Rand: Current Wild feels a bit like 2002 Twins

  • Updated: May 15, 2014 - 6:41 AM

What does this feel like?

The question lingered Wednesday, many hours after the Wild’s season and playoff ride came to a sudden end after numerous failed chances by the home team and a fortunate bounce for the Blackhawks.

Every season for every team is an entity unto itself, but it’s also natural to make comparisons when trying to sort out feelings. Is there any local comparison to make regarding the 2013-14 Wild’s season and the way it ended?

It didn’t feel like the 2002-03 Wild or any other Wild team. That lone previous playoff run was built on a trapping style, veteran moxie, great goaltending and the generosity of Vancouver goalie Dan Cloutier.

It didn’t feel like the 1998 or 2009 Vikings, even though those seasons, too, ended with punches to the gut. The 1998 Vikings felt like a team of destiny, the unstoppable force riding an incredible wave for the entire season. That does not describe this year’s Wild, which had many fits and starts — at times looking as though even making the playoffs was in question.

The 2009 Vikings were “all-in.” When Minnesota pushed in the chips for Brett Favre to go with a lot of other veteran talent, you knew that even if it worked, the window for success was open only a crack. As it turned out, it slammed shut in New Orleans after a single year. That does not fit the description of the Wild, either, since the mix of veterans at or near their primes and youngsters emerging means we should have several years of potential playoff runs ahead.

It didn’t feel like the 2003-04 Timberwolves, the best team in the West during the regular season and a crew heavy with veterans. When Sam Cassell’s back flared up in the conference finals against the Lakers, that series had the feeling of impending doom. The Wolves haven’t even made it back to the playoffs since then.

The best comparison we could come up with was the 2002 Twins. That team took a step the previous year, winning 85 games, just as the Wild took a step by making the playoffs in 2012-13. That team relied on some veterans, such as Brad Radke, but really went to the next level when its young players emerged. Those Twins had a surprising opening-round playoff series win, taking the deciding Game 5 on the road in Oakland. And they proved to be set up for a sustained run of regular-season success.

The question that remains: Will the Blackhawks be the Wild’s version of the Yankees, or will this Minnesota team continue to take steps on the way to a championship?

Michael Rand

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