The end of the season - the actual end, not the figurative one - can't come soon enough. Like a grade schooler during the last month of the year, when the weather's turned warm and the birds are out, the Wild has checked out. And I mean checked. The hell. Out.
Wild fans are used to not making the playoffs. But I have never seen a Wild team absolutely quit like this one has. It's astounding. Time, and professionalism, it would appear, is indeed fleeting.
They started the St. Louis game on Saturday with some real spring (*ahem*) in their step. Mikko in particular was busting through the neutral zone and taking the blue line with purpose. Leading to the first goal, for the first time since before Japan was rubble. But then Backstrom started kicking out ridiculous rebounds, the Blues counter punched and the Wild deflated. Wheels off, assume the position, ass kicking begins.
By the end of the game, hell by the middle of the 2nd period, there was absolutely no push back from the Wild. It was pathetic. Embarrassing. Only a half-assed snow spray on the Blues goalie indicated that the Wild wasn't totally flatlined.
Look, everyone knows the playoffs is gone by now. And I'm not saying I think it would be easy to play out the string in a lost season. But this is something other than just letting the intensity of the playoff drive dissipate. This is a complete lack of professionalism. This is the coach being dead to the team. This is the team quitting on each other. And I hasten to repeat: this is the first time I've ever seen this from any Wild team.
Maybe the answer is in changing the coach. Fine. Whatever. There's still a significant lack of talent, and a glaring dearth of prospects with which to fill that hole (either by trade or development.) And, at this pace, the Wild isn't likely to even end up in position to get the #1 overall pick in the lottery.
So another year of a just-outside-the-money-picks draft for the Wild (although, hosting the event and likely needing to do something to make a splash to re-invigorate a fan base that is quickly dying on the vine, maybe they trade up at the draft), another year of sub-mediocre hockey and another summer of watching other teams go through the war of the playoffs.
But, where prior Wild teams could at least look themselves in the mirror at night and say they played hard to the bitter end, this one, sadly, can't.