Cavaliers, Kevin Love continue to stumble

loveokcAgain, as with any post on the Cavs and former Wolves forward Kevin Love, I will preface things by saying: we should all be lucky enough to “fail” like Cleveland, which is still atop the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings and a good bet to reach the finals again.

Love is a key player for the Cavaliers, and he remains one of the very best basketball players in the world.

With that throat-clearing out of the way, though, it should be noted that February has gotten fairly ugly for Love and his team. After an initial surge under new coach Tyronn Lue when he took over for the fired David Blatt in late January, Cleveland is falling back again.

The Cavs have lost three of their past four games heading into tonight’s Leap Day contest against Indiana. Starters were benched during a particularly ugly Sunday loss to Washington.

Love, who averaged nearly 24 points per game and made 11 of 21 three-point attempts in the final three games of January under Lue, has had a February to forget. His averages for the month: 15.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, with 39.7 percent shooting from the field — including a poor 30.9 percent from three-point range.

Love will have stretches where he contributes — such as the first three games after the All-Star break, when he scored a combined 68 points — followed by stretches where he disappears, such as the last three games (40 points total, including 2 for 9 from long distance).

For the season, Love is averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds — similar to last year’s marks of 16.4 and 9.7. It’s a far cry, though, from the 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds he averaged in 2013-14 for the Wolves, his last year with the team.

As I’ve concluded before, Love leveraged himself into a place where he was traded at peak value, and his opt-out threat and subsequent trade for Andrew Wiggins might prove to be one of the best things that ever happened to the Wolves. Without it, they obviously don’t get Wiggins and they probably don’t bottom out enough to get Karl-Anthony Towns.

This could be the most low-key Vikings draft in a long time

ticemccombsThe Vikings’ draft process has come a long way since the “OK, calm down” debacle of 2003 (which, it should be noted, still netted one of the best players in team history, Kevin Williams).

That said, every year in recent memory has involved a pretty hefty amount of intrigue and anticipation — either in the months leading up to the draft, the draft itself or both — when it comes to the Vikings.

This year? It feels like it could be the most low-key Vikings draft in a long time. Part of that is their draft position (No. 23) and the real possibility they could (which the should) take an offensive lineman with that pick in the first round. But part of it is that the drafts of the past decade have been pretty spectacular by comparison. A quick recap of the intrigue:

2005: Took Troy Williamson No. 7 overall with the pick they got for Randy Moss. They were hoping to replace Moss with a one-for-one move. They most certainly did not. (Later on, Minnesota took Erasmus James with the No. 18 pick).

2006: Nabbed Chad Greenway in the first round, but the real fireworks came in the second round when Minnesota — in need of a QB after Daunte Culpepper’s devastating knee injury and offseason turmoil with new coach Brad Childress led to a trade — traded up to take Tarvaris Jackson in the second round.

2007: Though Chester Taylor had a fine year in 2006, the Vikings took Adrian Peterson No. 7 overall.

2008: Blockbuster trade of picks for Jared Allen.

2009: Went for high-risk, high-reward by taking Percy Harvin in the first round with the 22nd pick.

2010: Ended up trading out of the first round, but not until a bunch of us (OK, maybe just me and a couple others) were swept up in Tebowmania, thinking the Vikings (in need of a QB in the event that Brett Favre ever actually retired) would make a run at the former Florida QB. He instead went to the Broncos at No. 25 overall.

2011: QB! QB! QB! Ponder! Ponder? Ponder.

2012: Took Matt Kalil 4th overall, but not before nabbing extra picks from Cleveland. Then traded back into the first round to get Harrison Smith, the type of move that would become a trend.

2013: The early offseason was consumed by the Percy Harvin saga. He was eventually traded to the Seahawks, a deal that netted a first-round pick in 2013. That became one of the three first-rounders the Vikings had that year — Xavier Rhodes, Sharrif Floyd and Cordarrelle Patterson, the last of which the Vikings traded up to get in a memorable draft.

2014: QB! QB! QB! Would it be Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater at No. 8? It turned out to be neither, as the Vikings traded back to No. 9 and took Anthony Barr … and then traded up to get Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round after Manziel went No. 22 to Cleveland.

2015: Only one first-round pick, but it was No. 11 overall (Trae Waynes).

So yeah, it’s been quite a run. That’s not to say it won’t continue in 2016, but with a low pick and a real need on the offensive line, it could be a boring, predictable, safe draft.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not like the Vikings.

Here’s what a healthy, productive Joe Mauer would mean to Twins’ lineup

I made a brief and spirited Twitter argument the other day that Eddie Rosario could be — sooner, even, rather than later — a viable No. 3 hitter for the Twins. I think that in spite of his lack of plate discipline — just 15 walks as a rookie, to go with 118 strikeouts in 474 plate appearances, though that should improve some as he gets oldermauer — he has the hands and the all-over-the-field power to be that good.

Some peg Rosario as a candidate for regression in 2016, arguing that his .332 batting average on balls in play last season (compared to a .267 overall mark) will naturally come down. That number to me isn’t otherworldly, ranking just 39th in MLB among players with at least 450 plate appearances. It’s far less troubling, for instance, than the .405 BABIP mark Danny Santana posted in 2014, leading the majors and indeed signaling a 2015 regression.

That said, while my argument for Rosario was born out of a confidence in him specifically, the impetus was the knowledge that the Twins, if you look at their projected, have nobody on their roster who is an ideal No. 3 hitter right now.

The Twins did, for several years, have a very good (and at times great) No. 3 hitter. And that hitter is still on the roster. His name is Joe Mauer.

In a pair of columns from spring training, Jim Souhan laid out both the lineup conundrum (concluding that things will get easier when and if Byron Buxton proves he can hit) and the Mauer conundrum (wondering if Mauer’s problems of the past two years can be blamed on blurred vision due to concussions, as Joe has said, and concluding that coming clean about those problems and producing in 2016 would go a long way toward rehabbing his image with some fans).

Those two topics are related. Despite my assertion about Rosario in the No. 3 spot, Mauer’s return to something that resembled his pre-2014 form would make the entire Twins’ lineup a lot more sensible and strong.

Looking at Mauer between 2010 and 2013 — his first four seasons at Target Field, after he had already won his three batting titles and MVP award — you still find an incredibly adept No. 3 hitter. His OPS in three of those four seasons was between .861 and .880, with the outlier being the wasted “bilateral leg weakness” year of 2011 when he wasn’t healthy.

Last year’s Twins had Miguel Sano post a .916 OPS with major home run power. He’s the clear cut cleanup hitter. They had SEVEN other regulars, including Mauer, who had an OPS between .702 and .754 — basically a whole bunch of average interchangeable parts (the average OPS in the AL last season was .730).

What we don’t know is this: 1) Did Mauer’s numbers decline the past two years because of vision problems, age (he’ll be 33 soon) or some combination of both. 2) If it was more driven by vision problems, have those problems been corrected to a degree that will allow him to return to a much higher level of production than he showed the past two years (when his OPS was .732 and .718, respectively).

I’m inclined to think on the first point that concussions/vision problems were certainly the largest factor, by a wide margin. Vision is so important to any hitter — especially a precise hitter like Mauer — and the dropoff was steeper than one would naturally expect due to age.

The second point? That’s the great unknown and, really, the one that could be the deciding factor between a decent Twins lineup this year and one that is decidedly above-average.

A look back at the pivotal 5-year, $60 million Nikola Pekovic extension

lovepekThe summer of 2013 was always going to represent a crossroads of sorts for the Timberwolves.

Flip Saunders returned to the franchise in May of 2013 as President of Basketball Operations. The Wolves were coming off a 31-win season, one that started with promise but ended up derailed largely because Kevin Love was limited to just 18 games because of injuries — the Knuckle Pushup Season.

Ricky Rubio was thought to be on the rise. Love had been brilliant the year before his injury-marred season, and the threat of his opt-out clause loomed in distance. After the 2013-14 season, he would have just one year left. So the thought was if there was any hope of convincing him to stay, the 2013-14 season had to be a year the Wolves turned the corner.

A bunch of veterans — Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf — were signed in 2013, Flip’s first summer back. Rick Adelman was the head coach. And the final piece of the puzzle, by both logic and necessity, was re-signing a core member of that team: Nikola Pekovic.

He was a restricted free agent, meaning the Wolves could match any offer an outside team might make. None came, though one could argue that was largely because the Wolves made it very clear they would match no matter what. Still, while Minnesota wasn’t exactly bidding against itself, but it was painted into a bit of a corner: Pek and his agent knew the Wolves needed to sign him.

He was coming off a very productive 2012-13 season in which he led the Wolves in Player Efficiency Rating (20.2) while averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He played in 62 games that season. He had never played in more than 65 games in his three NBA seasons since coming over after being stashed away as the top pick in the second round of the 2008 draft.

But if the Wolves were going to win now, they needed Pek. They might not have needed him for as long as they needed to sign him for, but that was the push-pull. They offered a four-year deal at a reported $12 million per season in July of 2013. In August, Pekovic signed for that annual value but for one extra season — a five-year deal worth $60 million guaranteed.

There were legitimate concerns about Pek’s health at the time. There were legitimate concerns about his overall value. But like I said, the Wolves were desperate to put a winning team on the court. They had a productive player willing to re-sign. It was good timing for Pek. It would prove to be terrible timing for the Wolves.

Pekovic had a brilliant start to the 2013-14 season. He was even featured in the “Bruise Brothers” All-Star campaign with Love, as you see in the fake record that I still have (pictured by my office window). He played and started the first 43 games, averaging 33 minutes, 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. When he got a defender down low or he was working the offensive glass, his huge frame was close to unstoppable.

But the huge frame that had betrayed him health-wise before started to break down again halfway into the first season of that five-year extension. Foot and ankle problems were the culprit the rest of the season, with Pekovic missing 28 games in the second half of 2013-14.

The Wolves, who couldn’t quite gain traction with or without Pekovic, finished the year 40-42. Their peripheral numbers were such that Basketball Reference suggests they should have been a 48-win team. But the sum of their parts didn’t equal the whole. The Wolves, who had constructed a roster for one big push, didn’t make it.

Love’s opt-out threats became more real after the season ended. He was eventually traded for Andrew Wiggins in the summer of 2014. The Wolves dumped some of the veterans they had brought in and went with a youth movement. They kept Kevin Martin, who was on a shorter-term deal (four years) at far less value (roughly $7 million per). He’s not a great fit on this year’s team, and the Wolves would presumably love to get out from under Martin before next year, when he has a $7.4 million player option. But Martin’s contract is not hurting them much.

Pek’s contract, however, is.

Because Pekovic was able to get that extra year when he signed his deal, he still has 2 years left after this season, at that annual value of $12 million. After that productive, albeit injury-shortened first season after signing the extension, Pekovic has been both injured and ineffective. He’s played in a total of 43 games the past two seasons with a shooting percentage of .418. He’s likely done for the year again.

Sadly, a big man who had tremendous value when healthy at the time he signed is now the worst of all worlds, contract-wise: expensive, injured, unproductive and virtually not able to be traded, at least not for any kind of assets.

If Pek had been a free agent one year later, the year Love was traded and the push for the playoffs had failed, things might have worked out entirely differently.

It’s nobody’s fault, really. Just the confluence of bad timing for the Wolves and bad luck for both the team and player.

0-for-the-X: Wild’s 2016 home futility puts it in awful company

wildtorchNot even the magic Torch could keep the Wild from freezing again on its home ice Tuesday.

The Wild has lost plenty of games in the 2016 calendar year, but it has also won in plenty of venues: 7 different sheets of ice, including a football stadium. But it has yet to win at Xcel Energy Center since the start of the new year. It’s been since a Dec. 28, 2015 victory over the Red Wings that the Wild won at the X.

The latest blemish came Tuesday when Minnesota, which had been steamrolling opponents since John Torchetti took over for Mike Yeo as coach, laid an egg in a 4-1 loss to the Islanders in St. Paul.

That was the latest in a stretch since the Detroit victory that has seen the Wild play 15 road games and just nine at home, including that one at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday win which the Wild drubbed Chicago 6-1.

Those other eight home games have been at Xcel Energy Center. And Minnesota has lost each and every one of them. The Wild’s next home game isn’t until Sunday — Feb. 28. So even if it wins that game over Florida, it will have been two full calendar months between wins at the X.

That futility (and counting) puts the Wild — in the company of some of the worst teams in recent Minnesota sports history.

The Wolves? Their last home win of a 16-win season in 2014-15 came on March 7, while their first one this season (when they had an odd ability to win on the road early but not at home) didn’t come until Nov. 23 — a span of 67 in-season days over two seasons.

The Twins? Let’s go back to 2011, the year everything fell apart. They went a full month, April 24 to May 24, between victories at Target Field. That’s really hard to do in the everyday grind of baseball, but the Twins managed.

The Vikings? They went from Oct. 9 through the end of the season (Jan. 1) in 2011 without a home win, a span of nearly THREE months during that 3-13 campaign. They also didn’t win a game at the Metrodome until Nov. 7 in 2013 — their lone “home” win in that stretch coming in London over the Steelers.

Let’s not forget the Gophers men’s basketball team, which won a Big Ten home game on Feb. 7, 2015 over Purdue and didn’t win another one until Feb. 18, 2016 over Maryland.

Again, the amazing thing is that in spite of their home futility in the midst of this season, the Wild is very much in the hunt for a postseason berth.

I can’t imagine many (any?) NHL teams have endured that long of a home ice drought and still had a chance to hoist the Cup at the end of that season.

The skating show life: ‘Home is pretty much on tour’

Trowbridge_Gretchen headshot (2)Gretchen Trowbridge was fresh off of graduating from suburban Park of Cottage Grove High in 1996. She was 18 years old and had started ice skating at age 3.

And she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life: keep skating and keep performing.

So Trowbridge did what skaters did back then: she caught wind by word of mouth that anyone interested in skating for Disney on Ice should head to Target Center at a specific time on a specific afternoon for an in-person audition. She auditioned and landed a spot on a U.S. tour, leaving home as a teenager.

After that year, the next step on her plan was to attend the U of M, where she studied architecture and graduated in 2001.

And since then? It’s been all Disney on Ice, all the time, with her most recent stop leading her back home to Minnesota for the “Let’s Celebrate” show that begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday at Target Center.

Well, at least Minnesota is her version of home.

“I still refer to Minneapolis as home,” Trowbridge said by phone Monday. “It’s where my storage unit is and where my dentist is. Home is pretty much on tour.”

In a good year, Trowbridge said she’s on tour for 10 or 11 months — so home is a relative term. It’s a transient lifestyle and one that is certainly not for everyone.

“It’s 50-50,” she said in describing the mindset of young skaters first starting out with Disney on Ice. “Some expect to do 1 or 2 years, and the rest are lifers.”

Trowbridge falls into the latter category. She even married a male skater, Scott, from the tour — a not-uncommon pairing of two people committed to the same career and way of life.

“I knew I loved it enough to be a lifer, but I had a very traditional upbringing,” Trowbridge said. “My parents did a great job of making sure I was well-rounded. My mom was not a skating mom. I was a competitive golfer and diver as well. I certainly was never pulled out of school to get more ice time. I really wanted to go to college. I didn’t just want to educated. I wanted to live in the dorms, have the whole experience. But the tour was always calling me.”

And so here she is, 20 years after her first tour and 15 after joining for good. Trowbridge, who said she had never been anywhere farther than Wisconsin before joining Disney on Ice, has now been to more than 50 different countries.

“You just have to, knock on wood, take care of yourself and make sure your joints don’t fall apart before your interest does,” Trowbridge said. “I would do it for another 10 years if I could. There’s a study that says about 70 percent of Americans hate their job. I never want to hit snooze. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Especially when that work brings you home — or at least to the familiar place where you get your teeth cleaned.

“The Target Center is always a great place to perform,” Trowbridge said. “I enjoy sharing the city of Minneapolis with the people I tour with. … A lot of people on tour actually name Minneapolis as their favorite city.”

Which current Minnesota pro athletes are most likely future MVPs?

kgtownsTwo crazy things happened at Target Center last night, though neither of them was shocking.

* Karl-Anthony Towns, who was 19 years old when this NBA season started, was clearly the best player on the court. He finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds, scoring in pretty much every way imaginable.

* In spite of Towns’ brilliance, the Wolves almost coughed up a lead that was 14 points with 4 minutes left and 10 points with less than 90 seconds left. It came down to a missed three-pointer in the closing seconds — otherwise the Wolves would have had a loss to the Celtics for the ages, and not in a good way.

The Wolves have been bad at closing out games for longer than Towns has been emerging as a legit future NBA star, so really none of this was unheard of. And yet seeing Towns’ brilliance up close in person for the first time in a couple months was captivating and brought to mind this question: in this market right now, who is most likely among current top league professional players (i.e. players already on the Twins, Wolves, etc.) to win an MVP award sometime in the future. My list:

1) Maya Moore, Lynx: This one’s fairly obvious. She’s entering the prime of her career. She’s already been an MVP. She’s arguably the best women’s basketball player in the world. Moore racking up another MVP or two (or three) would surprise nobody.

But now it gets tougher, and it leads me here:

2) Karl-Anthony Towns, Wolves: I think his ceiling is legitimately this high. Maybe that’s weird to say after less than a full season, but I can’t stop seeing Tim Duncan when I see Towns.

3) Miguel Sano, Twins: He’ll have to hit a ton to do it, since he doesn’t project as a great fielder at any position. But if he evolves into something close to Miguel Cabrera at the plate, Sano will be in the mix.

4) Byron Buxton, Twins: Same upside as Sano, with a less sterling MLB debut and a different skill set. If Buxton’s five tools blossom, look out.

5) Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Don’t count AP out. He’s already won the MVP once when we doubted him in 2012.

6) Devan Dubnyk, Wild: If Minnesota ever puts together a full season of dominance, I have to imagine Dubnyk will be the team’s MVP — and by extension, a league MVP candidate. Four goalies have won the award in the last 20 years so it’s not unheard of.

7) Andrew Wiggins, Wolves: If he becomes Carmelo — which wouldn’t be bad at all — he won’t win. If he becomes Kobe? Well, now we’re talking.

8) Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings: Same as Dubnyk. If the Vikings become dominant, the QB gets the glory.

9) Zach Parise, Wild: If not Dubnyk, then Parise.

10) Zach LaVine: The other Zach. If he becomes Russell Westbrook, look out.

Six years ago, Darko Milicic made an amazing debut for the Wolves

timehopThe Internet has a lot of taglines, but the one I come back to more often than not is this:

A (semi)-permanent searchable archive of our failures.

I can use this searchable archive to point out the failures of others. Occasionally I do. But usually, I use it to poke fun at myself.

And sometimes I need very little help because others help me. When I’m really lucky, the process is automated.

Such was the case Sunday night, when I got my daily alert from Timehop, an app that searches social media and delivers to you things you posted exactly 1, 2, 3 years ago, and so on.

The alert in question reminded me of something I had posted 6 years ago on Facebook (and presumably Twitter, too, since at that time everything I posted on Twitter was autoposted on Facebook, an annoyance to friends that I quickly ditched).

I had watched the Timberwolves debut of Darko Milicic on Feb. 21, 2010, and I was IMPRESSED.

“It’s EXTREMELY early,” I started, providing some sort of caveat for the crazy, rose-colored proclamation to come, “but Darko Milicic looks, at the very least, useful for the Wolves.”

Upon re-reading this, I did what anyone would do: I told the me of six years ago (and Timehop by extension) to shut up, using Twitter.

“At the very least, useful,” established a baseline value for Darko that I’m not sure he every quite achieved in Minnesota. He did play well enough at the end of 2009-10, after being acquired by the Wolves, for David Kahn — he of the “manna from Heaven” quote about Darko — to give Milicic a four-year, $20 million contract in the offseason.

Darko had a functional 2010-11 season, even finishing fifth in the NBA in blocks. By 2011-12, he had lost whatever he had found. In the 2012 offseason, the Wolves used the amnesty clause on Milicic. He played exactly one career NBA game (five minutes) after that, for Boston.

Where I can give myself a little bit of a pass is upon a closer re-inspection of that debut with the Wolves six years ago Sunday. Because that box score will go down in the Box Score Hall of Fame.

The Wolves were playing Oklahoma City — the Thunder was in the midst of its breakout 50-win season, the one people keep saying the current Wolves could emulate someday. Minnesota was in the midst of a 15-win season in the first year of Kahn and Kurt Rambis, which would be followed by a 17-win season in their second year.

But for one night, the two teams were equals — or, to be more precise, they were two sides of a very strange coin.

For the game, Darko played 19 minutes, 5 seconds off the bench. He made 4 of 7 shots from the field for 8 points, while chipping in 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot.

And the second-most stunning fact of all: he was a plus-35 in those 19+ minutes.

I say second-most stunning because here’s the most stunning thing: the Wolves still lost, 109-107 (the final points were supplied on a Jonny Flynn three-pointer). And they lost largely because Al Jefferson, who played the other 28 minutes, 55 seconds that Darko was not in the game, was a minus-37.

It was the Wolves’ sixth consecutive loss, while it was OKC’s ninth consecutive victory.

Darko appeared in 32 games that season between the Knicks and Wolves. His teams were a combined 3-29. In no other game was he even double-digits on the plus side. But for one night, at least, he was a plus-35.

And some guy called him useful. I forget who it was, but you can go look it up because the Internet is forever.

Mel Kiper’s thoughts on NDSU’s Wentz (No. 2 overall) and Vikings in draft

carson wentzWith the Scouting Combine coming up this week, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. conducted a conference call Monday to discuss prospects. Naturally, quarterbacks were a big focus. And one of the most interesting names, still, is North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz — a player that Kiper now has going No. 2 overall (yes, you read that right) to the Browns in his latest mock draft.

Wentz drew strong reviews recently at the Senior Bowl. He has prototypical QB size (6-foot-5) and led the Bison to the last two of their five consecutive FCS titles.

The competition to be the No. 1 QB chosen could very well come down to Wentz vs. Jared Goff of Cal (currently going No. 4 to Dallas in Kiper’s mock draft).

“I think it’s a flip of a coin right now between those two quarterbacks,” Kiper said Monday. “Some like Goff. Some like Wentz. I just went with the bigger quarterback in Wentz at No. 2.”

Even being part of that conversation and potentially being a top-five pick is a pretty big deal.

As for the Vikings, Kiper has them taking offensive lineman Cody Whitehair out of Kansas State at No. 23. Whitehair played tackle in college but could be a guard or tackle in the NFL. I asked Kiper about Whitehair and how much he factored in offensive line being a massive position of need for the Vikings in his projection. Here’s what Kiper said:

“I thought about a wide receiver, so I thought about Josh Doctson on the board, and I have him going one pick later to Cincinnati. I thought Whitehair is a guy who has played tackle, guard and center. He’s a guard or center in the NFL, and he’s an immediate hole-filler. He’s a heck of a player. You could go linebacker, and I get that, so I thought about maybe Darron Lee from Ohio State at that particular point. Wide receiver, if (Laquon) Treadwell dropped down that far, I think it would be a no-brainer, but I don’t think he will unless he runs a very subpar 40 time. … I’ll say this: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Whitehair come in and be a guy who immediately starts and plays at a high level and at the end of the year is one of the best rookies in the league. I think Whitehair is a heck of an offensive lineman with tremendous versatility, and he’s ready to play in the NFL right now.”

That said, the draft is still two months away. We are many mocks away from the real thing.

Wild playoff odds are better now than at the start of the season

torchHere’s an interesting thing to consider: As good as the Wild was for much of this season, and as bad as the Wild was from the beginning of calendar year 2016 until last weekend, when Mike Yeo was fired, Minnesota with 24 games left in the season is pretty much right back where it started before the puck even dropped on the regular season.

In fact, the Wild is slightly better off now than it was back in early October when the chosen metric is the percent chance that the team will make the playoffs.

This calculation is done by Sports Club Stats, and it is fairly complex. Per the site:

Sports Club Stats calculates each team’s odds of making the playoffs, how each upcoming game will impact those odds, and how well they have to finish out to have a shot. It knows the season schedule and scores for past games. Each time (a new score is added) it simulates the rest of the season by randomly picking scores for each remaining game. The weighted method (the one that I’m using) takes the opponents record and home field advantage into account when randomly picking scores, so the better team is more likely to win.

And it runs those simulation millions of times to come up with an aggregate outcome.

For the Wild, it’s been a season of peaks and valleys. You already knew that, but it’s particularly true if we look at the playoff odds.

At the start of the season, Minnesota had a 57.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the site. That’s slightly better than if we were treating all teams equally, since 16 of the 30 teams in the NHL (53.3 percent) make the postseason.

Those odds steadily improved in the first two months of the season — with a few small spikes and drops — until the point on Dec. 7 when the Wild’s playoff odds reached 89.6 percent. From that point until Jan. 15, the percent chance never dipped below 87 percent and reached a season-high of 97.1 percent on Jan. 9 when the Wild beat Dallas. Minnesota was 22-11-8 at that juncture — 52 points in the first half of the season.

It’s hard to believe that was barely a month ago. From there, of course, the true free-fall started. Minnesota lost 13 of its next 14 games — and almost importantly, only two of those losses went to overtime to at least give the Wild a point in the standings.

From that high of 97.1 percent on Jan. 9 and from still being above 90 percent on Jan. 15, the Wild dropped all the way down to a 33.4 percent chance of making the playoffs on Feb. 13, the day it lost to Boston and Yeo was fired. So basically the Wild went from being almost a sure thing to make the playoffs to having a 1 in 3 chance in a month.

The equally amazing thing is that it’s taken just three wins under interim coach John Torchetti to boost that percentage back up again — all the way to 59.8 percent after last night’s win over Edmonton.

So yes, the Wild is better off now than it was at the start of the season — at least according to Sports Club Stats. The Wild trails Nashville and Colorado by two points in the Wild Card race — but Minnesota has also played two fewer games than Colorado. So the Avs are at just 46.1 percent right now.

The Wild is done playing Nashville but has two games left with Colorado — March 1 and March 26. Go ahead and circle those right now.