Minnesota Wild: Time to Avoid Annual Slump
The Minnesota Wild has started the 2016-17 season strong, can they keep it up? Or is a normal Wild midseason slump still in store?
The 2016-17 season has been successful for the Minnesota Wild to this point. However, anyone who has watched the Minnesota Wild over the past couple seasons has become accustomed to mid-winter slumps. They usually occur somewhere around the end of December and continue well into the month of January. In fact in the last two seasons between December 15th and the end of January, the Wild had a record of 8-10-3 in 2015-16 and 6-9-5 in 2014-15.
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In both cases, the stretches ruined what seemed to be promising scenarios from the Wild. Instead of finishing within the top three and getting a better match up for the playoffs, the team had to rally just to get in. Two things happened as a direct result of these extended stretches of poor play the past couple years. One, the team had to expend that much more energy down the stretch in the regular season just to make the playoffs and it cost former coach Mike Yeo his job last season.
Dec 7, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau (right) on the bench against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Minnesota defeated Toronto 3-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
So clearly, even a stretch of a month and half in the heart of the winter, what happens over the next two months has a big impact on where this team will sit come playoff time. Which, if the past two years have proven anything, is important when you’re trying to make a playoff run. If this team can finish in the top two of the Central Division, it would go a long way towards success in the playoffs. For one, this is clearly a team that plays better at home than they do on the road, this season they are 7-3-0 at home and 5-5-4 on the road. So home advantage is huge for this team, because they play well at home, but also because they do not play very well on the road. In addition, should a series go to a deciding seventh game, home ice advantage cannot be overstated.
The Wild have been in this position before, each of the last two years to be exact. Yes, this is the same group of players that has fallen into a mid season lull the last two years, but hopefully they can learn from those experiences. Add in veteran Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, who will stay on top of this team and not let them rest on their laurels and I’m hopeful this team can break the trend from the past two years.