The Minnesota Wild have been a mostly middling team that's successfully made the post-season in each of the past four seasons. However, the ups and downs in each season has caused some fans to get motion sickness worse than riding on the Cork Screw rollercoaster at Valleyfair. With extended losing streaks in the midst of seasons, the Wild would usually make a late charge into the playoffs and squeak in as a Wild Card team.
Being a wild card team in the Central Division isn't all bad, as the Central is stacked with a number of good teams. But the rhetoric from the Wild after bowing out in the second round was all about playing a better regular season so that they didn't have to over-extend themselves. The same rhetoric year-in and year-out as it seemed that a mid-season swoon became more inevitable, rather than something that remained an "if."
The Wild have taken a big step forward in the department by hiring Bruce Boudreau as the 4th head coach in franchise history. Boudreau has the highest winning percentage (.659, 409-192-80 over nine seasons) in the regular season among active coaches. Plainly put, his teams win a lot. After taking over as head coach of the Anaheim Ducks for Randy Carlyle on November 30th, 2011, Boudreau compiled a 27-23-8 record en route to a last place finish in the Pacific Division.
The following year, he rebounded with a 30-12-6 record and a Pacific Division title in the lockout shortened season. His team followed up with a second consecutive division title and the second-most points in the league in 2013-14. The list goes on and on with division titles and his teams being among the elite in the league.
The Wild in that same time could only dream of having that kind of success in the regular season. And while the regular season means very little come playoff time, the Wild front office is banking on that stuff getting sorted out once they get there. A division title doesn't guarantee a Stanley Cup, nor does it guarantee making the Cup Finals. Being among the top teams in the league does mean that the path to the Cup should be in your favor. With a chance at home-ice advantage through the early rounds of the playoffs, having the flexibility to give players ample rest down the stretch, and a buffer in place to withstand short losing streaks, there are reasons to want to be at the top.
The hope with Boudreau behind the bench, his no-nonsense approach, and experience will help flatten out those mid-season valleys and allow the Wild to reach heights never achieved by this team before.