s tedious. However, we've got you covered this year because you all mean so much to us at Hockeywilderness.com.

    Please don’t share this magical recipe with the Vegas oddsmakers. They’ve been hounding yours truly for years to get their hands on it simply because of the chaotic outcome derived season over season. Full transparency and legal disclaimer: This does not guarantee actual outcomes or predict future results. You’re on your own if you use this to bet on anything. Got it? Seriously, like, don’t hunt me down if things go sideways.

    All right, I wrote this on the morning of March 18th. Minnesota (74 points) is currently 5 points behind the Vegas Golden Knights (79 points) for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference. The other non-playoff teams at this point in the West are the St. Louis Blues (75 points), Calgary Flames (71 points), Seattle Kraken (68 points), Arizona Coyotes (61 points), Anaheim Ducks (49 points), Chicago Blackhawks (43 points) and the hockey hotbed of North America; the San Jose Sharks (39 points).

    In the Eastern Conference, the non-playoff teams are the Washington Capitals (73 points), New York Islanders (73 points), Buffalo Sabres (69 points), Pittsburgh Penguins (69 points), New Jersey Devils (68 points), Montreal Canadiens (61 points), Ottawa Senators (60 points) and Columbus Blue Jackets (57 points).

    Using the ultra top-secret prediction methodology, Minnesota’s remaining schedule is: 

    @STL (loss)

    @ANH (win)

    @LA (loss)

    STL (win)

    SJS (win)

    VGK (loss)

    OTT (win)

    COL (loss)

    WPG (loss)

    @CHI (win)

    @COL (loss)

    @VGK (loss)

    @SJS (win)

    @LA (loss)

    SEA (win)

    By this methodology, the Wild go 7-8 the rest of the way, giving them 87 points. That would technically put them in the playoffs. But using the same methodology for the next four playoff-bound teams – the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, and Vegas Golden Knights – Minnesota still doesn’t make the playoffs.

    Doing the same calculation for the rest of the non-playoff teams, here are the final standings for the Western Conference cellar dwellers: St. Louis (9 wins, 89 points), Minnesota (7 wins, 87 points), Seattle (9 wins, 86 points), Calgary (8 wins, 85 points), Arizona (2 wins, 63 points), Anaheim (1 win, 51 points), Chicago (1 win, 43 points), San Jose (1 win, 41 points).

    The final standings in the Eastern Conference are New York Islanders (6 wins, 85 points), New Jersey (5 wins, 78 points), Buffalo (4 wins, 77 points (total wins tie-breaker)), Washington (3 wins, 77 points), Pittsburgh (2 wins, 71 points), Montreal (1 win, 63 points), Ottawa (0 wins, 60 points), and Columbus (0 wins, 57 points).

    Therefore, the potential draft order before the ping pong balls is as follows:

    San Jose










    New Jersey

    New York Islanders




    St. Louis

    Considering that draft rules only allow a team to jump 10 spots if they win the lottery, that means the best our home team can do is get to pick 5. The odds don’t favor that situation, so let’s be reasonable and assume that we’ll be picking 15th. What do the Wild need now that we’ve stocked the prospect cupboard with a bajillion centers? They should consider looking for another defenseman to help shore up the blue line. Or the best player available?

    Where the team is going to end up honestly doesn’t surprise me. The Wild have been all over the place this year. Injuries to key players haven’t helped them. Hopefully, Joel Eriksson Ek will return sooner than later. But as you can see, the process gives weight to the home team, as well as the weight of their schedule. As you probably noticed, St. Louis jumps Minnesota by a game in my model. But they miss the playoffs and get the 16th pick, the last lottery selection. Otherwise, Minnesota would have gotten the 16th pick. There is a definite top 5 players per several sources for this year's draft. Take the best player available this year. The Wild have a lot of talent coming.

    That brings us to the super duper, totally scientific, how to pick the best player available algorithm…


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    I have the Wild going 9/6 but basically ending up in the same draft position. At this point I’d rather they make the playoffs but as you noted it’s a longshot. As far as the draft, pick up some size at whatever position is best available and someone who looks to develop quickly. 

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    If they miss out by a razor thin margin, then they miss out.  I will take solace in the team refusing to quit and (most of them) playing like their lives depended on it.  One ping pong ball is hardly going to change this team from an dumpster fire (if they were down far enough) to a sudden contender overnight.  They still needs a couple more years work and drafting luck.

    They just signed Kumpulainen, so we know he's likely coming in a year or two.  That's some much needed beef.

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    The only way to get into the playoffs is winning in regulation vs the Blues Saturday and Vegas (x2).  Winning these three games put us in a relatively good position... but then again it is kind of dumb to think this team will overcome their big game kryptonite which we all have seen over and over this year.

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    I was thinking 88 points in a non-scientific guess. I think the loss at Colorado probably eliminates them, and the last 4 games will be played by some hungry Iowa guys, as I expect them to be eliminated by then too. 

    Might we see Kumpulainen in a tryout? Maybe, yet he may still be alive in his playoff run. How about Firstov? Yes, my hope is he will get in the last 4 games just to see how he does. Lambos? Yes, same thing. The Wall? Yes, we'll see what he can do again. 

    While we are eliminated early, I expect those to be spirited games as some players will be hoping to audition early for open roster spots. I think there will be some IR guys at that point from the vets just to get a head start on getting their bodies ready for next season. I believe there are several players playing hurt right now, just trying to gut it out since there's not much depth behind them.

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    18 hours ago, Burnt Toast said:

    I have the Wild going 9/6 but basically ending up in the same draft position. At this point I’d rather they make the playoffs but as you noted it’s a longshot. As far as the draft, pick up some size at whatever position is best available and someone who looks to develop quickly. 

    This is about what I think too.  The trouble will be that a couple of those probably won't be wins in regulation and it'll be tight enough that it will come down to tiebreakers.

    Or they fall apart.

    With so many injuries and the physical and mental fatigue from a lack of depth and players probably playing hurt, we seem really fragile.

    We don't seem to walk away from Winnipeg games without some damage.  If they can pull off a win AND remain healthy, then maybe we see a confidence boost that carries us a bit, but I think it comes down to denying Vegas any points and winning games in regulation.  The rest is unfortunately more in other team's hand than our own.  All we can do is try to keep pace and make sure we beat St Louis and Vegas.  We don't have much control outside of that.

    Realistically I think we fall just short.

    Ideally Vegas also falls just short too.  Yes, even if that means St Louis gets in.  I abhor Vegas' salary cap shenanigans that much.

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    Variables associated with rest of season include:  what teams and how many whistles get pocketed by the refs, injuries, dumb-luck/odd-puck (bounces, rebounds, goals including OT), and lastly what Wild team shows up to play.  

    Wild are consistently inconsistent.  Hot and cold streaks are perplexing.  They demonstrate potential to go up against the best, then seem to frustrate fans shortly after.  Some games the zone entry, passing, position play is right on point.  Other games, my gut hurts watching them.  

    My instincts do have the Wild clinching a WC2 slot (more grit in the final stretch, and even taking 1-2 OTL to seeded teams). 

    Even if they make it in, it will be another year of first round and out.  Wild always seem to fall flat once playoffs arrive.  Or is it that other teams seem to be ignited?  IDK.  In the past 10 years, the Wild seem to be out-muscled, out-weighed, out-skated, out-passed.  In desperation, Wild make risky plays leading to penalties and/or injuries, further reducing the probability of making it past the first round.  

    Always a MN Fan, and hopeful the team is building a SC contender in 1-2 years.  

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