The Minnesota Wild franchise reached its teen years in the 2010s, and like most teenagers, there were signs of potential, and serious, growing pains. The past decade saw some of the biggest names to play for the Wild, as well as the longest streak of playoff appearances. It also saw some head-scratching trades, some overpaid free agents, and some midseason swoons to make fans and coaches pull their hair out. (Luckily, that’s not a problem for Bruce Boudreau — kidding, coach!)
So, as this decade comes to a close, let’s take a look back and hand out some awards (both good and bad) for the most noteworthy moments in the Wild’s past 10 years.
Note: Make sure to also check out our list of Most Memorable Wild Goals of the Decade from earlier this month.
Trade of the Decade
In early 2010, rookie Wild GM Chuck Fletcher made the first trade of the decade, making a move that Wild fans would talk about for years to come. The move would set the tone for trades during the rest of Fletcher’s tenure with the Wild, moving Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson to the Chicago Blackhawks for Cam Barker. The “Leddy for Barker” trade has been a sore spot for fans ever since, and unfortunately for the Wild, it hasn’t got much better. Burns for Coyle, Setoguchi and a first, Pominville at the deadline for a hero’s ransom, Rask for Niederreiter and, of course, the Martin Hanzel debacle, are some less than stellar moments in franchise history.
But there is one move that shrewdly turned around a season spiraling around the drain and brought the Wild their franchise goaltender for the next five years. In the midst of yet another midseason swoon, the Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes for a third-round pick. Despite the questions about his on-ice play in the past, Dubnyk made a huge statement in his first night in net. He backstopped the Wild to a 7-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, snapping a six-game losing streak and helping carry the team to the second round of the NHL playoffs for the second straight year. Dubnyk earned the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy that year and a third-place finish in the Vezina Trophy voting. Today, the deal that brought him here is by far the Trade of the Decade.
Honorable mention: Fletcher did have one other spark of genius, bringing Nino Niederreiter to Minnesota for Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick.
Draft Pick of the Decade
While the Wild made some serious blunders at the trade table, the 2010s showed significant improvement in the Wild’s ability to select players in the draft. And after the prior 10 years saw first-round draft busts like James Sheppard, Colton Gillies and Tyler Cuma, there wasn’t anywhere to go but up.
But starting with Mikael Granlund’s first-round selection in the 2010 draft, Minnesota’s scouts and GMs were able to make some quality selections in the early-round. A three year span of first-round picks brought in Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba — three major pieces of the Wild’s success during the decade — followed later by Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin in back-to-back years, both of whom are logging major minutes for the current squad. And while the aforementioned trades often handcuffed the team with limited picks in the 2010-2019 drafts, the Wild were able to also grab players like Jason Zucker (second), Carson Soucy (fifth) and Jordan Greenway (second).
The pick of the decade is a player who has yet to see the ice in the NHL or the AHL, but it doesn’t stop fans from wishing, hoping and dreaming of the day soon to come where he will turn around the fortunes of the Wild and lead them to their first of multiple Stanley Cups.
Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement. But the buzz and speculation alone make the 2015 selection of Kirill Kaprizov the Draft Pick of the Decade.
Free Agent Signing of the Decade
As much as I’d like to consider some great deals that paid big dividends and some headline contracts the Wild likely would like a re-do on, nothing compares to the term, total and lingering controversy of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signings of 2012. They showed fans the Wild were finally serious about bringing in star power to chase championships. Both Parise and Suter have brought excitement to the franchise, but their matching $98 million deals (and no-move clauses) have also handcuffed the team in terms of the salary cap and roster flexibility, and could potentially sink the franchise depending on when each decide to retire. So, for those reasons and many more, there’s no more obvious choice for the Free Agent Signing(s) of the Decade.
Story of the Decade
On and off the ice, the Wild have given fans, beat writers and bloggers lots to talk about, most of which had catchy hashtags. #StripTheC, #AngryMikko, #Fire(EnterNameHere), to name a few. We followed along as the Wild pursued an outdoor game, and while they haven’t gotten the one they wanted (yet, stay tuned...), they did manage to put on a successful and entertaining Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks. We pulled for Josh Harding as he battled MS, and we scratched our heads when he kicked a wall and broke his foot, never to play another game for the Wild again. And we all checked our watches, whether it was #PariseWatch, #SuterWatch, #VanekWatch or #BoudreauWatch.
But the most anticipated, confusing and bizarrely ending story of the Wild’s last decade has to be the Tragedy of
Darth Plagueis the Wise Paul Fenton. Signed to relatively positive fanfare, the Wild’s third General Manager in team history made a splash while leading the table for the first time at the 2018 NHL Draft, selecting someone named Filip Johannson with the 24th pick in the first round — a player most experts believed could have been taken much, much later. The following season, due to trades that angered fans, a personality that alienated co-workers, and strange comments about the heights of drafted players and the lizard-like qualities of free agent signings, team owner Craig Leipold had no choice but to let Fenton go just over a year into his multi-year contract. Though his tenure was short, Paul Fenton’s ups and downs were definitely the Story of the Decade.
Lighthearted Moment of the Decade
Let’s cleanse our palettes a bit from the heavy memories of trades and firings and look back at some of the happy and funny moments of the last decade. The moments that made us smile, no matter what was happening on the ice or in the front office. The ones that warmed our hearts and made the room a bit dustier at times. And the times where we couldn’t help but laugh (especially at another team’s enforcer).
Like the time that Devan Dubnyk made a kid cry (in a good way):
Or the excitement Teddy Bridgewater fan Obadiah Gamble had when the Wild scored during an interview with Kevin Gorg:
Or that time Matt Dumba laughed at Steve Ott, and we all laughed along with him...
And there were many, many moments where players interacted with kids, often tossing them pucks. There are too many great moments to mention, but my personal favorite, and the one I’m choosing for Lighthearted Moment of the Decade, is Charlie Coyle making a little kid’s day, just by being Charlie Coyle...
Blooper of the Decade
There were other moments that made us laugh and cry, but maybe not in the way we hoped for. Cal Clutterbuck once tried to tee up Alex Burrows and ended up in the Vancouver bench. Our goaltenders had trouble handling the puck. And Matt Dumba made a great no-look pass to Nikolaj Ehlers. There are dozens upon dozens of boneheaded or unfortunate plays to choose from — and even more if you include unfortunate bounces of off stanchions.
But nothing puts the spotlight on a player like being called to participate in the shootout. And when Devin Setoguchi stepped up to answer the call in March of 2012, this happened:
MVP of the Decade
Last but certainly not least, the most important of these awards — the MVP of the Decade. Choosing the recipient of this award for the Minnesota Wild is a difficult task. Part of this is due to the fact that the Wild have been without a game-breaking talent since Marian Gaborik left, and also because the roster has changed significantly since 2010. Only two players (Koivu and Spurgeon) are still on the roster from the start of the decade, but there are many that could be considered the most impactful, even over a shorter period. Here are a sample, along with their resumes:
The team’s captain for all 10 years of the 2010s, Koivu is the leader in most of the statistical categories and has more points in the 2010s (516 and counting) than any other Wild player in that same time period. His 146 goals this decade ranks second to Parise.
Parise has more goals in this decade than any other Wild player. He led the team in goals four times (and is the current leader this season), and had the most points three times in his eight years. Parise also has the most goals (14) and points (31) in the playoffs by any Wild player this decade.
Though he has only been the primary starter for four full seasons (along with half of the 2014-15 season and limited action this year), Dubnyk’s arrival finally gave the Wild a dedicated starter in net — something they hadn’t had for several years since the peak of Niklas Backstrom’s career. Upon being acquired from Arizona, he started all 39 games of the remainder of the 2014-15 season, earning 27 wins with a 1.78 goals against average and a .936 save percentage, earning him a nod as a Vezina Trophy finalist. Dubnyk also finished fifth in the Vezina voting two years later with a 40-19-5 record and a .923 save percentage.
Even though he’s only played three-plus seasons with the Wild, Staal has led the team twice in goals and once in points, never finishing lower than second in either category. His 42 goals in 2017-18 tied Marian Gaborik for most in a single season, and his 76 points was the third highest single-season total behind Gaborik and Brian Rolston.
Beyond that, Ryan Suter has been the ironman for the Wild, racking up by far the most minutes in eight seasons. Mikael Granlund poured it on in the playoffs to the tune of 21 points in 39 games and led the team in points in 2016-17. Nino Niederreiter, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker could also be candidates with their contributions during the 2010s.
There’s not an obvious choice, so for this one, we put it up to you! Who do you think is the player that had the biggest impact on the Wild over the last decade?
Who is the Player of the Decade for the Minnesota Wild?
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