The Wild don't usually know when their season will end.

History suggests an expiration date in the first round of the playoffs since the franchise hasn't won a series since 2015.

This year is different.

The Wild's regular-season finale Thursday vs. Seattle at Xcel Energy Center is their finish line because for just the second time in 12 years, the Wild didn't advance to the playoffs.

They officially received this fate Tuesday, a dizzying hat trick by Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon the final blow, but the evidence had been mounting for months: The Wild's underperformance — individually and in crunch time — combusted with a shaky start and costly injuries to send them into a spiral they might have been destined for all along.

"It's not a good feeling not making the playoffs," veteran forward Mats Zuccarello said, "and when you don't do that, every single [one of us] haven't done a good enough job. It's as easy as that."

Early troubles

Despite a midseason detour to the outskirts of contention, the Wild's season was a circle because they finished where they started.

They had a spotty offense, leaky defense and dire penalty kill; after giving up a franchise-record five power-play goals in an 8-3 drubbing by Dallas on Nov. 12, the Wild's 63.5% PK ranked below the worst clip (68.2%) on record.

A trip to Sweden for a pair of games didn't ease their woes.

Instead, they nose-dived deeper into a rut that festered into a coaching change.

Dean Evason was fired, along with assistant Bob Woods, and the Wild snapped a season-worst seven-game skid in new bench boss John Hynes' Nov. 28 debut.

Still, they were second to last in the Central Division.

Now, they're third from the bottom.

"Guys kept playing, trying their best," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "But still, at the end of the day, very disappointing falling back so far."

On the mend

Although the Wild won more than they lost after Hynes took over, injuries to key players capped their potential.

Just briefly, during the end of Evason's tenure and the beginning of Hynes', did the Wild have everyone healthy. Otherwise, someone was always missing, from leaders Jared Spurgeon, Marcus Foligno and Jonas Brodin to scorers Kirill Kaprizov and Zuccarello, to goaltender Filip Gustavsson.

"Just a little bit here, a little bit here," Kaprizov said.

Spurgeon has been sidelined since January, undergoing surgery on his hip and back; the captain is expected to be ready for training camp. Foligno is recovering from season-ending core muscle surgery earlier this month.

But as much as these absences stung, they were window dressing to the Wild's fundamental flaws.

"It's not as easy as that," Wild President of Hockey Operations/General Manager Bill Guerin said. "It's not, 'Oh, the Wild get healthy. They're in the playoffs.' That's not the case."

Declines and deficits

As similar as the team looked to last season's that vied for a division title, it wasn't nearly as competitive.

The Wild's goaltending was inconsistent, with Gustavsson and Fleury combining for a sub-.900 save percentage after Gustavsson had the NHL's second-best save percentage and goals-against average in 2022-23.

Kaprizov improved his production, Joel Eriksson Ek became a first-time 30-goal scorer and rookies Brock Faber and Marco Rossi established significant roles; Faber turned into the Wild's go-to defenseman while logging among the most minutes in the NHL, and Rossi exceeded 20 goals.

But the Wild didn't have enough depth up front and in their own end to extend the efforts of their best players. Their third and fourth lines routinely produced very little offense.

This deficiency was magnified in the games that mattered the most.

The Wild finished 9-14-3 against the Central Division, including an abysmal 0-10-1 against Dallas, Colorado and Winnipeg.

"When you look at the top teams in the Central," Hynes said, "they're big teams. They're fast teams. They're deep teams. They play a heavy game, and I think at times that's given us trouble."

Based on average height and weight, the Wild have one of the smallest rosters in the league.

Not only was Foligno in and out of action before having surgery, but the Wild traded away their other gritty players when they moved Brandon Duhaime, Connor Dewar and Pat Maroon before the trade deadline.

Those deals indicated the team was preparing for the future instead of bracing for a playoff run, but the Wild hung around the Western Conference race.

They won five out of six games coming out of the All-Star break and had an eight-game point streak that lifted them within three points of a wild-card berth.

But whenever they needed a statement victory to legitimize themselves as a contender, they stumbled.

"We were working really hard," Zuccarello said, "and I think in some games have been lacking a little skill or that bounce to get a goal and get us up and winning 3-2 instead of losing 3-2."

Looking ahead

None of these are new problems, but their impact was exacerbated by the Wild being financially strapped.

Almost $15 million of their budget went to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts instead of their lineup, and that charge is staying on the Wild's books for another season.

Most of the team is under contract, with Zuccarello, Foligno and Ryan Hartman securing preseason extensions, but how the Wild evolve will help decide whether skipping the playoffs is temporary or a trend.

"There's a bunch of things we're going to look at," Guerin said. "We're not just going to sit on our hands. We want to get better."