After the Wolves captured the Central Division title, captain Chris Butler envisioned a long playoff run.
The Wolves found their rhythm during the second half of the season. Despite continually losing talent to their parent club, the St. Louis Blues, the Wolves still had a team that could push for the franchise’s first Calder Cup since 2008.
But injuries to top scorers Kenny Agostino and Wade Megan ended the Wolves’ postseason run last week in a 4-1 series loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Central Division finals.
The Wolves failed to reach the playoffs last year, but their second-round series loss offered hope for next season.
“It was kind of the perfect storm working against us a little bit,” Butler said. “From that standpoint, it was frustrating, but [coming] from a guy that has been here a couple of years and has seen how frustrating it’s been with how the last couple of years have gone, it was a breath of fresh air to have a new coaching staff. It really brought some new life to us again.”
There will be some changes in the offseason. The Wolves agreed to a five-year affiliate agreement with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. As the Golden Knights build their roster, the Wolves will continue to receive talent from the Blues, who won’t have a dedicated AHL affiliate next season, in hopes of springboarding off this season’s success.
Butler and coach Craig Berube were encouraged by the Wolves’ improvement.
“A great season would be winning it all, so I think it was a good season,” Berube said. “We’re here to do both — develop [talent] and win. Part of winning is developing players, is teaching them how to win and being in a winning environment goes a long way in their development.”
What the Wolves will look like next season remains uncertain. Whether Berube returns for a second season and how much the Blues will contribute to the roster will all be determined.
Butler believes that this season’s turnaround sparked a rebirth.
“It was fun again — the energy in the building was different, the excitement was there,” Butler said. “You look at the history of the franchise and 10-12 years ago where they were just dominating the [AHL] and I think you’re going to see them get back there. All the pieces are there.”
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