The Minnesota Wild players talked about their goals for the 2016-17 season when addressing the media for the final time this season on Wednesday, but most of those goals were framed around finding more consistency.
"We've been in that wild card spot the last four years, we'd love to move up," Zach Parise said. "But that’s just not what’s happened."
There were times the Wild played the type of game and sustained level of success it was happy with, like during a hot start to the season that led to the most points over a first half in franchise-history.
But immediately following that game no. 41, the Wild lost 13 of 14, a stretch that dug it into another hole it needed to climb its way out of to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
"We've got to find that consistency," Ryan Suter said. "We've all been through it now the last four years — ups and downs — and we have to find it and try to get consistent throughout the year so we're ready to go for the playoffs and it’s not a question of getting into the playoffs.
"We have to have that confidence going throughout the year."
How to build that consistency is difficult for anyone to put his finger on. If the Wild had a solution, the peaks and valleys of the regular season would have featured far fewer lows.
"I don't know because I do feel like we have good leadership," Thomas Vanek said. "It's tough to say. I don't know, but it's something we all need to improve at. Every team goes through ups and downs, but our ups and downs are a lot worse than good teams have, and that's not a good thing."
After advancing out of the first round the past two seasons, 2016 came short of that benchmark. To take that proverbial next step, the Wild knows building a consistent base during the regular season will afford Minnesota better footing, and make life easier on it come March and April.
"We had a pretty good start to the year and I'd like to think that we could finish with those guys," Parise said.
Having seen how its game changed when playing at Xcel Energy Center, finishing in the top four of the Western Conference was also a goal that was brought up for next year.
"We talked about it this year, but really next year, you see the advantage that home ice gives us when we play here in the playoffs," Devan Dubnyk said. "That has to be a goal of ours, to get that home ice advantage going into the playoffs so we can play here more."
From game 42 to game 55, the Wild earned four points, all but eliminating a chance at hosting a first round playoff series.
On the season, the Wild had six losing streaks of three games or longer, which, in all, accounted for nearly 48-percent of Minnesota’s losses.
"Even losing [13 of 14], if you go .500 through that, you have a much better cushion and maybe we are challenging for one of those higher seeds," Parise said. "We would love to avoid that, it’d be great."