This year going to be different.
It wasn’t going to be the same Minnesota Wild team that had flamed out in the first round of the postseason, again.
Wild general manager Bill Guerin believed so. He expressed that thought to The Athletic’s Michael Russo near the end of the regular season.
“I think this year’s team would’ve beat last year’s team,” Guerin told Russo . “We are more detailed. We are harder to play against. We’re more disciplined. I think the team’s grown like that a lot. I do. I think this year’s team is better.”
But to prove it?
“Look, everybody has to elevate their play,” Guerin told Russo. “It can’t just be Kirill. It can’t just be Bolds. It’s got to be everybody. Everything has to be elevated, from Kaprizov’s game to (Ryan) Hartman’s game to (Matt) Dumba’s game. Your intensity, your focus, your discipline, your sacrifice. Everything’s got to elevate.”
In the end that didn’t happen. Not close.
Instead, for the second straight year. the Wild lost three straight games after they held a 2-1 series lead. The Wild scored a goal in the final two games combined, which came with about 5 1/2 minutes left in an ugly, ugly Game 6 loss at the Xcel Energy Center.
“Sick to my stomach about it,” Wild forward Ryan Hartman said during a Game 6 postgame media availability session.
We are too, Ryan. We are too.
“The city deserves better than what we gave them,” Hartman said. “The fans have been showing up for us all year and we failed them. It feels like s***.”
Marcus Foligno echoed those sentiments.
“It’s tough. It’s a brutal feeling,” Foligno said. “Grind all the way to get to the playoffs and we can’t get out of the first round again. Broken record … but we go into the summer and get better.”
And that’s it. The Wild will be back — likely not with all of the familiar faces from this year and maybe with a change or two in the coaching staff as well. And it comes with the Wild still feeling the salary cap strain of the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
The fans will be back, too. Sure, people will be angry for the next few weeks as the Stanley Cup playoffs roll on. But those thoughts will fade and be replaced by thoughts of a new season with discussions over the future of players like Marco Rossi or Jesper Wallstedt or whoever.
And if the Wild return to the playoffs, those same people will jump on board for another postseason run.
Eventually the Wild have to figure it out. Right?
The one-and-done story has been told enough already.