The Twin Cities has more than just great lakes, they also have a legendary NHL hockey team. The Minnesota Wild are a professional ice hockey team based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Wild are the only Minneapolis–Saint Paul area major professional sports league franchise to play in Saint Paul until Minnesota United FC move to their new home, Allianz Field, in 2019. The other three teams play in Minneapolis.
The new team was founded on June 25, 1997, but started playing in the 2000–01 NHL season. The Wild were the first NHL franchise in Minnesota since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993. They lost their first game, 3–1, to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and recorded their first win against the Tampa Bay Lightning five games later. The Wild play at the Xcel Energy Center. In the 2002–03 season, the team made its first Stanley Cup playoff appearance, making a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals. As of 2018, the Wild have averaged a .549 points percentage since entering the league.
Minnesota is a state in the Upper Midwest and northern regions of the United States. Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858, created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory. The state has a large number of lakes, and is known by the slogan "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Its official motto is L'Étoile du Nord (French: Star of the North). Minnesota is the 12th largest in area and the 22nd most populous of the U.S. states; nearly 60% of its residents live in the Minneapolis, Saint Paul metropolitan area (known as the "Twin Cities"), the center of transportation, business, industry, education, and government, and home to an internationally known arts community. The remainder of the state consists of western prairies now given over to intensive agriculture; deciduous forests in the southeast, now partially cleared, farmed, and settled; and the less populated North Woods, used for mining, forestry, and recreation. The official nickname for Minnesota is "The North Star State" which originates from the French motto appearing on Minnesota's state flag and seal.
In 2017, the Minnesota Wild set their new franchise record for points (106), wins (49) and goals for (266). The Wild set a franchise record 12 game win streak, that was snapped on New Year's Eve 2016 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team also on a franchise record win streak at the time. Nevertheless, Minnesota failed to win more than a game in the playoffs, losing in five games to St. Louis. Mikael Granlund led the team in points with 69, while new addition Eric Staal led the team in goals with 28. Mikko Koivu was a finalist for the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward, while Granlund was a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy.
In the 2017 offseason, the Wild experienced significant roster turnover. Erik Haula was lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft (along with prospect Alex Tuch). Winger Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella were traded to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Minnesota native Matt Cullen was signed as a free agent and returned to the Wild to shore up the fourth line (Cullen had previously played in Minnesota from 2010–2013). Captain Mikko Koivu signed a two-year extension, ensuring he will remain with the Wild through the 2019–20 season.
Following another 100-point regular season, the Wild matched up with Central Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets, in the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Jets defeated the Wild in five games, making it three straight seasons in which the Wild failed to advance past the first round. On April 23, shortly following the Wild's exit from the playoffs, owner Leipold announced that he had fired general manager Fletcher after nine seasons with the team. Under Fletcher's leadership, the Wild qualified for the playoffs six consecutive years, but failed to advance beyond the second round.
What does it look like for this team in the 2018-19 season? The Minnesota Wild certainly have a good chance to do well and did not make any big splashes in the trade market yet this summer. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is up for this season’s success to decide. The situation looked a lot more promising for the Wild before KHL stud Kirill Kaprizov made it clear he's in no rush to the NHL. Making matters worse was Luke Kunin's season-ending ACL tear, followed by Minnesota's puzzling move at the 2018 draft when they went off the board to draft an average defense prospect like Filip Johansson in the first round. It appears for now that power forward Jordan Greenway is the only blue-chip prospect with a serious chance to make the team out of camp.
This could be a very telling season for Jared Spurgeon and his future with the Minnesota Wild. As an undersized player with durability concerns on a team with an increasing amount of defensive prospect depth, Spurgeon could soon find his place on the team changing. Jared Spurgeon has become accustomed to spending the majority of his ice time alongside Ryan Suter on the top pairing. However, during Suter and Spurgeon’s injuries at the end of last season, Mathew Dumba performed admirably in an increased role on the top pair and may see a promotion to fill the spot beside Suter.
Offensive skill, defensive capability, and the young players coming up from the minors could be pushing Spurgeon out the door. If he is unwilling to waive his No-Trade Clause, then he is guaranteed to remain for 2 more seasons still. Should he waive it to allow GM Fenton to move him, we should see a solid return for a reliable, productive, team-first player.
Another player to keep your eyes on this season is forward Jason Zucker. Minnesota Wild General Manager Paul Fenton just announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has agreed to terms with restricted free-agent forward Jason Zucker on a five-year, $27.5 million contract ($5 million in 2018-19, $6.25 million in 2019-20, $4.8 million in 2024-21, $6.25 million in 2021-22 and $5.2 million in 2022-23 for a $5.5 million average annual value). He was named the NHL First Star of the Week on Nov. 13 after scoring six straight team goals for the Wild, one shy of the NHL record, including his first career hat trick on in a 3-0 win at Montreal on Nov. 9.
On June 20, 2017, the Wild introduced a new home uniform, as the NHL switched from Reebok to Adidas. It’s a green jersey with their main logo, and a wheat colored stripe through the center of the jersey. On the arms is a wheat colored stripe with a smaller red stripe near the top of it. The Wild kept their away jersey design the same. The Wild, along with the rest of the NHL, did not have an alternate jersey for the 2017–18 season. Keep your eyes on the Wild this season as you never know what might happen. Stay Tuned!