The Wild have been in a downward spiral for quite some time now, and with Charlie Coyle being traded to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, this hockey guy thinks it's time for the Wild to lose as often as possible.
Tanking by default, not by choice, is what's best for the Wild even though they still have a 36.35 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Money Puck.
For tanking fans, the good news is that Western Conference bottom feeders have finally caught the Wild and knocked them out of the playoff picture, putting the sinking Wild (one win in the last 10 games) at the edge of a cliff that leads to a possible landing spot in the NHL Draft lottery.
Best of the worst
Entering play Feb. 21, there are five teams within two points of the final playoff spot.
- WC1: Dallas, 63 points
- WC2: Colorado, 61 points
- 9th: Chicago, 61 points
- 10th: Minnesota, 60 points
- 11th Arizona, 59 points
- 12th: Vancouver, 59 points
Think about that: one more regulation loss by the Wild and they could very well be in 12th in the Western Conference.
That's ugly, like NBA Eastern Conference ugly where teams under .500 routinely reach the playoffs.
But back to hockey. What's even scarier is that the Los Angeles Kings, owners of the worst record in the league and occupying the basement of the conference, are only eight points back of the Wild.
- Wild: 27-27-6, 60 points
- Kings: 23-30-6, 52 points
Four games. That's what separates a Wild team, that just 24 hours ago was in the playoff picture, and the team with the second-worst record in the entire NHL. Bottom line: the lottery is within reach.
But they're in the playoffs!
It's Wild Card or bust at this point for the Wild.
The Wild's odds of finishing third in the division – so above the Wild Card – are in the single digits. They have better odds to win the draft lottery than they do of even winning, or even finishing second, in the Central Division.
- Winning Division: 0.2%
- Second in Division: 1.3%
- Third in Division: 4.7%
- Winning the Draft Lottery: 2.9%
The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators are the class of this division and then there's everybody else.
Now hockey diehards know that anything can happen in the playoffs and the Wild have been on both sides of that argument as the underdogs and the favorites, but this Wild team hasn't offered any evidence that they're capable of pulling an upset against top teams.
Devan Dubnyk is a mess, his numbers are in the toilet and is the worst goalie in the league by some metrics.
Their offense is sputtering; they haven't scored a goal in 156 minutes of play.
Even their penalty kill, which is something they historically have always relied on as an area of strength, is killing off just 66 percent (7/21) of opponent power plays over the past five games.
White flag coming
Perhaps the biggest reason the Wild won't make the postseason is that general manager Paul Fenton has been given the green light from ownership to make trades.
"I'm guaranteeing you I'm making phone calls, receiving phone calls, entertaining phone calls," Fenton said to NHL.com on Wednesday. "That's just the seat that I'm sitting in right now."
Less than 24 hours after making that comment, Fenton dealt Coyle to the Boston Bruins.
Eric Staal,Jason Zucker and/or a number of other players could be next, meaning the Wild are inching closer to rostering AHL regulars in the everyday lineup.
That would make it even easier for the Wild to tank.
The Wild need the lottery
The Winnipeg Jets are where they are today because of landing players in the lottery like Patrick Laine and Mark Scheifele.
Same goes for the Calgary Flames who have selected Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuck in the lottery. Each are in first place and each look to stay there for years to come.
Minnesota hasn't picked in the NHL Draft lottery since 2012, when they selected defenseman Matt Dumba at No. 8 overall. And that worked out pretty well for them.
With the Wild having traded a ton of first-round picks this decade, coupled with the fact they've been in the postseason six consecutive seasons, they haven't had the luxury of landing a top prospect in the lottery.
How the lottery works
It's a bit more complicated than the NBA Draft lottery but the NHL Draft lottery gives three teams with the worst records the best chance to win the top pick.
- Worst team: 18.5%
- Second worst: 13.5
- Third worst: 11.5%
There are two separate drawings: One for picks 1, 2 and 3 and then the remaining 12 teams who didn't win the lottery are assigned Picks 4-15, in inverse order of regular season points.
There are instances where single-digit winners have grabbed a top-three pick.
It happened just last year for the Carolina Hurricanes, who landed the second overall pick despite entering the lottery with just a 3 percent chance of having a top-three pick.
Regardless, because picks 4-15 are seeded by inverse order of points, the Wild should position themselves to have as few points as possible to solidify the highest pick possible.
You never know, if the Wild end up with a stud top pick, things could actually be turned around in a hurry in the State of Hockey.