Disillusionment, bitterness and resignation reigned supreme three days after the Minnesota Wild’s latest untimely playoff demise.
During their annual postmortem Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, general manager Chuck Fletcher and head coach Bruce Boudreau gritted their teeth and slathered regular-season lipstick on the pig of their five-game playoff series loss to St. Louis.
Hat tips to the smothering and opportunistic Blues, laments about lost scoring opportunities and recognition they were not tenacious enough to get more pucks and bodies at the net during a series in which time and space were severely limited.
They counterpunched St. Louis to keep the series competitive but never seized control despite home-ice advantage and firepower that fizzled against a hot goalie when the stakes were highest.
The manner of death differed from postseasons past, but the finality was all too familiar.
The Wild failed to live up to their Stanley Cup expectations and will have all summer to stew about the intolerable.
What will become of this underachieving roster seems marginal. Analysis was skin deep on Tuesday.
Fletcher and Boudreau remain committed to the nucleus of veterans and developing players that have defined the mixed successes and matched failures of the past five years.
“Wholesale changes? Absolutely not,” Fletcher declared. “It’s still a very good core. It’s a strong team. You look over 82 games, we took big strides. We were one of the more competitive teams in the league. There’s no reason why we won’t continue to be that way.”
There’s no reason 120 points and a Central Division championship would ring any less hollow in 2017-18 unless the Wild can adjust to their playoff foes and outcoach, outplay and outwit their way into May hockey.
Would another candidate for individual awards make you feel any better? Mikko Koivu’s Selke nomination and Mikael Granlund’s Lady Byng only remind everyone of their disappointing playoff production.
Granlund, Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter were Minnesota’s top three goal scorers during the regular season. Each was blanked by the Blues.
“Look, there’s no question we had a couple guys that weren’t scoring at the same rate in the playoffs as they did earlier during the year,” Fletcher said.
Granlund and Niederreiter are in line for lucrative contract extensions this offseason that will challenge Fletcher to justify the investment while managing his payroll under a flat-lined salary cap.
Niederreiter, whose Game 7 overtime heroics over Colorado in 2014 and early playoff success is a faded…