With one victory in their last seven games as they cling to the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau is feeling confident about getting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and putting up a fight.
Appearing on the Paul Allen Show on KFAN Thursday morning, Boudreau went all Mark Messier on us.
“I can tell you right now; I’m not Joe Namath, but we are going to make the playoffs,” he said. “And we’re going to be somebody hard to deal with … I’m making that prediction right now.”
He followed that up later in the morning after the Wild’s skate ahead of their Friday game against the New Jersey Devils.
“We’re going to make the playoffs,” Boudreau said via the Star Tribune. “That’s about as elaborate as I want to get. You want me to predict how many wins we’re going to have in the last month and a half? No. But we’re going to make the playoffs.”
The Wild currently have a two-point cushion as the West’s second wild card, leading a crowded pack at the bottom of the conference standings. There are six teams within six points of Minnesota, and just to show how nutty the playoff picture is even the last-place Los Angeles Kings are eight points behind.
They’ve made the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, but have been unable to get out of the first round since 2015. But right now Boudreau said he feels his team is “on the edge of things being really good rather than being very mediocre.”
It hasn’t been an easy second half for Boudreau or the Wild, and it should make the upcoming NHL trade deadline interesting. New general manager Paul Fenton is still taking stock of what he has as he looks to reshape the team’s future.
“There will be some hard decisions to make come the trade deadline, but in the next 10 days or so, it will be determined by just how people play,” Fenton told Dan Rosen of NHL.com last week.
Eric Staal, Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks, Brad Hunt, and Anthony Bitetto are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Does the value of moving any of them for future assets outweigh that of keeping them and attempting to put up a fight against potential opening round opponents in Winnipeg, Nashville, San Jose, or Calgary? They’re already without captain Mikko Koivu and defenseman Matt Dumba for the rest of the season due to injury, and are in need of Jason Zucker picking it up offensively. The Nino Niederreiter trade is not off to a good start from Minnesota’s perspective either.
When asked if the Wild’s current cushion remains tight come Feb. 25, the day before the trade deadline, Fenton put it simply.
“Then I’ve got a hard decision to make, a very, very hard decision,” he said. “To evaluate this team the next little bit is certainly the reason that we’re having this conversation right now.”