Their numbers are a little different, but both tell essentially the same unsurprising story: the Wild has A LOT of ground to make up and is a long shot to even reach the postseason one year after giving fans hope that deep postseason runs could be a trend going forward.
Sports Club Stats has the Wild at a 6.4 percent chance of making the postseason. Hockey Reference is a little more optimistic, but not much, giving the Wild a 9.3 percent chance — a little worse than 1 in 10 for those who don’t like percentages — of making the playoffs.
Hockey Reference has a best-case scenario of the Wild reaching 100 points. That would be crazily optimistic, but if we look at other projections the final Wild Card in the West can be expected to have somewhere between 93 and 95 points.
Minnesota is 20-20-6 and has 46 points in 46 games at the All Star break. So let’s say they’re going to need another 48 points in their final 36 games to reach that Wild Card projection territory. That’s a 1.33 points-per-game pace, on par with a 109-point season over a full 82.
That’s the type of total elite teams put up. So in essence, the Wild needs not just to be good in the second half. Assuming the projections are in the neighborhood of being correct, the Wild needs to play (and earn points) like one of the 3-5 best teams in the NHL over the final 36 games.
Can it be done? Sure. We only need to look at last year’s history as a guide. Minnesota was 24-17-5 for 53 points after 46 games (that was earlier in the year last year because the NHL had a long break in February for the Olympics). In Minnesota’s final 36 games, the Wild went 19-10-7, earning 45 points and qualifying for the playoffs before upsetting Colorado in the first round.
If Minnesota can be just a little better than that — say, 20-8-8 — the playoffs are a possibility. Getting there, of course, will require much better all-around play than we saw from the Wild pre-break. If there is any silver lining, it’s that everything that could possibly go wrong seemingly did in the first 46 games. But it could also be the case that this Wild team is less than the sum of its parts and that its on-ice deficiencies — goaltending, effort, lack of pure scorers, whatever the case might be on a given night –will continue to drag the team down into a disappointing, playoff-free finish.
The projections say the latter is the way the season almost certainly will play out. We’ll start to find out for sure tonight in Edmonton, the first of 36 games in which there is very little margin for error.