Souhan: No more one step forward, two steps back for Wild

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 15, 2014 - 7:43 AM

The Wild has behaved like an immature franchise for years.

Under Doug Risebrough, the organization ruined its farm system seeking an encore miracle playoff run.

Under Chuck Fletcher, early in his tenure, the organization often seemed to make moves just to distance itself from Risebrough’s regime.

The Wild replaced its wise old head, Jacques Lemaire, with one rookie coach, then another, and force-fed youngsters onto the big-league roster, hoping one or more would stick.

For much of the past decade, the Wild behaved like a losing gambler placing his faith in one more roll of the dice.

That changed in late March, after the team captains held meetings with all of the players. The Wild accumulated 13 points in its next seven games, and a season that could have been lost, that could have led to coach Mike Yeo’s firing, produced a seventh seed and led to two series of high drama in the playoffs.

Over the past two months, the Wild has displayed the maturity, if not the roster composition, of a champion.

The impetuous owner, Craig Leipold, held off on making any rash decisions on Yeo when he could have justified a midseason coaching change. He was rewarded with six home playoff payouts.

Fletcher, the energetic general manager, stuck with his best young players even when they slumped during the regular season.

He was rewarded with outstanding playoff performances from Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula, among others.

The button-pushing coach, Yeo, calmly guided his team during playoff crises, refusing to wallow in self-pity or referee-bashing, keeping his players’ eyes on the obstacle to be cleared, not the one that had just tripped them.

The team leaders, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu, didn’t always play well in the postseason, but each displayed his own form of leadership.

The Wild’s best young players performed better in the playoffs than in the regular season.

The Wild’s fringe veterans, Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley, accepted playoff benchings without complaint and rose to make the plays that won Game 7 in Colorado.

The common theme: Maturity. This team, and organization, matured before our eyes.

The next step in the Wild’s growth might not be so obvious, or linear.

While fans will expect the Wild to take the “next step’’ next season, by winning a second-round playoff or earning a top seed in the Western Conference, that might be difficult even if the Wild continues to improve.

Not many of the other top teams in the Western Conference are graduating seniors.

The Avalanche displayed its immaturity in its loss to the Wild — and Minnesota still required an overtime goal in Game 7 to win that series.

The Blackhawks’ core players are either young or in their prime.

St. Louis faltered in its series against Chicago because of key injuries, but otherwise might have defeated the Blackhawks and represented a daunting matchup for the Wild.

San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles are all perennial contenders, and Edmonton is stocked with young talent that, like Colorado’s a year ago, has yet to blossom.

Hockey culture demands that players and coaches perform daily self-administered psychological evaluations, but even if the Wild does all it can to improve, it will not necessarily find next year’s playoffs any more welcoming or easy.

The Wild has grown up nicely. This newfound maturity should make it a playoff team for years to come.

Once the playoffs begin, though, the Wild as currently constituted will be just one of a half-dozen teams capable of winning the conference championship.

The young players will be asked to play 82 — or 100-plus — games at a high level. The general manager will have to improve his current roster without meddling with its core players or internal leaders. A goalie will have to emerge who can steal a playoff game the way Chicago’s Corey Crawford did on Tuesday night.

Growing up means facing heightened expectations. Mature as they seem to be, let’s see how the Wild’s key figures handle those before we start stenciling anyone’s name on next year’s Cup.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
UNLV 79
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close