What happened last year … and the year before … and two years before that … should have no profound effect on what happens this year.
But as coach Mike Yeo volunteered after the Wild blew a three-goal, third-period lead Saturday to lose 4-3 in overtime to the Dallas Stars, "same story. Here we are again."
Coincidence or not, the Wild has always fallen apart this time of year under Yeo. The coach, worried it's happening again after the Wild spoiled its once 10-3-2 record with a 1-4-2 run to close November, admitted the Wild has yet to diagnose the reason it keeps happening.
That might be a somber notion for fans to digest.
The winter free fall happened Yeo's first season in 2011-12, in 2013-14 and again in 2014-15. Perhaps the only reason it didn't happen in 2012-13 is the 2012 portion of that season was wiped out because of the four-month lockout.
"It seems every year we're talking where it's going," said defenseman Ryan Suter, who wasn't part of the 2011-12 tumble. "We start out hot, and we start to slip and then we figure it out. Hopefully — well, not hopefully, we have to figure it out soon because you're not going to be able to do what we did last year."
After Wednesday's loss to Vancouver, Yeo said, "I want to see us show the attitude that we're not going to be satisfied being a team that stumbles … our way into the playoffs."
After Friday's loss to Winnipeg, Yeo noted how the analytics (the Wild's puck possession stats, the fact it has routinely been outshot and outchanced) warned a skid would come if things didn't change. He said the Wild's early-season success was "misleading," that "this has gone on all year," and, "if we want to be a good team, there's a way that we have to play."
After Saturday's loss to Dallas, Yeo repeated something he has subtly hinted at a lot lately: The Wild's buy-in factor is missing.
"How do we stop [this]? You win hockey games. You make plays for 60 minutes that win hockey games," Yeo said. "[The Stars] were more determined to play their game than we were. It was more important and they stayed with it, so credit for them. Great job. That's why they're in first place, that's why we're not.
"The teams at the end of the year, they're not the most talented teams, they're the teams that play their game and buy in and do the things the right way night after night after night regardless of who you're playing against, where you're playing, what the circumstances are, and for whatever reason, we get to this time of the year, and whether we think we're good enough, I don't know.
"I'm not sure why, and we haven't been able to get to the bottom of it. But we'll see. We're either going to decide if we're going to be a good team or a decent team. I think we're all a little bit tired of being a decent team, but the only way to do that is to be better in our team game than the other team."
If Yeo seems exasperated, he is. More than a quarter of the way through the season, the Wild hasn't come close to being the tight, defensively structured team opponents grew accustomed to seeing the past few years.
The Wild ranks 21st in the NHL at 2.77 goals allowed per game, has given up the 14th-most shots per game (29.5) and has the 29th-ranked penalty kill (74.5 percent).
Devan Dubnyk, third in the NHL with 1,177 minutes, has been inconsistent. On Nov. 12, he led the NHL with 10 wins. He has won one of six starts since, allowing 17 goals. His .909 save percentage ranks 45th in the NHL, 29th among goalies with at least 600 minutes. His 2.55 goals-against average ranks 39th, 26th among goalies with at least 600 minutes. Last year's Masterton Trophy winner and Vezina Trophy finalist, Dubnyk has given up 50 goals in 20 appearances after allowing 68 in 39 starts last season for the Wild.
The Wild's locker room emptied fast after Saturday's meltdown.
"There's not much you can say," veteran Thomas Vanek said. "Most of the guys have been around and know that's not good enough, not acceptable."
It's gut-check time. The Wild doesn't have superstars like Dallas' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin or a pure scorer like Tuesday's opponent, Chicago's Patrick Kane, who is riding a 19-game point streak and leads the league in scoring.
If the Wild doesn't play the "team game" Yeo is pleading for, it could be another long December.
"Let's see what we're made of, see what kind of character we have in here," Suter said. "We were going so well at home, and that's not the way you want to play the last three. We have to pick it up and see what we're made of."
Schroeder on waivers
The Wild placed Jordan Schroeder on waivers Sunday. He'll be assigned to Iowa on Monday if he clears. He scored one goal and had 11 shots in 11 games.