SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Wild players know changes are coming after a season of bonding that ended too soon

The toughest pill to swallow for everyone involved, players and coaches alike, was that this exact group will never been the same

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (24) and St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) shake hands after Game 6 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, May 12, 2022, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Le/USA TODAY Sports
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — Usually extremely personable after wins and extremely accountable after losses, Wild alternate captain Marcus Foligno had trouble looking reporters in the eyes Thursday night in St. Louis. He powered through each of his answers, providing thoughtful responses despite the fact that he was still coming to grips with a once-promising season coming to a disappointing early end.

This group was not supposed to go out like this.

“It’s tough to put into words right now,” Foligno said after the Wild ended their season with a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. “Just how close this group was and how positive the regular season was. It’s just disappointing.”

After the best regular season in franchise history — a 53-22-7 record and 113 points — the Wild looked primed for a deep playoff run heading into their series with the Blues. Understandably, the early exit left a sour taste as this version of the Wild couldn’t escape the fate of so many Wild teams that came before it.

MORE MINNESOTA WILD COVERAGE:
Pro
In total, the Wild have roughly $8 million in cap space heading this offseason.
Pro
With captain Jared Spurgeon in charge, and alternate captains Marcus Foligno and Matt Dumba leading alongside him, the Wild felt different this season
Pro
He put together the best individual campaign in franchise history, setting single season records with 47 goals, 61 assists, and 108 points.
Pro
GM Bill Guerin did a terrific job assembling the 2021-22 Wild. Unfortunately, the bottom line was the same
Pro
After falling to the St. Louis Blues in the first round, the Wild have a lot of things to figure out this summer.
Pro
After finishing the regular season with 33 goals and 52 assists, Fiala did not score a goal in the playoffs.
Pro
It’s pretty clear Dumba wasn’t at 100% for the opening-round series against the St. Louis Blues.
Pro
It sounds like Fleury would be open to coming back to Minnesota and Talbot is already under contract for next season.
Pro
While general manager Bill Guerin truly believed the Wild could win the Stanley Cup, their season ended last week with a loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Pro
Now the 2021-22 Minnesota Wild will be remembered similarly to many of their predecessors: a regular-season team that flamed out far too early in the postseason.

The toughest pill to swallow for everyone involved, players and coaches alike, was that this exact group of players will never been the same. It’s the nature of the business in professional sports. So much changes season to season, and the Wild are no different.

ADVERTISEMENT

While star winger Kirill Kaprizov is under contract for the foreseeable future, along with captain Jared Spurgeon, shutdown center Joel Eriksson Ek, emerging rookie Matt Boldy, and a handful of other key contributors, there are a lot of question marks heading into this offseason.

No matter how many players general manager Bill Guerin decides to bring back, it won’t be the same roster when next season rolls around.

“It sucks,” coach Dean Evason said. “They actually love playing together. There’s no individuals. There’s no (complaining) on the bench. There’s no, ‘I should get this ice time; I should be on the power play.’ They play for each other, and that’s what’s so disappointing. It’s like, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The biggest reason this season felt different was because of how close Wild players were on and off the ice.

It’s something the leadership group tried to instill from the very beginning, with Spurgeon leading the way. Though he had some help from Foligno and fellow alternate captain Matt Dumba, it was Spurgeon who spearheaded the culture shift inside the locker room.

There was no hierarchy. If someone had something to say, regardless of their age or years in the NHL, the leadership group wanted them to feel comfortable speaking up. That wasn’t always the case in the past.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot looks on against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday, May 12, 2022, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Le / USA Today Sports

“You can’t say enough about the guys in our room and how special they are,” said goaltender Cam Talbot, who personified that selflessness throughout the playoffs, maintaining professionalism after being passed over in favor of fellow goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. “I think that’s what stings the most. This team has been building something special.”

As far as Foligno is concerned, that doesn’t have to stop. He called this season “a huge, huge stepping stone” in the grand scheme of things. Even if it might not feel like it in aftermath of another unsuccessful pursuit of the elusive Stanley Cup.

ADVERTISEMENT

“No matter what, we built something here,” Foligno said. “We have to grow in it. No one in this organization is thinking about taking a step back.”

That’s the focus heading into next season. While the roster might look different, the mindset isn’t going to change.

“The reality is we’ve got a great thing going here,” Foligno said. “We know it’s a special group. The leaders led all season and guys followed tremendously. Just needed to show up in playoffs. That’s a learning thing that we’ve got to take and make sure everyone is coming back pissed off.”

Except it won’t be everyone. Not from this group at least.

“I don’t really know what to say right now,” veteran winger Mats Zuccarello said. “I’m really proud of this group. We all competed with each other every game. It’s a great group. It’s kind of disappointing that it ended so quickly.”

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
What to read next
Pro
DALLAS — Stephen Curry poured in a team-high 31 points, Andrew Wiggins harassed Luka Doncic defensively while recording a double-double of his own, and the Golden State Warriors moved within one win of the NBA Finals with a 109-100 road win over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday night.
Pro
Blaney recorded his first career win in the race and became the event's 26th different winner.
Pro
It was the second major victory for Thomas who also won the 2017 PGA Championship.
Pro
The Twins rallied for five runs in the eighth inning and added another pair of runs in the ninth inning, turning that six-run deficit into one of their best wins of the season.