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4 Minnesota Wild players included in ESPN’s ‘Top 100 NHL players of the decade’ list

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NHL: DEC 11 Blues at Wild Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild certainly had an eventful decade. They made the playoffs six years in a row (though they failed to make much out of those opportunities), scored lots of memorable goals and, for a brief moment, were the worst team in the NHL!

Lots of peaks and valleys, folks!

ESPN released its list of the top 100 NHL players of the decade on Thursday, and four Wild players — Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Ryan Suter — made the cut. A few former Wild players made the list as well, including Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik and, of course, Brent Burns.

Current Wild Players

89. Mikko Koivu
What ESPN had to say:

Koivu’s 516 points in 719 games ranked him 34th among forwards, but it’s his defensive prowess that made him one of the decade’s best, though sadly he was never rewarded with much love in Selke Trophy voting.

It’s honestly a bit surprising to see Koivu ranked so low on this list. The 36-year-old has been Minnesota’s captain for the entire decade and just recently reached the 700-point mark in his 1,000th game. Koivu’s made a significant impact in the NHL over the last decade, and it’s unfortunate his legacy may not be fully appreciated by those outside of Minnesota.

82. Zach Parise
What ESPN had to say:

Thanks to injuries, Parise never lived up to the roll on which he entered the 2010s with the Devils. But, his 251 goals in 652 games ranked him 20th for the decade, and gave him a higher goals-per-game average than Jeff Skinner and Jonathan Toews. But the thing that defined his decade: 13 years and $98 million from the Minnesota Wild as a free agent, signing as a package deal with Ryan Suter. Heck, it was the decade for the Wild, too.

Parise may not rank too highly on ESPN’s list, but he’s certainly been one of the Wild’s most important players since arriving in 2012. With 181 goals and 356 points in 479 games as a member of the Wild, Parise has been one of Minnesota’s top point producers in the 2010s. His contract certainly isn’t ideal, especially considering the possible repercussions of it, but there’s no denying his impact on the Wild for the majority of the decade.

65. Eric Staal
What ESPN had to say:

One of the most unpredictable renaissances of the decade: Nine seasons after he last hit 40 goals, Staal scored 42 with the Wild in 2017-18. For the decade, his 262 goals with the Hurricanes, Rangers and Wild ranked him 16th. Remember, that was with some less-than-stellar clubs: Staal appeared in only 15 playoff games this decade.

Staal’s certainly made a significant impact this decade, though most of his statistics were recorded with the Hurricanes. Still, he recorded his 1,000th NHL point with the Wild against the Blackhawks this season, so that stands for something, right?

46. Ryan Suter
What ESPN had to say:

Is it possible Suter was so overrated he became underrated? That 13-year contract gave him unrealistic expectations. He ended up with 442 points (10th among defensemen for the decade) while skating more per game (26:59) than anyone else. He was fourth in goals above average (110.1) among defensemen.

Suter is definitely an ironman. That’s not up for debate. Even at 34 years old (he turns 35 on January 21), he continues to play big minutes on Minnesota’s blue line. He may not be quite as effective as he once was, but there’s no denying that he’s been a key piece for the Wild since arriving in 2012 with Zach Parise.


Former Wild Players

96. Thomas Vanek
What ESPN had to say:

Vanek entered the decade as one of the NHL’s best instant-offense guys, with 228 points in 267 games for the Sabres. The rest of the decade: Four trades, and stints with the Islanders, Wild, Red Wings, Panthers, Canucks, Blue Jackets and then the Red Wings again. In the end, his 529 points ranked him 34th for the decade.

Pretty good decade for Vanek. Decent stint with the Wild, but nothing to write home about.

86. Marian Gaborik
What ESPN had to say:

The winger had 378 points in 533 games with the Rangers, Blue Jackets (remember that?), Kings and Senators at the end of his career. That included a playoffs-high 14 goals in the Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup win.

Gaborik left the Wild after the 2008-09 season, so none of what he accomplished this decade had anything to do with Minnesota. Still, pretty impressive numbers for the Wild’s all-time leading scorer.

19. Brent Burns
What ESPN had to say:

No defenseman generated more shots on goal than Burns, who had 2,445 in 752 games. He was first in goals (168) and second in points (553) among defensemen. Despite strong puck possession metrics, Burns was criticized by some as a one-dimensional defenseman. That dimension was good enough to earn him the Norris Trophy in 2017, and for him to finish in the top three another three times.

Oh, what could have been. Burns only spent a tiny portion of the decade with the Wild before being traded to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft selection. Setoguchi lasted just two season with the Wild and Coyle is now playing for the Boston Bruins. That first-round pick? The Wild used it on Zack Phillips, who has yet to play a single game in the NHL at 27 years old.