Wait...wait...wait...wait...wait...wait..wait..worse things have happened to better people. That's the mantra.
With the weather in Minnesota striving to reach zero and the number of clothing layers on the rise, the above lyrics ring true as one year comes to a close another begins anew. Somewhere, someone is in worse shape, or at least that is how things feel. It has to be true. It does. It may even be a lie, but it is the mindset.
But weather aside, things are not looking up for the Minnesota Wild.
The fast start to 2013 is long in the rear view mirror. Winning streaks have given way to winning a game, if that, and now losing streaks. Minnesota currently is on a franchise-high six-game losing streak despite finishing a stretch where the team was on the road for 7 of 8 games.
There have also been injuries. Wild coaches and fans are once again learning to live without Parise and have had stretches without Granlund, Stoner and now Harding. That is life in the NHL. A condensed schedule brings pressure. Although it hasn't been as bad as two seasons ago - Warren Peters is back in the system, though - the trainer's table is busy.
Still, the most frightening aspect of this six game losing streak, which has the "State of Hockey" up in arms and Mike Yeo's coaching seat hotter than an Arizona rooftop, is how far Minnesota has fallen.
There were signs. Prior to a stretch of 10 games where 9 were in playoff position, Jarick wrote about whether or not the Wild were padding its record by previously beating up on weak teams. The answer was yes. Good teams beat up on bad ones; that isn't a crime.
It would be also understandable if things fell off a little. Minnesota entered that series, one which it had the sixth-best record in the entire league, 15-6-4 and at 34 points. Today the team has 45 points and sits in 10th place out West. To make matters worse, the two teams above the Wild in the Central Division standings have three fewer games.
Despite the signs being there and what now seems to be an annual bad stretch of play in December, Minnesota has moved beyond a dip in play that motivates in an 82 game season. The offense has been almost non-existent besides Mikko Koivu and anyone playing with him. Lines have been juggled before and after injuries yet there hasn't been a solution. Already trending down in puck possession and shots, the Wild topped two goals in regulation twice in the last three weeks.
Those two games have also been losses.
To make matters worse, even the character wins have disappeared. Yeo's team made a habit in December . Getting one point here, two points there with solid play in the third period. That frustration would be nice now. Instead, the last two games saw Minnesota blow a 3-0 lead to the New York Islanders (including a 4-3 lead in the third period) and mustered a last-second goal to avoid being shut out by St. Louis.
"It’s our job to find explanations, but holy cow that’s a tough one to find an explanation for," Yeo told Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press after the Islanders game.
Both losses were at home, where Minnesota entered that stretch a league-best 14-3-2 inside the Xcel Energy Center.
Right now it has won
That's a problem. That's not even things evening out statistically. Despite our intentions, things have gotten out of hand. Like Yeo or not (and it looks like every game the pitchforks and torches crowd gains more fans), the Wild as a team is spiraling in a pattern and out of control. The wins against teams it was better than are not there. Neither are the wins at home, the solid efforts, the Josh Harding standing on his head games, the defense holding teams to 2 or fewer goals or even the ones where a good 20 minutes suffices.
Not even postgame discussions by the Wild have. The players-only meeting is way beyond this point. So is saying anything. Players, Yeo, media members and fans alike are speechless at how far things have fallen for a Minnesota team looking to build upon a playoff appearance last season. (In hindsight, the same thing also happened at the 40 game mark in last year's Lockout-shortened season.)
This is how tonight's game against the lowly Buffalo Sabres is being promoted by the league. Sadly that sounds right. To say there has been a lack of confidence would be an understatement.
Even the Wild's 4-3 comeback win over Chicago, one which Yeo said was the best performance of the year, seems like ages ago. It was only last month, but right now that team doesn't exist. Although not everyone is playing poorly (in fact, Scandella, the player who scored the winning goal in that Blackhawks has been playing his best hockey over the last month), line juggling and attempts to rekindle what was lost have not done the trick.
During that stretch of play last month, which also featured a win against San Jose and losses to Columbus and Phoenix, the biggest concern was consistency. Minnesota has found consistency alright and unfortunately for the head coach and players in the locker room, it isn't the consistency anyone wants. Like winter and P.O.S, it's getting harder to tell ourselves and get into that mindset.
When, as Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that tonight's game is pivotal for Mike Yeo's job with the Wild, things have gone awry. When a team has gone so far away from the quote below, things have gone awry.
“They’re sending a message to the rest of the team and it’s a full team effort,” Yeo said after the Blackhawks win about the top line of Parise, Koivu and Jason Pominville. “Nobody quits.”
For Yeo's sake, he better hope so. Worse things have happened to better people.