"I’m not paid to get in the playoffs. I want to win a championship here. Getting in the playoffs, we could have done that last year. We could have traded our young players and gotten in last year with a couple of 30-year-olds. We could have gotten in the year before, too, I believe, if we traded all the kids. If you look at what’s happened here, it’s not just that we’re in a playoff position today. We’ve been in a playoff position almost all year … this is no fluke … Would I improve the group if I could, even if it meant taking someone out of the group? Absolutely. I’m not interested in making the playoffs and getting our asses kicked in the first round. I’ve done that. It’s not much fun. I’m interested in getting in with a realistic, reasonable chance to win or bloody somebody’s nose doing it and use that round or two rounds — or whatever we can do — as a building block for a championship team.”
This was Toronto GM Brian Burke, on a recent radio interview with a Toronto-area sports radio station. It was also a point he made last year around this time, and simply reiterated it.
It's not an admission of defeat- that this team isn't good enough, but that there is more value in getting into the playoffs with a legitimate chance to win The Stanley Cup, even if it means the cost of just getting into the postseason means pulling the plug on this season's chances of playing hockey in late April. Just getting in only to be summarily dismissed might be worse than missing the cut outright.
Which brings us to our Minnesota Wild.
We know that we've been postseason spectators for three straight years. We know that at one point we were atop the league, that we were in playoff position until this week, and we know that we've won five times out of the last 20 games. Not only has this team dropped like a lead zeppelin, but everyone else has elevated their games- not just the teams that passed us by on this rather spectacular descent, but the teams below us in the standings (aside from Edmonton) have started to roll too.
In fact, we are on pace to set a rather dubious standard; to be the first team in playoff position in mid-December to miss the playoffs. Not quite an accomplishment worth raising a banner into the rafters for. Really, it would be the only sentence needed to describe what has become a gross reversal of fortune.
Last night marked the second time in a week that we lost to Columbus, arguably the worst team in the league. A Todd Richards-coached team while we're at it; an indictment if there is ever one. We're at the point where air-it-out locker room meetings are the norm, there's a new cliche every other day ("gotta score greasy goals" is the clubhouse leader), and to top it off, the public declaration of "we stink" by the Head Coach tells you everything you need to know.
Its time to park the taco truck, open the doors, and tell the league we're open for business, make us some offers.
The reality is that we weren't supposed to make the playoffs this year; not with a young defense, not with the additions of an less than mobile former 50 goal scorer and an occasionally brilliant winger, not with a lack of offensive depth, not with a rookie Head Coach. The future wasn't now; not with the Granlunds, Coyles, Phillips, Zuckers, etc. still property but unsigned. The recently implemented "vision for the franchise" is merely a promise of better days ahead.
This gives us a chance to do something we haven't been able to do for the last three years; to be all-out sellers. A defined position, one of the few peddlers in the league, the pusherman for all the contenders and pretenders at this point in time.
Have you seen the prices for rentals? How about a lottery pick higher than 9 or 10 or 12? Think Jacob Trouba wouldn't look marvelous slipping on a Wild Sweater on Draft Day?
As a fan, as a blogger, as a paying season ticket holder, it pains me to say pull the plug; but it's worth it if it gives us direction with purpose- that losing but selling is better than where we are at. I'm not advocating tanking ("fail for Nail", "Shart for Reinhart", "Stink for Grink", et al) but more that we call a spade a spade.