Making it into the playoffs in any sport is, by definition, granting a team the opportunity to win a championship. But in some sports, seeding matters more than others. In the NHL, it matters less than in any other major team sport, the NFL's recent history of producing Super Bowl champs from low seeds notwithstanding.
As such, the Wild's deadline moves -- including nabbing three-time 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson today in what likely amounts to a late-season rental -- are evidence that this year is about more than just a token appearance even if Minnesota is probably locked into a low seed.
The addition of Moulson and the return of Mikko Koivu gives the Wild real depth on its forward lines. Russo knows way more than we do, and he put out these theoretical line combos:
Those are playoff-caliber lines -- not just to make it there, but to be a real threat. This team still relies many nights on goaltending, and while Darcy Kuemper has been terrific that's still a question mark. But if he can hold up, or if the solar system-loving new backup can catch lightning in a bottle, this has some real potential.
Remember, the Wild is 29-10-5 in games not started by Niklas Backstrom this year. That's an elite record, even if Minnesota doesn't always play like an elite team.
The first-round matchup will be brutal, assuming the Wild makes it, but it won't be a picnic for the opponent, either. Bottom line: the baseline expectation now is at least for a competitive first-round series. Anything can happen after that.