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Painful Departures

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Nino is gone and there is a hole in my heart, next to all other holes.

2016 Coors Light Stadium Series - Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

In case you haven’t heard, Nino Niederreiter was recently traded by the Minnesota Wild and some have described the move as wrong and others have said that they hated it. No matter what Victor Rask does during his time with the Wild, whether the trade ends up to be a good one or bad a one, many Wild fans will just resent losing one of their favorite players who was generally described as a good guy and a good teammate.

Fortunately for us, we know what it feels like to have something you love taken away from you. Here is my ranking of the top five most painful departures in Wild history:

#5 The North Stars

Yes I said “in Wild history” and yes this predates this but this is my list of pain and, to paraphrase Ryan Lambert’s Power Feelings, it can’t be wrong since it is my feelings. Anyway, the North Stars left in 1993 and it sucked because it was Minnesota’s first NHL team and they had an awesome logo and they were even occasionally good. Should this be higher on the list? Maybe because it is the great crime in Minnesota’s hockey history, but I was 4 years old when the team moved to Dallas so I never felt the pain firsthand, I just know the residual pain and for that reason, it is number 5.

#4 Nino Niederreiter

For all the reasons you’ve seen and read in the last few days. And also because of this:

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was at the Bulldog in Lowertown with a group of friends and it was a great win and it felt so damn good. Bless you Nino.

#3 Marian Gaborik

He was the first great Wild player, he was the first drafted Wild player, he scored the first goal in Wild history, hell, in many ways he embodied the Wild. He remains the only #elite #gamebreaker in Wild history and still holds the records for most goals scored in a Wild sweater, most points in a season scored by a Wild player, and shares the record for most goals scored in a single season with Eric Staal. While his departure was foreseeable, seeing the best player in franchise history leave in free agency hurt especially as he left for the Big Apple, reinforcing an entire state’s inferiority complex. Were the Wild better off for not hanging onto an aging player with injury problems? Maybe, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Minnesota Wild v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

#2 Brent Burns

What really hurt wasn’t so much that Brent Burns was a particularly beloved player (he wasn’t beloved by me at least), but that it seemed to be giving up on a highly talented, unconventional player. Burns was traded (along with a 2012 draft pick) in 2011 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft used to select Zack Phillips. Maybe that’s what hurts so much in retrospect, that the return was so much less than what we gave up. Burns was coming off some injury plagued seasons, but he had so much potential that was fully realized in San Jose where he helped lead the Sharks to a Stanley Cup final. At the time, on paper, you can kinda sorta understand the trade, but all the Wild are left with is Charlie Coyle who is fine player but no Brent Burns. This is the pain of what could have been.

#1 Erik Haula

This is personal. Erik Haula wasn’t my first favorite Wild player, but he was the first Wild player that I felt that I identified was underutilized and deserved more and I thought I knew enough to know that. He was my favorite player when I was too old to admit out loud I had a favorite player. He was a Gopher, he was a Finnesotan, he was a late round gem, he was a speedy center who seemed to thrive in big moments but never got the chance to shine (or, perhaps more accurately, wasn’t consistent enough to earn that chance). I remember him shadowing Nathan MacKinnon in the playoffs and shutting him down. I remember Haula joining Nino and Pommer on the Doghouse Line and proving Mike Yeo and everyone else in the league wrong by going off and dragging the team back to respectability. And how did we repay him? By trading Alex Tuch to Vegas to make sure that they took Haula in the expansion draft. Great call. So glad we kept Scandella and Coyle instead. It’s not like the team needed speed or center depth anyway. Haula repaid that betrayal by putting up career highs in goals, assists, and points for Vegas (29g + 26a = 55p). I knew, or should have known, that Haula was going to be the odd man out; it was an open secret. However, I hoped against hope it would somehow not happen. I’m still a Wild fan, I still watch the games, but something is missing and that something is Erik Haula.

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche - Game Seven Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a “newer” Wild fan having only closely followed the team for the past 5-6 years, and there are probably even more heart wrenching departures that I am missing so I am curious what other departures stick out in your minds and why? Let me know.