Aggravation. Exasperation. Disgust. Pain. Loathing. Hatred. And that's just from your fan base.
Yes, the end of the season for the Minnesota Wild is, indeed, finally upon us. 79 games played, hundreds of hours of time expended by 18,568 fans in arena (and hundreds of thousands more on TV and Radio) watching the Wild exercise an enormous amount of effort, only to have their season end in utter, bitter, epic failure as their 'playoff push' looks more like a full-scale retreat.
To that end, let's look at six games that really could made a difference. Six games that the Wild should have easily won, where they actually had a lead or were close, that they should have extracted points from, except for their own bumbling mistakes, stumbling errors, and lack of timely effort and flat-out poor execution:
November 26, 2009 at Xcel Energy Center: Dallas 4, Wild 3. The Wild somehow manage to turn a 3-1 lead with 3 minutes left in the second period into an epic defeat, as Loui Eriksson does his best Modano imitation with a goal and an assist, as the Wild defense falls apart in the third period. James Neal scores twice for the Stars, who are helped along by an overturned goal call early in the 3rd period after Marty Turco pulled the puck out of the net after it crossed the goal line.
December 17, 2009 at Xcel Energy Center: Calgary 3, Wild 2 (OT). After Marian Gaborik scored to tie it at 2-all with just under 5 minutes left in regulation, Wild fan anti-favorite Todd Bertuzzi takes a one-handed pass from Daymond Langkow after Marek Zidlicky mis-plays the puck carrier. Bertuzzi backhands the game winner past Niklas Backstrom, over his shoulder and under the crossbar 3:48 into the extra session. Zidlicky is a -2 on the evening.
March 15, 2009 at Scottrade Center, St. Louis: St. Louis 5, Wild 3. After giving up the first three goals of the game (two of them in a 91-second span in the second period), the Wild try to make it close, and they do, thanks to Andrew Brunette's goal and assist leading the way. Three Blues' power-play goals make an already fat and happy crowd (it was the Blues' third annual 'Free Food Game') nearly delirious, as 19,150 watch as five straight Wild penalties (two goals directly resulted from Zidlicky penalties) lead the charge for the Blues as they take the season series from the Wild, a result which would have devastating consequences down the remainder of the stretch.
April 5, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena, Detroit: Detroit 3, Wild 2. After giving up the first two goals of the game (again) Cal Clutterbuck and Gaborik tie it at 2-all. After an up-and-down third period, Zidlicky takes a mental vacation with one minute remaing in regulation, allowing Tomas Holmstrom to break free and execute a perfect pass to Marian Hossa, and the former Wild-to-be buries it, and the Wild's dwindling playoff hopes, with 54.3 seconds left in regulation time, as the Wings snap a 3-game home losing streak. JL, rightly so, throws Zidlicky under the bus (again) following the game.
February 19, 2009 at Xcel Energy Center: Calgary 3, Wild 2 (OT). An Adrian Aucoin shot deflects off Brent Burns and past Backstrom with 1:10 left in overtime, completing a comeback where the Wild let a 2-1 lead slip away. Bertuzzi again roasts the Wild fans by setting up Aucoin with a perfect headman pass. Burns winds up a -2 for the evening.
and now, the worst of the worst:
February 14, 2009 at Xcel Energy Center: Ottawa 5, Wild 3. After opening up a 3-0 lead on the hapless Senators, the Sens come back and execute what will be known hereafter as the 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre' on the Wild, as the dumbfounded Wild watch the Sens score 5 straight unanswered goals -- including two shorthanded goals, tying a Wild team record -- as 8 different Senators players earn points, led by Daniel Alfredsson's goal and two assists. The Sens' comeback wipes out an astounding first period for Owen Nolan, as the 'Irish God of War' had two goals and an assist, all in the first 13:13 of the game; Nolan is on the ice for 3 of the 5 Ottawa goals, and his plus-minus for the night winds up as even.
Ten points in the standings which the Wild had in their grasp, and let slip away. How much does this hurt? Where would this team be if they actually WON these six games outright? And how much does the Wild team management really care? These questions need to be answered, for the long-term health of this franchise. For as most of you know, the most satisfying promotion in any team sport is winning.
It's also the hardest promotion to carry out.