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Ranking the 2010s: Top-5 Wild moments over the past 10 years

Little has stayed the same for a franchise that will celebrate its 20th season next year

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- It was certainly a decade of change for the Wild, with a number of both ups and downs over the past 10 seasons. 

Think back to December of 2009 and the names and faces associated with the club were very different.

Chuck Fletcher was in his second season as the Wild's General Manager back then. Fletcher served in that same role with the club until the summer of 2018, when he was replaced by Paul Fenton. Fenton, of course, lasted just one season before he was succeeded by current GM Bill Guerin last August.

Todd Richards was in his first season as the head coach of the club in 2009, the second man in franchise history to hold that post. He was replaced by Mike Yeo in 2011. Yeo brought the club to three consecutive playoff berths, including two trips to the Second Round, but was relieved of his duties with the team mirred in a lengthy slump in February of 2016. 

John Torchetti, the coach of the Iowa Wild at the time, took over for the remainder of the season on an interim basis, guiding the Wild to the postseason once again. The following summer, Fletcher tabbed Bruce Boudreau as the fourth full-time head coach in franchise history and third this decade.

There remains just one player on the current roster from December of 2009; captain Mikko Koivu, who was named the first permanent captain of the team just two months prior. Koivu, of course, surpassed 1,000 games in a Wild sweater earlier this month.

Ranking the top moments from the decade isn't easy, but here is a look at the top-5 in the eyes of Wild.com's Dan Myers:


5. Draft weekend

For the first time, the NHL Draft came to the Twin Cities, with Xcel Energy Center hosting the event in 2011.

And the Wild provided the home crowd with plenty of fireworks. 

The team selected Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin with the 10th overall selection. Brodin has been a mainstay on the blueline for the past seven seasons and has been one of the best first-round picks in team history.

But the team wasn't done making headlines. As the first-round commenced, Minnesota was a part of a blockbuster deal that elicited a huge reaction from the hometown fans. 

Minnesota traded defenseman Brent Burns and a second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Devin Setoguchi, forward prospect Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick in 2011.

Two parts of the trade didn't work out for the Wild. Setoguchi, a 30-goal scorer for the Sharks just a couple of years prior, lasted just two seasons in Minnesota before being traded to the Winnipeg Jets. 

The Wild used the 28th pick on forward Zack Phillips, who never reached the NHL. 

Coyle became a fan favorite during his 6 1/2 year run in Minnesota before he was traded to his hometown Boston Bruins last February in exchange for Ryan Donato.

Not to be forgotten: The Wild selected local defenseman Nick Seeler in the fifth round of the same draft. Seeler, an Eden Prairie native, has 99 games in the NHL under his belt and has been on the Wild's roster for the past two years.


4. Duby gets hot

With the team going through a rough patch in January of 2015, the Wild desperately needed a pick-me-up. Enter Fletcher, who traded a third-round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for their backup goaltender, Devan Dubnyk.

After nearly playing his way out of the NHL the year prior, Dubnyk signed a one-year contract with Arizona to play behind veteran Mike Smith. In 19 games with the Coyotes, Dubnyk posted a 9-5-2 record to go with a .916 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average ... solid, but certainly not predictive of the run he'd go on once arriving in Minnesota.

Dubnyk met the team in Buffalo, New York, backstopped the Wild in a 7-0 shutout victory over the Sabres then managed to reel off 27 wins over the next 39 games, saving the Wild's season. Minnesota, which was in last place at the time of the deal, finished as the first wild card in the Western Conference and even knocked off Central Division champion St. Louis in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The sheer volume of playing time Dubnyk took on over those final months was astounding. He started 39 of the Wild's 40 games after his arrival, posting a sub-2 goals against (1.78) and a save percentage of .936.

He was named a Vezina Trophy finalist and won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. 


3. Wild takes it outside

Outdoor hockey in Minnesota is a tradition that begins in a player's formative years, playing on backyard and neighborhood rinks throughout the State of Hockey.

Video: A fun look back at the Stadium Series game.

In 2016, the NHL got its chance for the first time when the Wild hosted a Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks at a packed TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

The Wild won the game 6-1, which was a perfect ending to what was a memorable weekend of hockey.

Video: Becoming Wild - Stadium Series

One of the highlghts was an alumni game played in the stadium the day before the main event, where legends from both the North Stars and Wild joined forces to play against former Blackhawks. The Minnesota alumni team united under the iconic North Stars 'N' sweater, with former Wild players wearing that crest on one shoulder. 

Fittingly, the Minnesota alumni also rolled to a victory in front of more than 30,000 fans who reveled in their trips down memory lane. 

Video: A look back at the Alumni Game in Minnesota

The weather was also ideal. With temperatures hovering in the low 30s all weekend, fans came out in droves to enjoy all the events surrounding the games themselves. During the Stadium Series game itself, a light snow fell for a period, making for an absolutely picturesque setting.


2. Nino's OT winner

There's something about Game 7s at the Pepsi Center that seems to bring out the best in the Wild.

Minnesota's longest playoff run in franchise history was spurred by Andrew Brunette's iconic goal in overtime of Game 7 in 2003. 

Then, 11 years later on April 30, 2014, Minnesota doubled down on that history when Nino Niederreiter ended one of the most entertaining games in Wild history with a blistering shot that managed to sneak just under the crossbar. 

Home teams had managed to go 6-0 in the series prior to the deciding game. Colorado got out to a 2-0 series lead with a pair of close wins in Denver, before the Wild answered with two one-goal victories back in St. Paul. The Avs wrestled control of the series in an overtime victory in Game 5 before the Wild sent things back to Denver with the most lopsided win of the series at Xcel Energy Center.

Game 7 encapsulated the series in a nutshell. 

Colorado scored the opening goal 2:52 into the game to take an early lead before Mikko Koivu answered. Jamie McGinn gave the Avs the lead heading into the first intermission but Dany Heatley scored the only goal of the second, sending the game to the final period tied at 2-2.

In the third, Paul Stastny's early goal was countered by Niederreiter, then Erik Johnson's by Jared Spurgeon, who tied the game at 4-4 with just 2:27 remaining.

Just over six minutes into the extra session, the 21-year old Niederrieter, in his first season with Minnesota, launched himself into Wild lore. Kyle Brodziak took a gorgeous head-man pass from Heatley and fed Niederreiter, joining him on a 2-on-1 rush into the Avs end. 

With the option to pass it back, Niederreiter instead chose to shoot. He didn't miss, beating Semyon Varlamov with a deadly wrist shot from the top of the right circle, stunning a sold-out Pepsi Center crowd and providing Wild fans with yet another Rocky Mountain memory.


1. Wild doubles down on July 4

The Wild had spent a couple of years building its roster to strike in the summer of 2012. The free agent class was highlighted by a pair prominent players with ties to the Upper Midwest, Bloomington native Zach Parise and Madison, Wisconsin's Ryan Suter.

Minnesota liked both players and was determined to land one. It wouldn't be easy, however. Most of the NHL's top teams were after one of the two players, and all of them had more history and a winning pedigree than the Wild, which had just one division title and one lengthy playoff run to its credit in 2012.

The Wild cleared ample salary cap space to acquire one of the impact players and had what prospects experts deemed the best up-and-coming farm system in the League on its way, with Brodin, Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Matt Dumba, Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter, among others, about ready to make the leap. 

Despite that, and the local connections, Minnesota was no sure thing. 

One thing was for certain: from a business standpoint, the Wild needed to convince one of them to sign. Attendance had begun to lag the year prior and it was clear the honeymoon phase of having NHL hockey again in Minnesota was done. Fans wanted a winner.

As free agency began on July 1, fans across the State of Hockey waited for word of any potential signing. With all due respect to forwards Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka, their signings that day did little to move the needle.

Another day passed, then another, with no news of either Suter or Parise signing on. The good news was neither had signed elsewhere. 

Then, on July 4, the news came like a bolt of lightning and spread like wildfire. The Wild was getting BOTH free agents on matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. Initially believed to be one or the other, the two players worked behind the scenes over the final 24 hours to work out an agreement where each would take less money to come to Minnesota.

Within minutes, phones at the Wild offices were ringing off the hook with fans looking for tickets. After seeing attendance wither the year prior, the Wild would sell out every game at Xcel Energy Center for the next six seasons and would reach the playoffs in each of those six campaigns.

While the signings haven't delivered the top prize to Minnesota, at least yet, there's no doubt, the landscape in the State of Hockey had officially been changed.

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