Maybe its an encouraging sign that fans and players alike are frustrated and approaching the panic threshold- with a 2-1 shootout loss to Florida last night, Minnesota now has a record of 3-3-3. I don't know if that is completely necessary or warranted- the immediate knee jerk feelings of doom and gloom, which seems like NFL-style analysis has boiled over into longer sample sized sports leagues- but there is a stark contrast between the two camps of Wild fans these days.
There are those who point to things like how Minnesota is playing, and those who simply point to the end result. Both are right- the respective arguments do have merit. You can point to games against LA or Toronto, and see both sides of the coin. So where do we go from here?
If we take a look at Minnesota's stats page on Extra Skater, you see that Minnesota is doing some good things. They basically dominate shot differential at the various stages of 5-on-5 (plain, tied, and close)- this is huge, because it means they are winning the puck possession game, and winning the puck possession game means in the long run you have a better chance of winning more games than not. The Wild just pile up the shot attempts (which has historically NEVER HAPPENED EVER) and conversely limit the least, which when things aren't going to plan, makes for games like the Maple Leafs debacle.
The team shooting % (4.3) and the on-ice Save% (94.7) against suggest that Minnesota is somewhat unlucky; they are near the bottom of the league shooting wise, and near the top for SV% against. Over the course of the season, things will even out; Minnesota is going to score more goals as long as they continue to dominate shot differential.
Which brings us to this- The Wild are losing games they should win because they are struggling to score goals. Currently -3 in goal differential, they are 5th in their division. Aside from LA, they have yet to prove they can dominate even strength play against the big knockers; not just in their division, but in their conference too. The home record is fine and dandy, but they just finished an abysmal road trip. Its been proven that it becomes increasingly harder to make up ground and climb the standings the later the season goes. Goals win games, and Minnesota simply cannot score (right now)- lines are being juggled, and there is such a cloud filling the team, as everyone's begun to squeeze their sticks. The issue of the inability to score has become so frontal that it hides that fact that not only that they are taking lazy stick-based infractions at an alarming rate, but then they cannot kill the penalty off. It's almost a vicious circle; they can't score, and they keep giving their opponents chances to tie and/or take the lead, which exacerbates the problem.
So how do we look at Minnesota after 9 games? Well, it's only 9 games; just a snapshot of the season. Underlying numbers suggest that if Minnesota keeps doing what they are doing (which has to be an important message from the coaching staff, because I think there is a tendency to pass up shots to try and make fancier plays when there is a prolonged goal scoring drought) however if there is an uptick in goal scoring, one must assume that the team goaltending will drop off a little. That said, it is about winning games, and now there are just 73 left; we have all seen the weeping and teeth gnashing that comes from being just a point or two or a win or two out from a playoff spot, whether it was The Wild, The Twins, Wolves, Vikings, whoever.
It isn't just Minnesota in this boat alone; teams like Colorado and San Jose are playing way way over their head, so this isn't just a static situation. Teams will fall off and/or plateau, and conversely some will get on the right side of luck.