Last season’s shortened dash to the finish line was so unique many players around the NHL who started poorly didn’t have a chance to step back and catch their breath.

“It just felt like you were clawing away all year long and couldn’t quite grab hold” coach Mike Yeo said regarding the Wild’s Exhibit A of this — veteran center Kyle Brodziak.

Two seasons ago Brodziak scored a career-high 22 goals and was the Wild’s leading goal scorer when the team stood atop all 30 NHL teams in mid-December. But it was the hustle work ethic reliable defensive play and escalating leadership that caused Chuck Fletcher to extend the contract of the first player he ever traded for as general manager in 2009.

But last year Brodziak had only eight goals and four assists in the 48-game season and most glaringly was minus-18 — fifth worst in the NHL. As a checking-line center the Wild needed Brodziak to help shut down opposing top lines and be as Yeo says “hard to play against.”

Brodziak 29 developed pneumonia last winter lost 15 pounds and “the energy level obviously wasn’t there. But that was just the beginning of the year. I was able to get through it and get the weight back on but didn’t ever really fully recover my game.”

Thursday when the Wild took the ice for the first day of training camp Yeo pulled Brodziak aside.

“My message to him is he does not need to apologize for last season” Yeo said. “Now are we hoping for a little bit more? For sure we are there’s no question. … He has a huge role on our team I think he looks great he’s really taken care of himself and the biggest thing for him and for us right now is just making sure his confidence is high.”

Brodziak spent the offseason trying to regroup. The former Oiler was excited to make the playoffs for the first time in his eight-year career but felt all summer that the Wild “didn’t really achieve what we were capable of achieving” and was especially disappointed with his play.