If you want to measure progress in small but steady steps, the Minnesota Wild are on the right track.
Two summers ago, this largely faceless franchise made a big splash when it signed superstars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter through free agency.
Last year, the Wild made the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference but were summarily eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in five games.
There was significant progress this year. The Wild made the playoffs again and eliminated the favored Colorado Avalanche with a Game 7 road victory. The final game was a remarkable one, as the Wild came back from 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to push the game into overtime, where they won on Nino Niederreiter's ringing shot off the post.
That victory enabled the Wild to meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. The Wild would lose in six games, but they pushed the Blackhawks hard and might have been able to reverse the results with a little more finishing ability around the net.
While the final result of the series was somewhat painful, the Wild had their second consecutive playoff season and are making progress.
In this piece, we give them a report card for their performance in the 2013-14 season.