ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota Wild players cleaned out their lockers on Wednesday and said goodbye until they come together to get ready for next season.

But there remain plenty of pressing issues to address in the off-season, ranging from injuries to a head coach to a culture. Mike Max was in the Wild locker room and players packed up their gear.

They said good bye to a season bothered most by the up and down nature of it, again.

“All of us need to be better each and every day, and then avoid that period of time that’s been happening for the last couple years,” captain Mikko Koivu said.

First question: Zach Parise’s back injury that caused him to miss the entire series against the Dallas Stars. He says he’s rehabbing and does not think he will need surgery, believing he will be ready for next season and admitting it struck fear.

“You know it’s been really scary. Some of the things that I was feeling, there was a lot of pain,” Parise said.

Then there is Thomas Vanek. Injuries and performance prompt an obvious question with one year left on his contract. Will he return or will the Wild buy out his contract.

“I hope so yeah,” Vanek said on returning. “I signed here not just because it’s where I live, I signed here because I truly love it here.”

As for the coach, John Torchetti ended the season but everyone knows it’s an open search. What will any coach find with this team?

“I think it’s this team never quit. You guys saw that. There are so many times that people have counted us out throughout the year and we never quit. We stuck with it,” defenseman Ryan Suter said.

Forget who the coach is for next season, for now. WCCO is told the bigger question is culture: The 30-year-old plus players making big salaries and the much younger core coming up. If they can’t them all get on the same page, they could go dark again next year before they meet expectations.

Mike Max