General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Minnesota Wild had good players, but did not consistently play like a good team in 2015-16, one of its major flaws.
"Our goal was to make the playoffs, which we did, but our goal was not to have 87 points," he said on Thursday, addressing the media for the final time for the 2015-16 season.
How that happened, in Fletcher's eyes, was two stretches that made up nearly a quarter of the Wild's season that were not consistent with the success Minnesota sustained throughout other portions of the calendar.
"When I look at our team, we finished with 87 points but we were never close to being an 87-point team," he said. "We had a stretch where we went 1-11-2, just prior to the coaching chance. And we lost the last five games of the year for different reasons. When you combine those 19 games, that’s a 1-16-2 record. That’s a quarter of the season where we won one game."
It was a message consistent with what players said most afflicted the Wild this 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 throughout the year."
What was frustrating to Fletcher, much like the Wild players, was that the level the Wild played through the other near three-quarters of its season was much higher.
"I think we had to win 37 games out of the other 62," Fletcher said. "That’s a 108-point pace. So we were a team that had the best 41-game start in franchise history. At that point we were playing at a 105-point pace, so we were a really, really good hockey team for a lot of the year, and then a team that simply couldn’t win a game for a quarter of it."
As Fletcher tried to diagnose the symptoms that arose during those lulls, which, like the players, he said lasted entirely too long, he said something changed after the Wild defeated the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I'm not sure what happened against Chicago," he said. "I don't know if we wanted to show them that we could be as skilled as they were, but we proceeded to turn the puck over for four straight games and not surprisingly they beat us."
Fletcher said a key for the Wild moving forward will be maintaining its identity more consistently.
"When I look back at last year and really the last two years, we were a good hockey team," he said. "And I use the word team. We played with speed. I can't tell you how many different coaches and general managers I spoke to that said, 'You guys are so hard to play against. You come in waves. You pressure. You're fast. You're forcing turnovers. Our D have no time to make plays.'
"We have good hockey players, we just need to become a better team."