Here we are again.
The Wild are in a free fall, the locker room is a mess and one week after beating the best team in the NHL (Tampa Bay) Minnesota has lost three in a row and is outside of the playoff picture by three points.
So let's ask this again: should we be rooting for the Wild to keep losing for a high draft pick or fight for their lives to make the postseason?
Why free falling ain't so bad
Do I really have to say why? Have you seen their play since Thanksgiving?
- 14-7-2 on Nov. 23
- 19-23-6 since Nov. 23
They can't win a game – or even score – on home ice, having been shutout four times in their last 11 home games.
Devan Dubnyk is once again playing poorly and the recent acquisitions of Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala have cooled off with no points in their last three games.
The Wild currently have a 8.2 percent chance to land a top-3 pick in the draft, according to Tankathon. Given their current spot in the standings, Minnesota would pick 11th in the draft if the playoffs started today.
Also, the NHL announced on Friday that they moved up the Draft Lottery to April 9, the night before the playoffs. So fans will know sooner where they're picking in the draft.
It's also worth noting that the Colorado Avalanche could wind up with two first-round picks, both of which will likely be in the top 10. Ottawa owns the worst record in the NHL but Colorado gets their pick from the Matt Duchene trade last year.
Oh, and Chicago is projected to have a top-10 pick, too.
So, said teams that already feature superstars like Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog (Avs) and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks) are going to have fresh new phenoms playing alongside them in the next few years.
The Central Division is only getting better and the Wild haven't picked inside the top 10 since 2012 when they took Matt Dumba.
If Minnesota doesn't land a stud with their first-round pick, they could be looking up in the standings for years to come.
Think of it this way: getting a top-3 pick is the best outcome short of winning a cup.
They need a superstar and if Kirill Kaprizov comes over in 2020-21, and they hit a home run with a draft pick to pair with him and the supplemental core of Fiala, Donato, Kunin and Greenway, things start to look very bright for the future.
Why fighting for a playoff spot is still OK
Because the Wild still have the 11th-best odds in the draft lottery, there's no guarantee they'll get inside the top 10.
Let's say the Wild do make the playoffs as the final wild-card team and wind up being slotted 16th in the draft order. You could make a strong case that the difference between the 16th pick and the 11th pick isn't that big of a gap.
And fans would probably be more inclined to see an exciting playoff series than picking just five spots higher. Even I can get (sort of) get down with that.
If the Wild were to make the postseason, their best chance at a first-round upset would be against the Calgary Flames, who are one point out of having the best record in the West.
Although they've been dominant and exciting this year, I don't trust their goaltending one bit and that's coming from a guy who's watching Dubnyk collapse on himself and his Uncle Rico backup in Alex Stalock.
- David Rittich: 24-7-5 2.69 GAA, .909 SV%
- Mike Smith: 19-13-2 2.90 GAA and .896 SV%
Plus, the Flames' core of Johhny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuck aren't exactly playoff tested, so the Wild might be able to make some noise if they draw the Flames in the first round.
But if its San Jose, Nashville or Winnipeg, those are veteran teams that have been there and done that in the playoffs, which offers little hope for the Wild to pull a first-round upset.
Toughest schedule in the West
If the Wild do make the playoffs, they will have earned it.
No team in the West has a tougher remaining schedule than the Wild. The only soft spot is the lowly New York Rangers and Colorado, whom Minnesota hosts this Saturday and following Tuesday, respectively.
After that, it doesn't let up.
- Golden Knights
All of those teams are in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Another way to look at it is that there's a good chance the league's best are about to beat up on the Wild, possibly boosting Minnesota's draft lottery odds.
With 11 games remaining in the regular season, time will tell what the Wild will do.