Facing the beat up Pittsburgh Penguins at home on NBC, the Wild were handed an opportunity to curtail the pain of their putrid start by defeating a perennial contender on national television.
But they flopped, losing the game 4-2.
The Penguins played the game without cornerstone players Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik and still the Wild gave up four goals while only mustering two of their own.
Losing to the Pens without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is like losing to Tampa without Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis or the Capitals without Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green.
And still, the Wild left the rink without a point in the standings.
Newcomers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, who were supposed to provide offense to the anemic Wild, have not clicked with set-up man Mikko Koivu. The three have combined for three goals and broken up during the contest.
Setoguchi joined Matt Cullen and Guillaume Latendresse on the second line midway through the game. Cullen, 34, is aging, but has spent his career supplementing talents like Teemu Selanne in Anaheim and Eric Staal in Carolina. Latendresse was projected to be an elite scorer when he was drafted by Montreal in 2005.
It shouldn’t be far-fetched that Setoguchi, a first-round pick who had a 30-goal season with San Jose in 2008-09, and Latendresse, who had 25 goals in 55 games after arriving from Montreal two years ago, should shed the underachiever tag placed on them while skating alongside a veteran playmaker.
That hasn’t happened either. Combined, both players have produced three goals in six games this season.
The Wild need to show their fans and the hockey community that they are serious about competing in the playoffs for the first time since winning the Northwest Division in 2007-08.
This is a team that plays in a new arena full of fans every night. A start like this is unacceptable.
Certainly, on the coasts teams like the Sharks and Lightning are shaking their heads at their starts and the Stars and Avalanche probably will not lead their divisions throughout the year, but the Wild are missing a big opportunity if they miss the playoffs again this year.
Sports fans in Minnesota need a panacea.
The Twins lost 99 games. The Vikings are going to miss the playoffs two years after reaching the NFC Championship.
People will eventually notice that the Wolves aren’t playing.
The Wild have the talent to compete in the West.
Koivu is an elite playmaker. Setoguchi has shown flashes of brilliance in San Jose and his production should rise with more ice time in Minnesota. If Latendresse can score 25 goals in 55 games, he should be able to reach 40 in a complete season.
Heatley has had two 50-goal seasons in his career.
Winning would make them the talk of the town. The Excel Energy Center would be packed with standing room only fans, reminding the city of the excitement surrounding the team when they joined the league in 2000.
The team could set the tone by competing with the up-and-coming Blues or the established Blackhawks and Red Wings—teams that may become division rivals next season when the NHL re-aligns.
The Wild do not appear to be ready to take the next step, however.
Tom Schreier covers the Minnesota Wild for Minnesota Sports News Nightly.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Contact him at email@example.com.