At season’s midpoint, playoffs remain a longshot for Wild

The Wild will reach the official midpoint of their season on Friday pretty well buried in the Western Conference standings. Not irretrievably, but it’s going to take a mighty effort — and help from a lot of other teams — to extricate themselves from the hole they have dug for themselves.

The Wild have played some good hockey over the past six weeks, winning 10 of 13 after John Hynes replaced Dean Evason as head coach on Nov. 28, and beating top teams such as Boston (twice) and Vancouver.

Currently 13th in the 16-team West, Minnesota remains one of several teams still in the race for one of the conference’s eight playoff spots, officially five points behind No. 8 Edmonton on Thursday morning. But it’s not quite that simple.

There are five teams ahead of Minnesota for that spot, including the Oilers.

So, while there is still a lot of hockey to be played, it’s naive to think Minnesota doesn’t have to start winning — now, and a lot.

After Friday’s 7 p.m. puck drop against the Philadelphia Flyers at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild (17-19-4) will have played 41 of 82 regular-season games, and win or lose, they will arrive at the midpoint under .500. Since they started NHL play in the 2000-01 season, the Wild have never made the postseason after hitting the midpoint with a losing record.

With the midpoint here, a web site called updated its postseason odds on Thursday. The Wild came in with a 9.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.

The Wild insist their game is in better shape than it was before Hynes became coach, when they essentially ended a successful run by Evason by losing seven straight (0-5-2) from Nov. 9-26. The fact remains that the Wild have lost 6 of 7 after a 7-2 loss Thursday at Dallas that was nearly as ugly as their earlier meeting, an 8-3 loss to the Stars on Nov. 12.

Afterward, reporters at American Airlines Center asked veteran defenseman Jake Middleton where he thinks the Wild’s game is.

“Just fine,” he said. “Just fine, nothing to brag about, nothing to be completely upset about. We’ve seen us play extremely poorly this year, but we’re definitely not playing as well as we should be, which I’m sure you guys are seeing, as well.”

Injuries have been constant this season, starting with a preseason injury to team captain Jared Spurgeon that kept him out of the season’s first 14 games. Since then, players such as Jonas Brodin, Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, Mats Zuccarello, Filip Gustavsson and Freddy Gaudreau all have missed at least seven games.

Brodin hasn’t played since Dec. 8 because of an arm injury. Spurgeon is back on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, and Kaprizov and Gustavsson have been out since being knocked out of a 4-2 loss at Winnipeg on Dec. 30. In addition, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman each have missed a handful of games to injury, and Foligno and Marcus Johansson played Thursday despite feeling ill all day.

That all goes a long way to explaining some of the recent Wild’s losses, but not all of them. Minnesota’s hottest streak this season came with Brodin, Spurgeon, Zuccarello and Hartman out of the lineup at various times.

With rookie goaltender Jesper Wallstedt making his NHL debut, the Wild played one of their worst games of the season on Thursday as the Stars completed a season sweep (3-0) of their Central Division rival, racing to a 3-0 lead, then tacking on three third-period goals. With the loss, the Wild fell to 3-9 this season against the eight teams that were holding playoff spots after Wednesday’s games.

Not a recipe for success.

Conversely, if this continues, the Wild will pick no lower than seventh in the 2024 entry draft, their highest slot since they picked Matt Dumba in 2012, and according to, currently have a 6.5 percent chance of winning the lottery for a chance to draft Macklin Celebrini.

It might be too early for Wild fans to start the debate that Vikings fans were having as Minnesota’s NFL team finished its season with an increasingly slim chance to make the postseason, but maybe not. Even if the Wild are within striking distance at the March 8 trade deadline, their salary cap situation leaves them with virtually no room to add any rental players who could help seal the deal.

“We know we’ve got it in here, it’s just crappy that it’s going this way right now,” Middleton told reporters Thursday in Dallas. “We’ve got to get ourselves out of it.”

Midpoint blues

The Wild have never made the postseason after being under .500 at the season’s midpoint. Here’s a look at the Wild’s playoff years, where they were at the midpoint and how far they advanced in the playoffs:

Season Midpoint Playoffs

2023-24 17-19-4 ?

2022-23 23-14-4 Round 1

2021-22 28-10-3 Round 1

2020-21 25-13-2 Round 1

2019-20-x 16-14-5 Qualifying

2017-18 22-16-3 Round 1

2016-17 27-9-5 Round 1

2015-16 22-11-8 Round 1

2014-15 18-18-5 Round 2

2013-14 21-11-8 Round 2

2012-13-y 11-9-2 Round 1

2007-08 23-16-2 Round 1

2006-07 21-18-2 Round 1

2002-03 21-12-7 Conference Final

x-COVID season; y-Lockout

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