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.
Are there stories worth looking back on in 2010? Is there anything that even draws your attention? We found ten stories that sum it all up for the Wild. Stories 6-10 showed that there were positives and negatives. Stories one through five will continue that trend.
Wild fans everywhere know that this is not a Stanley Cup contender. They know on any given night, the odds are their favorite team is going to lose. However, being Wild fans, they continue to show up. Thus, there is always reason to look back before we look forward.
Your top five Wild stories for 2010.
5. The Return of Inglewood Jack
Brent Burns as seen the lowest of lows in his career. While he has not seen the highest of highs, his current play certainly shows he is capable of it. After a disastrous experiment at forward that held up his development, Burns then missed an extended period of time with what was thought to be concussion symptoms.
Turns out, he had sinus issues, and once he resolved those, he was back. Wild fans are ecstatic for his return, because on most nights, Burns is the best player on the ice. Leading the team in goals, pinching at all the right times, clearing the front of the net, sticking up for teammates, and covering for defensive partners, the man is everywhere.
If anyone had doubts that Brent Burns were an elite level NHL defenseman, those doubts should be put to rest at this point. Rick Wilson's presence on the Wild bench has a ton to do with this, and working with a talent like Burns has got to be a pleasure for Wilson.
While we never want to deal in absolutes, the truth is, as long as no one messes with Burns' game, he should be one of the top d-men in the league for a long time.
4. Wild Are Shown the Big Stage, Fall Flat
Given the chance to play as part of the NHL Premiere Series in Europe, the Wild jumped. To play in front of the fans in Finland, the home of so many of the Wild stars, the team had to be excited. There were team building exercises, trips around town, sight seeing adventures. They practiced, and played a game against a native Finnish team, handling them easily.
Then, the real games started, and the Wild gave the fans back home no indication that their 0 for everything pre-season was a fluke. They came out flat against the Hurricanes, something that would turn out to be a theme in 2010. There was no urgency, no excitement, and they dropped the games 4-3 and 2-1 in a shootout. Neither game was as close as the scoreboard would show.
Given the chance to make a case for future Winter Classic games or other premiere NHL events, the Wild fell flat on their collective face, making it clear they had nothing to draw an audience to such a major event.
3. The Future Looks Bright
No matter how bleak things look on the ice for the big club, General Manager Chuck Fletcher is doing everything it takes to make the team better long term. For the first time in club history, the draft class of 2010 left fans with a real sense of excitement for the possibilities. Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, and Brett Bulmer give Wild fans a honest to goodness reason to have hope.
While none of the players drafted will be a short term solution, and things could still get worse before they get better, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Talking to Wild fans in person and online, it is clear that there is real pride in the draftees of 2010. Let's just hope they don't get traded away for a perceived quick fix.
2. Kaptain Koivu gets his Kontract
The seven year extension given to Mikko Koivu back in July was one that confounded fans and experts alike. The only people who seemed to have faith that this contract is a good one were Wild fans and the people who work for the Wild. You know what? That's good enough for us.
Koivu is the face of the franchise, and will be for a long time. He is the best two way center in the game. Yeah, I said it. If he had gone to free agency, he would have commanded at least what he was given by the Wild. If you are visiting from another fan base, and you think your favorite team wouldn't have been willing to pay $6.75 million for Koivu, you are fooling yourself.
Koivu is not putting up great numbers this year. Given the players they have put on his wings, it is not difficult to figure out why that is. After this season, both Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen are free agents. Neither will be back, both are prime trade bait at the deadline. Next season will be an interesting one to see how Koivu responds to new linemates, and to see if the weight of the contract crushes him, or if the long term security makes him soar.
1. Butch. Is. Back.
The return of Pierre-Marc Bouchard was not a guarantee. After missing an entire season due to post concussion symptoms, Bouchard's future with the team was a source of strong doubt. Would he play this season? Would he ever play again?
Everything was answered on December 1st, with his return to the ice, and the following four points in four games put an exclamation point on the fact that he was back. He was immediately partnered with Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen, and that line became the main offensive threat for the Wild. After a cooling, Cullen was swapped out for Kyle Brodziak, but Butch has yet to find the spark from the new partnership that Havlat has seen.
If it were me running the show, if the Wild continue on the path they are on, I have to try a Bouchard - Koivu - Havlat line. Put all the eggs in a basket and see what happens. Give it some time to grow, to get some chemistry going, and forget about the immediate results. Put together a real NHL top line.
No matter what happens, the fact that Bouchard found his way back to the ice is the top Wild story for 2010. His absence was notable, his return amazing, and his future is bright once again. This only bodes well for the Wild.
Your turn, Wilderness. How did we do? Agree or disagree with our top 10 stories? Did we miss anything? Is our order wrong? Speak up!