With the Stanley Cup Finals concluding, hockey fans in Minnesota must look focus the NHL Entry Draft, free agent signings, and other off-season activities as the Wild look, to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since winning the Northwest Division in 2007.
The Wild organization did not sit on their hands last year, improving their team by trading for Guillaume Latendresse and Cam Barker, and signing collegiate draftee Casey Wellman.
In addition, they also were able to get value for older players like Kim Johnsson and Eric Belanger who presumably were going to leave through free agency after the year concluded.
On the other hand, players like Brent Burns and James Sheppard — who were expected to have breakout years with Todd Richards new system — were disappointing.
Always aggressive and productive when on the ice, Burns only played 47 games because of injury.
A first round draft pick four years ago, Sheppard — who jumped from the juniors straight to the NHL — was often scratched towards the end of the year and only had six points in 64 games, down from 24 points in 82 games the previous year.
The Wild have reportedly had perfect attendance since entering the league in 2000, but came extremely close to losing that record last year when they came out out of the gates slowly, burying themselves too far beneath the Western Conference to ever secure a spot in the playoffs.
Another poor season and the team's popularity may plummet, especially with the recent success of the Twins and Vikings and the notion that the organization is not rewarding faithful hockey enthusiasts in Minnesota by putting a winning team on the ice.