With fans strapped in to the cars, the ride attendants having checked to ensure no one falls out, the Wild ride continues. Will they be a playoff team or won't they? Will they trade players at the deadline, or will they hold on to what they have to make a push? Can they find a little consistency and win more than lose to get into a solid playoff spot?
As is the case with this team, there are more questions than answers. Everything hinges on if the team is good enough to make the playoffs. If they are, the trades become more difficult to make, since you do not want to dismantle a playoff team. If they are not good enough, then the unrestricted free agents can be shipped out for some picks.
I count myself lucky to not be Chuck Fletcher right now.
Making things more troublesome for the Wild boss is where the Wild sit in the standings. If they were 30 points out of the playoffs, this would be easy. Although, if that were the case, Fletcher and coach Todd Richards would likely be in a great deal of hot water. So maybe this is the better of the alternatives.
Where do the Wild find themselves this week? Let's take a look.
The Vancouver Canucks own the division. Which is OK, since the Wild own the Canucks. The only team in the division to have beaten the Nucks this year? The Wild. Twice, by blowout margins both times. With an 11-2-0 record vs the division, the Canucks are in runaway mode. However, it is nice to see the Wild keeping them honest. The likelihood of the Wild making up the 15 point gap to win the Northwest is small.
Right now, say the Wild made the playoffs in the eight spot. With the Canucks as the top seed, the teams would face each other in the first round. Not only would that be a great deal of fun, it would also give the Wild the best shot of making it past the first round. All of the hate built up in the Northwest could come out in a best of seven series. The possible storylines are just too good.
The possibility of the playoffs is still very real at this point. Just three points behind rival Colorado for the eighth position, the Wild have shown they can make up points, and fast. They have also shown a willingness to give them right back as well. If they want to grab a playoff spot and hold onto it, they are going to need to get off the roller coaster and keep the points they have already earned.
The playoffs are something every team reaches for. The Wild are in position to make it happen, if they decide they want it bad enough. If the Wild that played the Canucks shows up night in and night out, they should have no problem. On the flip side, if the team that showed up against Nashville is the team, the playoffs are a pipe dream.
Not much the GM can do about it at this point. The guys in the room are in the driver's seat.
To cap off our weekly standings spelunking, we look at the league as a whole to determine the current draft position the Wild would have. Being on the playoff bubble generally results in a mid-round pick, and that is exactly where the Wild sit right now. Sitting in the 19th spot in the league, that would give the Wild the 12th overall pick. Picking outside the top ten makes the job a bit more difficult when looking for someone to help the team.
The 12th overall pick is a long term help, and the Wild need help now. Some fans want the playoffs, others want a high pick. The owner wants to win, the GM needs to plan long term, and the players want to win now. How it plays out could be even more interesting than the playoff run.
For now, the Wild are still in it, and their fate is in their own hands. Win or go home. Every cliche about winning applies here. Pick one and run with it.