Well now, we've seen the grades for the Goalies, Defensemen, Left Wings, Centers and Right Wings. I guess it only makes sense that we put it together and take a look at the team as a whole.
If you ask a pro hockey player, anything short of a Stanley Cup is a failed season. It's what they play for, it's what they've always played for. Making the playoffs is nice, but in a "It was an honor just to be nominated" kind of way. No one wants to lose. It's an honor to be there, sure, but bah. Everyone wants to win.
Is it worse to make the playoffs and then lose, or to simply miss the playoffs? There are pros and cons to both. However, the passion and excitement involved with a playoff run is intense. To enter in and then fail is a roller coaster sure to make the strongest stomach heave.
We now take a look at the team as a whole. How did they fare?
38 - 36 - 8
Keep in mind that the last number also equals a loss.In any other sport, the Wild finished 38-44. They did not have a winning record.
The real message in this widget? They finished the division one spot away above the worst team in all of hockey.
Coming into this season, many "experts" predicted a slow start, picking up steam around December, then a push for a playoff spot. Many in the blogosphere and many fans insisted that this was a rebuilding year, and the playoffs were out of reach. In October, Michael Russo spoke with us at Hockey Wilderness and we asked him if it was a rebuilding year:
This is a better team than last year. They missed by 3 pts, added a perennial star in Martin Havlat, added a 25 goal guy in Petr Sykora. This is a transitional year. The problem is that everyone else got better too, and has better, younger talent than the Wild. If this were a Lemaire team, in that system, they'd make the playoffs. No knock against Richards, but it takes time to install a new system. I've covered a rebuilding team. This is definitely not a rebuilding team. I disagree with anyone who says this is a rebuilding year or that last years' team was better. This is a team that has to learn a new system, has a horrible road schedule and is in the hardest conference. Next season, they're in the playoffs. Houston will be a better team this year too. They have more NHL experience. They have guys like Andy Hilbert, Colton Gillies, Petr Kalus, Craig Weller, and those guys who are ready to come up will be able to produce, and remember this was a team that was a round away from the AHL title last season. Fans will have to be patient at the beginning, but this is a year in transition, not rebuilding.
Call me crazy, but I agreed with him then and I agreed with him now. This team did exactly what I (and many others) predicted they would. Show development in the middle of the season and fight for a playoff spot. The problem isn't the system, the problem isn't the coaching, the problem is the dearth of talent. It's the Curse of the Riser. The effort problem comes down to the wrong players in the wrong situations. But, we've seen who can and cannot produce at this level. We've gotten one more year out of the prospects for evaluation. Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards were able to take a look at the guys they have, make their decisions and get ready to move some on and ramp up for free agency and the draft.
I think Russo's exactly right, this was a transitional year. We shouldn't expect them to blow it up, get a top pick or two like Washington or Pittsburgh, but instead, they need to build on the pieces in place, dump some dead weight *cough* James Sheppard *cough*, add youth in key spots and stockpile picks to use as tradebait. In Fletch We Trust.
No playoffs this season, 6 or 7 seed next season, home-ice the following. Mark it.
Buddha: D It is tough to sell that this season deserved a passing grade. The team was lost for the first two months of the season. ABC hit prime time series caliber lost. The prize signing of the off-season had disappeared, the defense was awful, the system had to be modified just to avoid utter embarrassment. Players had no chemistry with each other or the coaches. No one understood was was wanted, and frustration became the primary emotion.
Then, in December, the figured it out. They were clicking on all cylinders, and it looked like maybe they just needed a couple good trades at the deadline to make a strong run. The team defense continued to lack, but the offense seemed to make up for it. Injuries continued to mount, and Chuck Fletcher continued to make trades and make call -ups to fill in the patch work.
Eventually, it all fell apart again, and the Wild were exactly where they were last season. At home. Not even a nomination.
The on ice product was terrible. Too many odd man rushes, horrible power play, horrible even strength play, horrible physicality, horrible in battles for the puck, horrible in front of the net at both ends of the ice. Horrible, horrible, horrible. They did not deserve to make the playoffs, and the fans were given a lesson in just how far from a playoff team they really are.
Off the ice, the management wins awards for most improved. The new management will accept the blame for this season, and certainly some of it is due. However, most of this falls on the old regime. Fletcher's trades were nothing short of inspired. A little luck to unload Pouliot for BTE, a little bad luck after bringing in Kobasew, and a jury certainly still out on Barker. Players were called up at a record setting pace, giving the pro coaches a look at them, and making it clear that very few of them will ever be NHL caliber players.
To anyone who took a lab class in college, the Wild aced the classroom portion, but failed the lab. To fail on the ice outweighs what the management did. However, there is promise. It is still a couple years away, but the right people are in place to ensure the Wild improve as a team, and as an organization.
JS: C- I know I may not be as severe as I should be with the team's performances this year, I know they didn't make the playoffs, I know they didn't do as well as they could've but I've got my reasons for going a tad easy on them: This year, the Wild lost the franchise's leading scorer (Like it or not, we won the division in his healthy 40-goal year).
They also saw one of the best coaches in the league leave the team, bringing in a new coach with a completely new system. It's not that Todd Richards' system didn't work; it's that he didn't have much to work with. With about 3 1st-2nd line players and an assortment of players who belong on the 3rd-4th lines or even AHL or even Midget AA (Shep), the result was the exact same number of goals as last year, a minus-31 in GF/GA (good for 28th in the league) and the lowest number of shots for in the entire league.
The season was really one of ups and downs; after a horrendous 3-9 record to start the season, we had a brilliant 13-4 stretch from Nov. 27th to Dec. 28th (Nov.27th was BTE's first game with the Wild... Coincidence? I think not! Seriously, our season would've been horrible without this guy.) After that, it was pretty much win a couple, lose a couple. In fact, in a stretch also starting on Nov. 27th, the Wild had alternating winning and losing streaks (of two games or more) until Mar. 23rd when they lost a game after winning just one and then on Mar. 25th, they won a game, stopping the losing streak at one. Pretty uncanny isn't it?
What I'm saying is that this was an abnormal season for the Wild. Further proof lies in the equipment burning fire in Ottawa; it was just one of those seasons. We've had highs, we've had lows, but IMO we have so much to be optimistic about and we have our brand new GM to thank! I've no doubt in my mind that the Wild will bounce back in the 10-11 season, so let's just give our guys a mulligan for this season, but I expect them to be more than able to grab a playoff spot next time around.
If I could recap the season in one statement, it would have to be inspired by something Nathan wrote not too long ago: Fuck James Sheppard.