Wild. Death. March.
With eight games to play, the Minnesota Wild are presently 11th in the Western Conference standings, a mere one point behind the 9th and 10th ranked teams; just two points behind both the 7th and 8th seeded clubs. Tight, indeed. Surely, the Wild haven't been behooved by their stretch-run schedule in which - dating back to the final week of February -- they will ultimately play five home games coupled with a monster 13 road games once March is in the books.
The schedule begs the inquiry: On an annual basis, are the historic and beloved Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournaments scheduled at the Xcel Energy Center killing the Wild in the late season? Here are the numbers:
Between 2000-2004, the Wild shared either the beginning, or mid-March with the boys tournament. During those four seasons, the Wild had more away games in the month for every campaign. Their collective record for all four Marches during said span? 24-22-9-6. That's actually pretty damn hot considering that the team played 57 percent of their games (61 all told) away from the X during that stretch.
Beginning in 2005 (post lockout season), the girls tournament joined the fray, being held during the last week of February. During these last four seasons (this yet-to-be concluded month included) the Wild have had more home games in said stretch on just one occasion (last year). Their record for the span? 31-25-13, with one home game and two away contests still to be played in March. Again, not really all that crappy considering that 58 percent of their games (71 all told) have/will be played away from the X during said stretch.
The records suggest that, despite the wealth of travel occurring at a club's most vulnerable and meaningful stretch of a long season, the Wild have shown more spark and result than one may expect. But still, of 55-47-9-19 all told, greatest does not speak. The objective of these numbers is not to bemoan one of the greatest prep events in the entire country, but rather to consider where the professionals might have been - and may someday be - given a few more nights in the welcoming environs of home at the closure of a grueling 82-game season. Furthermore, it needs to be asked:
"In the state of hockey, who is ultimately more valued - those who are paid to play, or those who play for the love of the game and a chance at one day being among those vaunted, professional ranks?"