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Purgatory for the Wild and fans is only beginning

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

After such a hot start to the year, who saw this coming? The Wild started the season on a hot streak. This, in and of itself, is not unique. However, this streak differed from those we've seen in the past by featuring underlying numbers that indicated stability and sustainability. The Wild were not rocking the 106 PDO we see on other teams *coughColoradocough*. While, yes, both save% and shooting% were high, they were not ungodly high, and it really seemed like the Wild were having a banner year.

So what happened? Maybe Yeo lost the locker room. Maybe the veteran players finally pushed younger guys away and the gap was too wide to bridge. Maybe some of the younger players in the room have bad attitudes and that's the problem. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. The Wild are fighting for their playoff lives.

What welcomes them in the playoffs? Likely the same Chicago Blackhawks that have doomed them to irrelevance the past three seasons. Regular season stats don't seem to matter when the Wild and Hawks meet in the postseason; even two years ago when the Wild were pretty definitively the better team, they lost the series; they just couldn't get the puck past Crawford. Last season... let's not even open that wound again.

Or the Wild could go the other direction; they could aim to lose every game for the rest of the stretch. Yes, that would get them out of the playoffs, but would it put them in the Austen Matthew's sweepstakes? The Wild currently have a 17-point lead on the last-place teams (74 points to the Leafs' 57). To make matters worse, the Oilers and company have played more games than the Wild.

The last few teams in the league are the Oilers, Flames, Leafs, and Jets. The Leafs can be expected to, at most, garner another six or seven points, putting them at 63 or 64. The Oilers will maybe get 5 or 6 more points, putting them in the mid 60's as well.

In other words, even if the Wild lose out the rest of their games, there is not realistic expectation of winning the first overall pick, or even the second or third. The hot streak that was so promising early is now coming around to bite tank-hopefuls; there is little hope for the Wild successfully tanking at this point.

All this to say that the Wild will, for another year, be in draft purgatory. Perhaps they get a great pick in the middle of the first round, but there is no hope of a top pick, and the Wild simply don't have the assets to trade for the first overall if they wanted to.

In short: The Wild and and its fans have a long road ahead before the pain of this season is good and truly done.

The bright side: the Wild's roster is almost certainly not as bad as it's been in 2016. With a summer off, a slight cast-change over the offseason (with some players leaving and some new ones being brought in), next season should be at least slightly less painful. Will they win the cup next season? Probably not, but then there were some who thought the Wild would be in contention this season. Anything can happen.