This winter sports season would be one giant whiff of [redacted] if not for the pleasant turnaround made by your Minnesota Wild, which would be the No. 5 seed in the West if the playoffs started today. We have to think that the Wild started this winter No. 3 of the three teams primarily vying for attention -- trailing the legitimate potential of the Gophers men's basketball team and the intriguing potential of the Timberwolves. But those other clubs have come up short, and the Wild has risen to the occasion. The Skating W's are the new No. 1 and the biggest glimmer of hope between now and the start of real baseball.

Did it come out of nowhere? Well, you be the judge. Take a look at the standings from, which does things a little differently but still illustrates the big shift. The first graphic is the standings in the West as of Jan. 1. The second graphic is the standings as of today. Less than two months ago, there were just two teams below the Wild; now the squad is well established in the upper half.