NHL All-Time Teams: Minnesota Wild
With only 12 years of history, Minnesota's all-time team isn't terribly star-studded, but there are some familiar names including Marian Gaborik.
Ah, hockey in the summer, where things come to a grinding halt for about two months in between one long season and another. To fill the void we at Eye on Hockey thought it would be fun to make an all-time team for each of the 30 organizations in the NHL today.
The ground rules: The teams will consist of a center, two wings (regardless of which side), two defensemen and a goaltender. A player must have spent at least 200 games with a franchise to be considered. So Bobby Orr won't be on the Blackhawks' roster or Wayne Gretzky for St. Louis.
Coming up with an all-time team for an organization that’s only existed for 12 years isn’t exactly the most difficult task in the world. The Minnesota Wild do not have the illustrious history of our two previous Original Six entries. The only retired number in team history is No. 1, which was sent to the rafters to honor the team’s fans. So that's a fairly good indication of where the club's all-time player pool sits.
With such a short life compared to most franchises, the Wild didn’t necessarily have a litany of candidates rising to the top, but several players did enough damage in a short amount of time to put this team together. Each, except one player listed on the all-time team is still an active NHLer, including two current members of the Wild.
There are likely to be better days ahead for lists like these. Ryan Suter was a Norris Trophy finalist in his first season of a 13-year contract with the franchise, and local boy Zach Parise is sure to make a name for himself with the franchise as well, but they don’t meet the criteria yet.
Mikko Koivu: He’s the current captain and even with a lot of great hockey ahead of him, Mikko Koivu is already second all-time in franchise scoring with 398 points. The Wild selected Koivu sixth overall in 2001, and while it took him a few years to make the club, he’s been making an impact ever since.
In eight seasons with the Wild, Koivu has ascended from top prospect to team captain. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in assists with 279. The strong two-way centerman has also posted three seasons with 20 or more goals and has endeared himself to the fans thanks to his hard-nosed, hard-working play.
The native of Turku, Finland, still has five years remaining on his contract with the club, and while his star has faded under the shadow of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Koivu will remain an important piece of the Wild’s present and even still, their future.
Marian Gaborik: Arguably one of the best goal scorers of the last decade for any team, Gaborik started his career in Minnesota in the Wild’s inaugural season. He made an instant impact, and despite several injury-plagued seasons, is the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer with 219 and currently holds the club record for most points with 437.
Gaborik’s injury woes have taken some of the attention away of what was a truly fantastic eight-year run with the Wild. He topped 30 goals in five seasons with the club, including a 42-goal campaign in 2007-08. That despite appearing in 70 or more games in just three seasons.
Here’s a look back at one of Gaborik’s greatest accomplishments in a Wild uniform. The Slovakian sniper netted five goals against the New York Rangers in 2007, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in more than a decade prior, and only once since.
Andrew Brunette: This last wing spot was a bit tougher to pin down, but having played six of his 16 NHL seasons with the Minnesota Wild, Brunette got the nod. He is fourth on the franchise list in scoring with 321 points including 119 goals in a Wild uniform, good for second in team history.
After joining the team in just its second season of existence, Brunette spent three years in Minnesota before moving on to the Colorado Avalanche. After three years in Denver, he came back to the State of Hockey for another three-year run. In his six campaigns with the club, Brunette never played less than 80 games and had three 20-plus goal seasons including 25 tallies as a 36-year-old in 2009-10.
Brunette retired in 2012 after one season with the Chicago Blackhawks and came back to Minnesota once again, this time as a hockey operations assistant. He remains a part of the club’s front office.
Nick Schultz: Though he may be a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers now, Schultz will always be remembered as a member of the Minnesota Wild. After joining the club as a 19-year-old rookie in 2001-02, Schultz spent the better part of 10 seasons with the Wild before being traded to Edmonton in 2011-12. No player has played more games for the franchise than Schultz, whose 743 career games leads the field by 178 contests.
A true defensive defenseman, Schultz often averaged more than 20 minutes a night and was a durable player throughout his time in Minnesota. His 128 career points are good for 10th all-time with the club, while his 102 assists rank seventh.
Brent Burns: Now a converted forward for the San Jose Sharks, Burns turned himself into one of the league’s better offensive defensemen while patrolling the ice in St. Paul. The Wild’s first-round pick in the stacked 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Burns made it to the NHL at 18 years old.
It took the big man a few years to get going, but by his fourth year with the club, he became a prolific point-producing blueliner. In 2007-08, Burns exploded for 43 points including 15 goals, while averaging more than 23 minutes a night. His numbers dipped as injuries slowed his progress, but in 2010-11, Burns’ last year with the club, he posted career bests in goals (17), assists (29) and points (46).
Despite being a defenseman and playing more than 72 games only three times over his seven-season stint with the Wild, Burns is the club’s sixth all-time leading scorer with 183 points. Also, he's the NHL's most evolutionary player (via Puck Daddy)…
Niklas Backstrom: Well here’s an easy one. Though Dwayne Roloson tops the Wild’s career lists for save percentage and goals-against average, it’s really hard to argue against Backstrom’s longevity and consistency over the course of his career, all of which has been spent with the Minnesota Wild.
Backstrom’s .917 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average trail only Roloson, but the Finnish-born netminder has made over 200 more appearances for Minnesota than his Canadian-born counterpart. Backstrom, who will head into his eighth season with the club next year, holds the record for most shutouts (28), wins (184), saves (9,429) and minutes played (21,149).
At age 35, it’s uncertain how much Backstrom has left to give, but he’s locked up for three more years, so the Wild will certainly squeeze everything they can out of him.
Backstrom has made many great saves over his career, but he owns one of the greatest stops in the shootout era.
Wes Walz, Brian Rolston, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Filip Kuba, Dwayne Roloson, Derek Boogaard
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