Wild and Wolves struggling to stay in the hunt

With the loss of Butler and Koivu, both teams are struggling for playoff position

John Laforest
Staff Writer

After a pair of playoffs appearances between the notable winter sports teams for the 2018 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Wild see themselves again in similar situations down the 2019 home stretch, but this time in position of losing out on a playoff spot this season. 

Since Minnesota Wild General Manager Paul Fenton announced Feb. 6 that captain Mikko Koivu would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee during that week’s game at Buffalo. The team has struggled to win games ever since, going 1-5-1 in games since his injury.

Koivu, 35, had recorded 29 points and 22 penalty minutes 48 games with Minnesota before the injury. He’s been a pivotal piece on the team’s roster ever since he got drafted in the first round of the NHL draft in 2001. Since that time, he’s set the franchise record in games played, assists and total points scored. Koivu recently tallied his 200th career NHL goal on Jan. 21 at Vegas to become the second player in team history to reach the milestone. 

The Minnesota Wild are currently the second wild card after 60 games played in the season. The loss of Koivu early in the month will surely challenge their playoff hopes for the remainder of the season. 

The Timberwolves on the other end have a different situation. Former Wolves star player Jimmy Butler was the closer for the team in his only full season with the franchise. The All-Star was one of the best wing-defenders and scorers on the team.

The disgruntled Jimmy Butler finally got his wish early in the season when he was traded after 13 games. The Timberwolves are 23-21 since his departure.

A season after making the playoffs for the first time since Kevin Garnett was in uniform, the Timberwolves sport a record of 27-30 sitting three games behind the Clippers for the final playoff spot, questioning Butler’s value to the team tremendously.

While superstar Karl-Anthony Towns has stepped up as the clear number one guy on the team, he’s still not getting enough consistent production from his supporting class, like the once promising Andrew Wiggins, which would take the team to the next level. 

After a Jan. 15 matchup between the Wolves versus Jimmy Butler and the Sixers, Joel Embiid was impressed with the win and said, “It was an honor to be part of the third stringers and get a win against real NBA starters.”

Embiid, trolling the whole roster of Wolves, was referring to an incident where Butler beat the first team with the third. 

Embiid and the Sixers are in a spot the Wolves want to be, and that is firmly in the playoffs. 

Although Butler’s level of importance is still in question, as the Wolves could ultimately end at or around where they finished last season as the eight seed. 

The Timberwolves have been hit by injuries all season at the point guard position. The position is getting healthier as of lately as the team will look to make the playoffs back-to-back season. 

Now with both teams struggling for a playoff position, let’s see where these two teams will be towards the end of the year.

Feature photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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