Wild star defenseman Ryan Suter says he and coach Mike Yeo cleared the air Tuesday after a conflict-filled Monday practice.
They put a public patch on things, but the larger question remains: Can the Wild patch together a sequence of victories to jump-start a season that started with great expectations but has been beset by a seemingly annual swoon.
History tells us this is not only a familiar problem for the Wild but a specifically difficult kind of season to navigate. Namely: Minnesota teams have proved just how difficult it is to build on success, particularly when trying to do it with the same cast.
The Vikings have provided three examples, to varying degrees, since 1998. The 1999 squad, following the 15-1 season and NFC title game heartbreak of the previous year, started 2-4 before scrambling to make the playoffs and losing to the Rams.
The 2001 Vikings, after 41-donut, went 5-11 and got head coach Dennis Green fired. The same script played out in 2010, when Brad Childress was fired midyear, one season after getting the Vikings within a whisper of the Super Bowl.
The 2004-05 Timberwolves, one year after finally breaking through a wall of playoff futility to reach the Western Conference finals, stumbled so badly that Flip Saunders was fired midyear. They haven’t been back to the playoffs since.
The two most potent Twins playoff teams during their run of six division titles in nine seasons were the 2006 squad and 2010 squad. Both were swept in the playoffs, leading to losing seasons in 2007 (79-83) and 2011 (63-99).
In particular, three of those examples stand out as cautionary tales for the Wild.
The 2004-05 Timberwolves brought back the core “MV3” of Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, expecting similar results to follow. The 2010 Vikings had all 22 starters back from the previous season. And the 2011 Twins had plenty of carry-over in the lineup and rotation from 2010.
In each case, continuity seemed like a good idea. But in each case, a combination of age, injuries and stagnancy led to the plan going dramatically off-course.
This year’s Wild squad, by both the design of confident roster construction and the necessity of salary cap constraints, very closely resembles the team that sprinted to the finish last year and made it to the second round of the playoffs before being swept by Chicago.
When the same team produces lesser results, things can fall apart. The good news for the Wild — unlike the others — is that its history is nowhere near written yet, with this season not even one-third gone.
The bad news is seasons like this have a history of getting late pretty early.