The Minnesota Wild had four finalists this NHL Awards season: Kirill Kaprizov for the Calder, Jared Spurgeon had his name in the running for the Lady Byng, Matt Dumba kept his high reputation with a Masterton nod, and head coach Dean Evason got recognized for bringing this team out of mediocrity and into relevancy this season, earning him a spot in the top-three for the Jack Adams.
All four awards have been announced, with only Kaprizov winning, but that hardly takes away from the significance of the organization having four finalists in league awards. Spurgeon placed second in Lady Byng voting and so did Evason in the Jack Adams. Beyond the finalists, forward Joel Eriksson Ek finished fourth in the Selke Trophy voting, finally recognized for his defensive efforts.
Last season, defenseman Matt Dumba won the King Clancy Trophy and the team had no other finalists. Kaprizov’s rookie of the year win and this season’s other nominations show a new level of recognition from the hockey universe for the Wild organization.
Prior to this season, the Wild had never had four finalists in the same year and the last time the team had multiple finalists was in 2017, when then captain Mikko Koivu was a finalist for the Selke and Mikael Granlund for the Lady Byng.
This team has only won more than one award once. In 2007, Manny Fernandez and Niklas Backstrom won the William M. Jennings Trophy, goaltending pair with fewest goals against, and Backstrom also took home the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for best save percentage.
In that offseason, Fernandez was traded to the Boston Bruins to play two more seasons. Backstrom played eight more seasons in Minnesota before ending his career in Calgary. This is the only time the organization has had more than one award win in a season.
The Wild had the potential to double that amount this season, although only one of the awards announced went to the organization. The last time an organization won four awards in one season was in 2018, with the new kids on the block, the Vegas Golden Knights (sore subject, I know).
The Wild had a much slower start than Vegas as an expansion team, with no award nominations in the team’s first two seasons.
The 2003 NHL awards in Toronto marked two firsts for the club. Wes Walz was nominated for the Selke and head coach Jacques Lemaire won the Jack Adams Award. Walz played for the Wild since the team’s inception and ended his career in 2008, with the “A” on his jersey for four seasons and the “C” for part of the 2005-06 season. Lemaire’s time with the Wild was a break in coaching for the Devils, he stayed with the Wild from 2000-2009 before returning to New Jersey for two more seasons.
Dwayne Roloson ended up being the first Wild player to win an award when he was awarded the Saving Grace award the following season. He remained with the Wild through the lockout and played 24 games in net in the 2006-07 season before being traded to Edmonton for a first round pick.
In the grand scheme of things, no, regular season awards are not the most important aspect of the NHL. Ask any player and they’ll tell you the same thing: they’re here to win the Cup. The Wild haven’t done that, they haven’t been anywhere close in recent history.
However, these regular season awards could very well indicate future success. As pessimistic as Minnesota sports fans love to be, you have got to admit that this isn’t the same team.
I don’t know about anyone else, but this was the most exciting Wild team I’ve watched in years. There is something here and it was able to get recognized by voters and fans alike.