Goalie Devan Dubnyk has been on teams stuck in a rut for the entire season, like when he was with Edmonton and the Oilers finished last in the NHL in back-to-back years from 2009-11.
So has winger Marcus Foligno, who was with Buffalo in 2014-15 when the Sabres shifted to tank mode.
“We want to be the guys that don’t let it go that way, don’t let it go to a point where we have no other choice or let someone in charge that has no choice but to do something like that,” Foligno said.
The results so far haven’t generated much optimism, but the Wild believes it can stage a turnaround and avoid a season-long spiral — a fate it could start to distance itself from beginning Sunday when the team hosts the Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s not going to be like this all year,” Dubnyk said. “It can’t be like this all year, and we need to make sure.”
Even when the Wild was regularly making the playoffs in recent years, the team wasn’t immune to losing streaks.
In 2017-18, it dropped four of its first five games. The season before that, the Wild won just four times in March.
What’s different about this latest slide is the timing; by debuting 1-6, players have minimal success to draw confidence from or to cushion the sting of losses — a reality that sets an ominous tone.
Dubnyk also senses a carry-over of frustration from last season when the team finished in a funk, going 4-9-1 in its final 14.
That tension spiked Thursday when the players held a closed-door meeting following a 4-0 clunker in Montreal.
“More than that’s going to have to jump-start us to be honest with you,” winger Jason Zucker said at the time. “It’s going to be each individual guy from [coach] Bruce [Boudreau] on down. Bruce has got to be better. We’ve got to be better. Everybody’s got to be better. That’s it.”
After making those comments, Zucker apologized to Boudreau and again Saturday when the team reconvened for practice.
“There was no reason for me to use his name in that quote in any way, so that’s completely on me,” Zucker said. “My intention with the quote was to state that everybody needs to be better and needs to do more and pull more weight, and 99.9 percent of that is on the players.
“So again, there’s no reason that I should’ve used Bruce’s name in that quote in any way. So that’s completely my fault.”
Zucker did stand by his point that everyone must be better, a message that continues to get reiterated.
“He didn’t intend or want to center me out,” Boudreau said. “I think his actual thing was, ‘We’ve gotta be better. I’ve gotta be better. Bruce’s gotta be better.’
“He could’ve gone through the whole organization has to be better.”
And as it vies to improve, the adversity facing the Wild isn’t fading.
Center Joel Eriksson Ek will be out a week or two because of a lower-body injury. He blocked three shots from Montreal’s Shea Weber on Thursday and left the arena that night with a walking boot on his left foot.
Fellow center Victor Rask is also sidelined, day-to-day because of a lower-body injury, so the team recalled center Gabriel Dumont on Saturday from the American Hockey League.
Dumont, who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Wild in July, has five points in five games with Iowa. He’s played 87 NHL games with Montreal, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.
To make room for Dumont on the roster, winger Mats Zuccarello was moved to injured reserve retroactive to last Saturday when Zuccarello suffered his lower-body injury. Boudreau didn’t have an update on Zuccarello’s status.
“Only the strong survive,” Boudreau said. “So you can sit there and whine and mope and talk behind people’s backs, ‘Well it’s his fault, it’s that fault.’ But in the end, you look upon yourself and take the onus upon yourself, and good people find ways to make other people better and get out of these types of things.”
Last season was the first time in seven years the Wild’s downswings prevented the team from making the playoffs.
While that may be one of the most recent memories for the group, it’s not the only history players can remember.
“It’s on us, and we all believe we’re a good hockey team and we can get wins,” Foligno said. “It’s not like we’re in a position where we’re handcuffed with the players we have.
“We have a lot of great players in this dressing room, so we know we’re going to get out of it. It’s just coming together, and it’s gotta come together now.”