With the end of 2010, and the start of a brand new year, we decided to take a look at the top ten Wild stories of 2010.
Let's just say, 2010 was not a kind year for fans of the Minnesota Wild. A second straight season with no playoffs, a team struggling to find their way after the biggest upheaval in team history, and a continued mediocrity that they just cannot seem to shake.
There were positives, and there were negatives. There was humor, anger, and happiness. Above all else, there was hockey. We present to you, the top ten Wild stories of the year.
Today, stories six through ten.
10. "The Comeback"
Those two words should say it all. Everyone knows what they mean, and to which game they refer. This is the reason why you do not leave a game early. This is the reason why you never doubt a team, no matter how far down they are. This is the reason why people who don't understand hockey don't understand why momentum is so important to the game.
January 9th, 2010. The single greatest comeback in the Wild's still young history. Clearly, if you are a Wild fan, this will be one of those moments you will tell your kids about. "I remember once, the Wild were down 5-1 with just 14 minutes left to play, when it happened. 'The Comeback.'"
9. Sellout Streak Ends
After 409 games, encompassing every home game the team had ever played, the sellout streak ended. Some will tell you that the streak was a sham, a fraud, a farce. Surely, it was not that they sold every seat they ever could. The rules say that the tickets must be "distributed," not sold. So, if they gave them away, it still counted. However, the streak was official, and it counted,
Others claim the streak would end later in the year, at the first regular season non-sellout. The Wild considered the streak to be every game, preseason, regular season, and post season, that they ever played. The first game to not sell out was September 23rd. Thus, the streak endth.
8. James Sheppard is Re-signed, Injures Himself
In news it seemed no Wild fan wanted to hear, the Minnesota Wild did what was completely expected of them, and re-signed restricted free agent James Sheppard. He was signed with the understanding that this would be his last chance. He either showed he had what it took to be an NHL player, or he risked not making the squad out of camp.
In what can only be described as a cruel twist of fate, or a massively stupid thing to do, Sheppard was injured while riding an ATV during a "high altitude training" weekend. This led to a massive amount of ATV jokes, which continue today, and it led to Sheppard being suspended by the team without pay, but rehabbing with team doctors. Upon his return sometime later this year, he will most likely be place on waivers and sent to Houston.
The biggest part of this story is the absolute lack of impact it had on the team. He was such a minor role player that the Wild have shown zero issues in moving on without him. Sad news for a former ninth overall pick.
7. Injuries Change the Plans
When the Wild made their depth charts in training camp, the goalie position was locked. Niklas Backstrom backed up by Josh Harding. Anton Khudobin would be the backup should Harding be traded or injured. Then the unthinkable happened. Harding was injured in a preseason game, and his season ended when he blew his ACL and MCL.
Surely, the plan would be for Borat to make the jump to the big leagues. No. The Wild signed free agent Jose Theodore to backup Backstrom, keeping Borat in Houston, and showing just how much faith they really had in their depth chart at the backstop position. This raises questions of what the future holds for the Wild goaltending corp, and also gives the anti Backstrom crowd a mascot.
Meanwhile, the only pure goal scorer on the roster, Guillaume Latendresse found his way into Todd Richards' doghouse. It was soon discovered that BTE needed surgery to repair not one, but two ailments. His hope is to return to the lineup this season, but his loss is clearly felt on the scorecard and in the standings. The Wild have no one who can finish, and it shows.
In what is widely seen as GM Chuck Fletcher's first mistake as the head of the Wild, he traded a first round draft pick and an aging defenseman with zero interest in returning for a defensive prospect who never lived up to his expectations.
It is not clear why the Wild had to give up a prospect to get Barker in what should have been a trade of an expiring contract (Johnsson) for a non-expiring deal (Barker) to a team that was desperate for salary cap relief. Instead, Barker has shown he is a bust, Johnsson has left the game completely, and Leddy has be deified by the provincial Minnesota fans.
This trade will have long, and far reaching consequences, many of which will not be known for years to come. Barker could turn it around, but it looks unlikely. He is an RFA, so he will need to be qualified, and he will continue to make a boatload of money to under perform. Nick Leddy will develop on his own, and the two will be forever linked.
Join us tomorrow for the top five Wild stories of 2010. Agree with the choices so far? What would be your top 10 stories of the year?