Last night’s 3-0 loss to Chicago brought together both the best and worst aspects of Minnesota professional hockey. While the playoff appearance has injected a dose of adrenaline into the Wild franchise, the team is down 3-1 in the series and destined for another mediocre season. Assuming a first round playoff exit, with how much excitement should fans be looking forward to the 2013-14 campaign?
Some impressive performances during the series – including one victory and two games forced into overtime- in spite injuries to several key players provides reason for optimism. If the front office is able to build upon last offseason’s successful personnel decisions and reinforce the organization’s commitment to winning, the Wild may finally turn a crucial corner. Casual fans now have a reason to pay attention even though the “Look, we have hockey back” appeal has worn off.
Before getting too energized, we must remember that we’ve seen this all before. In a world where it’s preferable to be either hot or cold, the Wild have been perhaps the prototype lukewarm team since entering the league in 2000.
Being hot obviously provides the continued excitement of winning, where being cold generally implies a shot at getting a future star via the draft. Lukewarm is a state of being “stuck” with no way out (just ask Kevin Garnett era Timberwolves fans).
Since the Wild’s improbable 2003 run to the Western Conference Finals- where they were stopped in their tracks by Jean Sebastian Giguere and his illegal thigh pads, there has not been much to get excited about. In the 10 seasons since, the Wild have posted just three playoff appearances, one division title and an endless string of .500 seasons.
If you believe that past performance is indicative of future results, you shouldn’t buy into the hype surrounding a straggling team that barely reached the playoffs in a lockout shortened year.