Since then, things have gone along pretty well. At the time, the Wild's place in the standings would have left them with the #9 pick, which would have equaled their highest draft position of the past six years. I said we'd have to do worse if we wanted that top draft pick. For the most part, the Wild have cooperated. They lost a shootout at Montreal, got shutout by the Red Wings and Colorado, then equaled their worst road loss in history last night, dropping a 7-1 game in Colorado. That little nosedive has allowed them to fall from the #9 overall spot to #6, as seen in the standings below, updated the evening of March 7.
But it's not enough just to lose games. If you're trying to drop, you need some help from below, and that's why I'd like to give a shout out to those plucky little New York Islanders. Last weekend the Isles beat the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins 3-2, then turned around and shutout the New Jersey Devils 1-0. Those four points allowed them to crawl within a point of the Wild, with one less game played. C'mon Islanders, keep it going!
(Incidentally, the Islanders are one-third of the way through a very strange scheduling quirk that has them playing the Devils three consecutive games. They met Sunday on Long Island, play tomorrow (Thursday) in New Jersey and are back on Long Island Saturday. I don't think I've ever seen two NHL teams play each other three straight games in a non-playoff setting.)
The Toronto Maple Leafs also deserve some credit for firing Ron Wilson and putting Randy Carlyle behind the bench. The Leafs immediately responded with a win over Montreal that allowed them to leap past the Wild.
The guys I'm most disappointed with are the Carolina Hurricanes.They have gone to overtime or a shootout in five of their last seven games, and they've only won one of them! Get going, guys....If they had won just two of those OTs, the Wild would ALREADY be in the #5 draft position.
It might seem like I'm mocking the Wild, but that's not the case at all. This team has been decimated by injuries at a level I've never really seen before, and they've used at least 44 players this season. It's not the coach's fault, it's not the players' fault, it's just bad luck. But as I said in the original "The Drive for #5" post, as long as we have to go through this, we may as well get a great pick out of it.
The Wild are at Phoenix tomorrow, then come home to face Calgary (twice), Dallas, Carolina and Vancouver. The Carolina game, of course, is a "four-point" game, in which the loser takes a big step towards the better draft pick.
Originally I said it was probably impossible to get below Montreal, Edmonton or Columbus, but I'm starting to keep my eyes on Montreal. A couple wins by the Habs, and we can start dreaming about #3!
Pos. Team GP PTS
22 Tampa Bay 66 68
23 Anaheim 67 68
24 Toronto 67 66
25 Minnesota 67 66
26 NY Islanders 66 65
27 Carolina 67 65
28 Montreal 67 60
29 Edmonton 66 58
30 Columbus 66 49