Suddenly, the Wild are on their best behavior.
Last week started with a bad loss and a coaching change. But in winning twice under new coach John Hynes, the turnaround has been night and day. Their penalty kill is secure as Fort Knox, the offense left hibernation and first periods went from being their worst to their best.
They Wild had lost nine of their past 10 trips to Nashville but waltzed in Thursday and snapped the Predators' six-game win streak with a 6-1 blowout.
"They're trying to make an impression," Hynes said of his new team. "But same thing for me: I'm trying to make an impression on them, too."
President of Hockey Operations Bill Guerin played matchmaker after firing Dean Evason last Monday following a Sunday afternoon loss in Detroit. But if the sun ever sets on the Hynes honeymoon, Guerin won't be able to ignite a similar spark.
It's the players who have the power to determine what's next.
"Unfortunately, there are coaches that have to take that fall on the knife for players like us," Marcus Foligno said. "It's not fair. But at the same time, it's a wake-up call.
"It's on us."
As the Wild spiraled into their slowest start since their first season, the search for a way out ran the gamut. Evason jumbled the lines, changed strategy and gave players extra time to rest. And when that didn't work, he upped the intensity at practice.
Finally, after the Wild dropped a seventh consecutive game in Detroit, Guerin dismissed Evason and assistant Bob Woods despite Evason's overall winning record — the Wild were coming off back-to-back 100-point seasons, including the most successful in franchise history.
"It's a jolt," Evason said in the aftermath. "That is why coaches get fired like this."
In the past, Guerin achieved that jolt in a trade, but he doesn't have that same flexibility this season. The Wild are about a brand-new SUV away from the NHL's salary cap limit, and their ability to save for future spending has been strained by injuries.
This pinch is mostly because of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, which are costing the team almost $15 million. But their roster is also approaching gridlock. All but six players are signed through at least next season, and most of their veterans have some type of trade protection.
"You have to give something to get something," Guerin said of no-trade clauses. "I believe in these players. I don't regret it at all."
'We're also not rebuilding'
Before the season, the Wild re-signed Foligno, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman to contract extensions, locking in three players who could have been coveted at the trade deadline.
But the draft picks teams receive for moving expiring deals is not the currency the Wild are working in: they're still vying for wins.
"We're also not rebuilding," Guerin said. "I've never said we're rebuilding. If we did that and got rid of players, then you have to replenish your team or you're taking a chance that you're going to bring in people you don't like as much.
"I like these guys. I feel they've been big contributors and will continue to be."
Take a good look. This is the Wild.
Any tweaking Guerin could do would be minor. Plus, he wants to give this team a chance to recalibrate.
Usually, the standings at Thanksgiving are a crystal ball for the final playoff picture; the Wild were on the outside looking in, and still are. But they have shrunk the gap to six points, and their schedule will give them a chance to catch up.
Patching the holes
After a Sunday matinee vs. Chicago at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild go on a four-game road trip and three of those teams (Calgary, Edmonton and Seattle) stand between the Wild and a wild-card spot.
"We're not giving up on the season," Guerin said.
The team's play in two games since Hynes took over has sent the same message. Not once has the NHL's last-place penalty kill been scored on. A whopping 16 different players have factored into the offense after 13 chipped in during the seven-game slide — Connor Dewar, who had 10 career goals entering the game, had a hat trick at Nashville.
And the Wild have never trailed, leading after the first period in consecutive games for the first time all season.
Matt Boldy snapped his nearly month-long goal drought, Frederick Gaudreau picked up his first goal and assist and Kirill Kaprizov had a throwback performance (goal and assist) against Nashville.
After a shaky start to his season, Filip Gustavsson is now sporting a .930 save percentage through his past five starts after a pair of one-goal games.
Building back up
"Every player has an identity and sometimes when players struggle, they lose the identity that makes them who they are," said Hynes, who has prioritized speed in his first week on the job.
"It's really focusing on not a lot of things, but there's usually two or three points that makes every player who they are, particularly at this level, and trying to get back to those, reinforce those, help them understand what those are.
"Gradually you can do it."
But this restoration project isn't just for the players. The whole team was off-kilter, and that's what also needs to be fixed.
"When we are playing to our identity, we're very good and we've proven that in the last couple years," Guerin said. "But it's not something that you can take your foot off the gas. You have to make sure you're on top of that every single day because that's what's going to allow us to all play the same way, together, as a team [and] better individually.
"So helping them with their individual identity and then coming together with our team identity is really important. We have to build that back up."