The Wild entered its All-Star break Monday night with the type of loss that will haunt should its season fall short of the postseason.
The Wild managed to choke on a 1-0 lead AND a man advantage with 84 seconds left in regulation in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
And yet it all seemed fitting for this maddening outfit.
Following the Wild is like watching the movie “Groundhog Day.” Remember that recurring scene in which Bill Murray’s character wakes up to the same song — Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” — every morning at 6 a.m.?
That’s the Wild’s nightmare, too. Nothing ever changes.
Hot streaks followed by winter swoons … Then put your little hand in mine, There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb
Anemic offense … Babe, I got you babe
Popgun power play … OK campers. Rise and shine and don’t forget your booties because it’s cooooold out there today
Underperforming veterans, #FireYeo, calls to blow up the roster … It’s cold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
Will this narrative ever change?
Once again, the Wild finds itself on the playoff bubble after a January nose-dive. The team resides in fourth place in the Western Conference’s Central Division, 15 points behind nemesis Chicago. The Wild hold a wild-card spot by three measly points.
Despite a miserable January, this should be a playoff team come April. And yet does anyone actually consider the Wild a legitimate threat to contend for the Stanley Cup as constructed?
The Wild — and General Manager Chuck Fletcher specifically — appears to have settled into a position that, strangely, is both promising and troublesome.
The Wild can compete with most teams on its best days in an 82-game regular season, and yet too many sharp plummets and stretches of poor hockey create skepticism about where this whole thing is headed.
This is one of those stretches.
“It seems like we go through it all the time,” center Charlie Coyle said, “but I don’t think we’re the only team to go through this.”
True, almost every team experiences ebbs and flows in a long season. The Wild’s bouts of inconsistency are infuriating because they’ve become so predictable, so repetitive.
Some want to blame Mike Yeo solely for that, which is too convenient and wrong. It’s not strictly a Mike Yeo problem. This is a Minnesota Wild issue, not isolated to one person or one specific area.
The team has a roster full of players that couldn’t score right now if the goalie was blindfolded.
Coaches often say that teams are either getting better or they’re getting worse. The logic being that rarely do things remain static in professional sports.
The Wild has become an exception to that theory.
This team seems stuck in the same place. Not improving, not bottoming out. Just scratching along as a playoff bubble team, knowing the mighty Blackhawks with their impenetrable nucleus of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford stand in the way of meaningful progress.
And to be sure, what happens during the regular season means less than what happens in the postseason. The playoffs will define whether this season is a success or not, not January’s record.
But the first half hasn’t inspired a great deal of confidence.
If the Wild returns from the break, gets hot and manages to take another step in the postseason, this period of struggle will be forgotten.
If nothing substantive changes in the postseason, Fletcher and his staff must take a hard, honest look at whether their personnel can move the needle and become more than a second-round playoff team. The roster might require a significant makeover and not just subtle tweaks.
Fair or not, that’s what happens when a team built to win now ascends to a certain level and then stalls. Expectations change with progress.
“If you’re going through a tough time, you always feel like it’s the end of the world,” Coyle said. “You always feel worse than things usually are.”
The sky hasn’t fallen because the Wild is good enough to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. But losses like Monday’s giveaway are inexcusable, and this act has grown tiresome.