Making the playoffs in the Central Division of the North American Hockey League is a longshot especially now that highly-regarded rookie goalie Blake Cates will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.
But for the Coulee Region Chill and a first-year ownership led by Michelle Bryant, the 2012-2013 season has been a heavy course of on-the-job training which should mean that better days are ahead in 2013-2014.
"Ive learned a ton this year," Bryant told me. "We are looking to change things up for next year."
Bryant, a well-educated person with a background in sales and marketing and a passion for hockey, realizes that her hockey department needs to be expanded beyond its current occupancy, which basically consists of interim head coach A.J. Degenhardt.
The absence of experienced hockey management is not lost on Rik Franke, who covers the Chill like a winter blanket for the Coulee Region Sports Network.
Franke is of the notion that the Chill is in need of a person with a management and scouting background to play a defined role in the hockey operatons department.
The status of the 31-year old Degenhardt, a hometown sports hero from La Crosse who went on to play Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey with the Wisconsin Badgers, will be determined at season's end by Bryant, who made the gutsy and bold move in early January to fire John Hamre as coach-general manager of the Chill.
Hamre's work ethic was appreciated by Bryant but the owner did not feel the team was moving forward and progressing under the leadership of the man who she hired shortly after buying the Chill last summer.
Bryant acknowledges that time was not on the side of the franchise when she took it over in late June and quickly hired Hamre as coach and GM and Degenhardt as his assistant.
"But we've come a long way in the community with sponsorship and fan support and we are looking to the future of the NAHL in the La Crosse-Onalaska area with pure optimism," Bryant told Franke and co-host Scotty Gran on a recent edition of the Chill Coach's Show on the Coulee Region Sports Network.
To be sure, Bryant will not be rushed into a decision as to who will form the makeup of the Chill hockey staff beyond the current season.
Degenhardt is a candidate to return in some capacity. And there are respected, seasoned hockey people with head coaching and management experience who will likely have an audience with Bryant in the days and weeks ahead.
The Chill stands to return as many as 18 players from its current roster for the 2013-2014 season including Cates in goal, Sean Lang and Derek Smith on defence and leading scorers Mac Jansen, Hunter Anderson and Andy Faust.
Who will take the lead from Bryant and assemble a strong hockey staff to take the Chill into 2013-2014 and beyond is the big question that should be answered by the time winter turns to spring.
The Chill has a favourable arena lease at the Omni Center in Onalaska. It has made strides within the business community and attendance has slowly but steadily been on the increase. It has a passionate, personable owner who has a high business IQ.
It just needs the right hockey person to turn the key and crank up the Chill ice machine.