External threats are hard to assess when you're talking about a professional sports team. In the first place, every other team is theoretically an external threat. So, what's your metric (what are your metrics) for success, by which you would measure and assess threats? Is it winning a particular game? A winning record in a season? Making the playoffs? Winning the championship? You can't really control your opponent as a threat. You can try to neutralize the various components of that threat. But in hockey, which is more free form than, say, football, there isn't even an element of game planning and strategizing that can help your neutralization endeavors.
*Edmonton and Colorado. These teams are both younger and more skilled than the Wild. Insofar as they're in the same division (for now), they will continue to both develop as thorns in the Wild's side and exist as a reflection of the Wild's own youth/skill levels.
The Wild is a lower-echelon team in terms of competitiveness, which is similar to Colorado and Edmonton at the moment. But the Wild is lower than Colorado and Edmonton in terms of youthful skill, which puts the Wild behind the 8-ball. The Wild can ill-afford for their fans to see teams like Edmonton - against which the Wild usually cleans up - start to pass the Wild in the standings, with no infusion of top-end talent to offset it.
*Core that is just getting into their salad years contracts. Mikko got his last year. Burns is due to get his now. Backstrom has two years left and will be well into his 30s when this one expires. Schultz has three left and is too expensive as it is. Bouchard has two left and is also too expensive. Cal two left.
Simply, the Wild isn't talented enough right now to make a meaningful run. So, in the few years it takes to properly increase the talent level such that a meaningful run is possible, you risk your "core" moving from "approaching peak" to "peaked." And getting more expensive along the way, assuming flat to improving production.
The Wild will have to be as cap conscious as Mike Russo is reporting they want to become if they're going to make the economics work out.
*The expectations of ownership/fans is the final threat. If "win now, or at least very, very soon" carries the day then Fletcher's between the rock and the hard place. And the team, in turn, is condemned to a long game of Russian roulette with the vagaries of the "trade assets and sign UFAs" mentality.
The last few years have taught Wild fans that this does not work. The teams that succeed in the NHL take time to draft and develop long term, even at the expense of short term success.
Fans should be mindful of this as this summer and then the 2011-2012 season progress.