All season long, the Minnesota Wild have been a group of players focused on being together. When they were on the ice, there was seemingly wads of connected tissue between each skater, keeping each simultaneous stride in the same direction. This obviously led to enough success that it was a point of conversation at multiple times, and even more so when one of the team’s leaders is in a reflective mood after the team got kicked out of the playoffs.
“I think the positive thing is that no matter what, we built something here this year,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “And I think we have to grow in it. No one in this organization is thinking about taking a step back. That’s not what we’re thinking about. I think we have to focus on the strides we took, the culture we built. This is a negative right now. But the seven months or eight months of hockey we played was a huge, huge positive, a huge, huge stepping stone for this organization. I think this room is unbelievable. It’s going to be a great culture for anyone coming in here.”
Before the season began — if we are to be as reflective as Foligno here — there were minimal expectations. Massive contracts were bought out, the blue line was transformed with the addition of three entirely new players, and we didn’t know that Ryan Hartman was even capable of playing center full-time. There was a mysterious cloud shrouding this team in the possibility that we could be paying attention to the draft lottery, or looking at a deep playoff run; anything was possible and could have been accepted.
So for them to transform into this dark horse powerhouse through the several months and have us even more confident in the future, is something. And the most significant aspect of it is that it seems that everyone just gets along. I know, we don’t really see everything and anything that goes on behind closed doors, but the way that at the beginning of the season the leadership core made it public that everyone has the exact same equal input and no matter if you’re a star or a rookie, that you have a voice, points to a connected group of hockey players that get along and that’s a positive thing that can be transmitted on to the ice.
Unfortunately, this exact group of players will not be the same next season and that’s understood.
“You know changes have to be made. I get it. But the mindset doesn’t change,” Foligno said. “Next year we’re going to have a sour taste in our mouth from this. But we built a really good group and something that we can improve on.
“The reality is, we’ve got a great thing going here. We know it’s a special group. The leaders led all season and guys followed tremendously. Just needed to show up in playoffs and that’s a learning thing that we’ve got to take now and make sure everyone is coming back pissed off and closer than this year.”
Whether it is the rumored Kevin Fiala trade, figuring out what they will be doing with their goaltending, or making some franchise-altering move, the Wild will look different next year but we know the core will be the same and the approachability of the locker room leaders and the accepting nature will be the same.