According to the experts, the Wild were supposed to finish dead last in the NHL. I guess they showed them, eh?
Leading the NHL in mid-December, the Minnesota Wild became the first team in NHL history to hold that honor and completely miss the playoffs. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to be your "History Will be Made" commercial. Of course, the stat folks all knew this was going to happen. Which, of course, is why all of them are now in Vegas collecting their winnings and never working again in their lives, right?
So. What happened? Is it as simple as the save percentage dropping a few points and the Fencorscomp numbers not being good enough? Or is there something more? Let's take a look. After the jump.
The Season in Review
The Wild started hot. Despite the inability to score, the defense and goaltending were good enough to keep the team in games long enough to get points. Then, the injuries started. At one point, the Wild were down four of their top six forwards, plus two of the guys called up to fill in were hurt. When the forwards started coming back, the defensemen started dropping. When the defensemen came back, the forwards were re-injured and the goalies got hurt.
The team fell into a revolving door of injuries, used 47 total players, no one was playing the system, and that spells losses. Of course, none of the numbers really changed, except the part where the Wild scored more goals than the opposition. Oh, and that save percentage thing. But, again, it doesn't matter who the team is in front of a goalie.
Injuries ate the team alive, and by the time they could get healthy, they had forgotten how the system worked, and had zero faith in themselves. That resulted in just 15 wins after December 10. Not exactly good enough in the NHL.
But hey, as long as no one is bitter. I'm sure the numbers all show a much better picture about how the Wild season went. Though, you won't get that here. The story we see is one of a team that was playing well as a team and then fell victim to the one thing no one is willing to accept as a reason. Accept it or not, but it is what happened.
The trades made didn't help much, the call-ups mostly fell flat. Once again, we look to next year for hope.
Nathan - First place in the NHL in December 13, fighting to stay out of the bottom five at the end of the season. A collapse the likes of which has never before been seen in the NHL. Sure, they were playing above their heads in the 2011 portion of the 2011-2012 NHL season, and we knew they wouldn't win a President's Cup, but to fall this far? Nobody saw it coming. Regression to the mean would've meant the Wild ending up exactly where we thought they would before the season started, fighting to finish between the 7-10 spot in the conference. Nobody on the planet could have seen so many missed games by top six forwards or top four defensemen. Nobody could have envisioned winning only 7 of the final 52 games in regulation. Nobody.
Yes, there were many positives this season; the play of Kyle Brodziak, the improvement of Marco Scandella and the continued solid play of Jared Spurgeon. However, these were all offset by a less than stellar year by newcomers Dany Heatley and the (unknown to the fans) injury riddled Devin Setoguchi, not to mention continued concussion problems plaguing Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Jared Spurgeon and even Jarod Palmer. 47 different men took the ice for the Wild this season, including nine rookies. No team can absorb those kinds of injuries and live to tell the tale. Nobody.
Even so, this is professional hockey, and the dollars spent dictate success. We knew this was a transition year. We knew that it would be tough to make the playoffs with a thin lineup and first year coach, but four years in a row out of the post-season was more than we could bear. Yet, here we are, facing another long summer on the outside looking in. But the future looks bright, young as it may be. I'm still holding out for 2013-2014. That's the payoff folks. Bear with us.
Final Grade: F
Bryan - Since I already wrote above, let's just say that any team that sets NHL history for all the wrong reasons doesn't get a passing grade.
Final Grade: F
Jesse - Oh, where to being with this season. There were some high highs and some low lows. I don't think I've ever watched two halves of a season so diametrically opposite as this year. The fanbase (including myself) was flying high as the Wild marched their way to the top of the NHL mountain. But as they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and oh boy, did the Wild fall hard. The fall from grace was tough to watch on the best nights, and flat out depressing on the bad nights.