In presidential elections the candidates often ask their constituents "Are you better off now than you were one year ago today?" Ronald Reagan asked it in 1980 and ended up demolishing Jimmy Carter. Obama asked the same question in 2008. For hockey teams that have gone under management and/or coaching changes the same question can be asked. In Minnesota, I think the answer is a resounding "probably".
Last year around this time the Wild front office was led by Doug "Give Pouliot More Time" Risebrough and the team was coached by Jacques Lemaire. The team was in the playoff hunt and waffled around 9th place in the conference. The team was bare of quality prospects and Marian Gaborik was hurt.
Fast forward to today. Risebrough and Lemaire were replaced by Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards, respectively. The team is currently sitting at 11th in the Conference and gaining. Martin Havlat more-or-less replaced Gaborik and has underachieved to date, although playing much better the last handful of games. Thanks to a couple of good trades and last summer's entry draft, the Wild now have some more depth and a few more prospects.
But is the team playing better? Over the course of the entire season to date, no, but as of now they probably are. They're winning at home and even won a game in Calgary last weekend. Fletcher has shown he has the walnuts to trade underachieving players (i.e. Pouliot) and seems better equipped mentally to stock a farm system than Risebrough. Richards isn't Lemaire, but let's give it some time.
Overall, I feel really good about where this team is headed. The only downsides right now are (a) concussion injuries to PMB, Brent Burns and Petr Sykora and (b) missing the playoffs but not sucking enough to warrant a high draft pick. Time will tell, but I think we can affirmatively say that things are getting better. They're getting better all the time.