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Coach Mike Yeo, top, has the Wild in good shape to make the playoffs, but the team’s fan base is hungry for a deep run. And a winning season may not be enough to keep the Wolves’ Kevin Love, bottom, from seeking a change of scenery after next season.

Star Tribune file photos,

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo the third period. Minnesota beat Detroit by a final score 3-2. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com - February 17, 2013, St. Paul, Minn., Xcel Energy Center, NHL, Minnesota Wild vs. Detroit Red Wings

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Rand: Despite success, Wolves and Wild may be due for big changes

  • March 24, 2014 - 7:19 AM

With all of the amazing college sports happening over the weekend, I somehow found my thoughts drifting toward two of Minnesota’s top pro sports teams — and neither is the Twins, who open the regular season in a week.

Instead, thoughts were focused squarely on the Wild and Timberwolves. It’s too dramatic to say they are at a crossroads; it’s not incorrect to say both franchises have decisions coming that will greatly impact their trajectory over the next several years. Let’s take a look:

Wild: It’s hard to tell if Mike Yeo was offering assurances or protests Saturday regarding the notion that his team is fading down the stretch for a third consecutive season, but what wasn’t hard to distinguish is the patience level of many fans right now.

After a home loss to the Red Wings, there were a number of ways to slice the Wild’s recent play. It was only the third time in 12 games in which they failed to register at least a point, which has kept Minnesota at least comfortably in the playoff picture. It was also the seventh loss in nine games, if we factor in shootouts and overtime setbacks.

Here’s the bottom line: Missing the playoffs altogether, or sneaking in with a low seed and bowing out quickly as it did a year ago, could bring about major changes — starting with Yeo and perhaps continuing with the man who would have hired two dispatched coaches, General Manager Chuck Fletcher. But finishing strong and at least being competitive in the playoffs could reinforce a continued patient approach. It’s a defining next six weeks either way.

Timberwolves: This is another prime example of a season that can be judged differently depending on what lens is used. With 14 games left to play, the Wolves already have more wins than in any season since 2004-05. There is a legitimate chance they will finish above .500, which is certainly progress.

On the other hand, both the advanced stats and the eye test suggest this team should have even more wins and be challenging for a playoff spot. What they must decide in the offseason is whether there is a real chance to tweak the roster enough in the offseason to make even more progress in 2014-15.

If the answer is yes, the onus is on management to make those moves. If the answer is no, and the Wolves are convinced Kevin Love will walk as a free agent after next year, then this summer is the time to trade him. Either approach will have a lasting impact on the course of the franchise.

MICHAEL RAND



 

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