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Minnesota fans facing a bleak future

The hockey fans in Minnesota deserve better.

The Wild are sputtering and stumbling towards the end of yet another disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that there’s help on the way. After finishing third in the Western Conference in 2008, the Wild missed the playoffs by just two points this season and are woefully behind the curve this year. What about next season? Well, it could get even worse.

Minnesota already has $45 million locked up in payroll for next season, with six players facing free agency and five scheduled to be restricted free agents, including Josh Harding and Guillaume Latendresse. In this situation, you’d hope that there’s help on the way from the team’s farm system -- that is certainly not the case with Minnesota.

Ranked 30th by Hockey’s Future in the NHL and 29th by The Hockey News, the Wild are facing a very dark immediate future. They don’t have the cap space to re-tool the team with free agents and there aren’t any magical prospects on their way to save the Wild from mediocrity.

Michael Russo expands on this point on Twitter, stating that the Wild had just four draft picks in 2008, no second or third rounders in 2007 and have traded away one of their top draft picks in Nick Leddy.

What’s even more frustrating to watch is how the Wild have seemingly just given up the past two weeks. They’ve lost four games in row, including the offensive embarrassment against Florida and lost to Detroit last night before taking on Buffalo tonight. It’s a tough schedule, for certain, but they’re not even trying to improve.

After the horrid performance against Florida, the Wild held an optional practice with just nine players (and not the coach) showing up. The Wild technically were still in the playoff hunt a week ago and never really seemed interested in putting up a fight.

This is the team that Minnesota hockey fans have to live with. I’m betting they still care. I even like to think that the players on the team still care. But the team as a whole? Not so much.