32 teams in 32 days: Minnesota Wild
The challenge of winning on a tight budget
The past two years have been a dramatic shift for the Minnesota Wild.
For the first two decades of their existence they were the very definition of mediocrity.
Never truly terrible. Never truly great. Never really exciting. They have had very few true star players, mostly played a dull style of hockey, and even in years where the team was good, they were always buried in a division or facing an early playoff matchup against one of the small handful of teams that was actually better than them. That almost always resulted in an early playoff exit.
Add all of that together and you have team that has played 21 years in the NHL and only three times played beyond the First Round, and only once in the Conference Finals. And even that was 19 years ago and the result of what turned out to be a completely fluke run.
They just sort of existed. If you had season tickets for your local team and the Wild were coming to town, that was probably the game you were trying to dump.
But over the past two years the Wild have completely flipped the narrative about their team. At least somewhat.
The Wild are now a fun team to watch with a couple of star players, including a bonafide superstar in Kirill Kaprizov. The result has been a team that, over those two years, has the fifth best record in the league, the fourth best offense in the league, and one of the league’s top-10 scorers (Kaprizov).
The playoff results still have not been there (back-to-back First-Round exits) but the team has taken a massive leap forward in terms of overall quality and watchability.
But now they are facing a new problem that could hold them back.
Trying to win on what will be, in a weird way, one of the league’s smallest budgets. At least as it relates to their salary cap flexibility.
The thing about this budget is that it is not the result of an owner tightening the purse strings, a full-scale rebuild, or anything else that typically results in a smaller payroll.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Adam's Sports Stuff to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.