Minnesota Wild (4-2-1) 9pts 2nd in the Northwest
2.57 Goals For per Game (17th in the NHL)
2.71 Goals Against per Game (15th in the NHL)
19th ranked Power Play (16.7%)
8th ranked Penalty Kill (84.6%)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 5G 4A = 9pts
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 2G 6A = 8pts
3. #15 Dany Heatley ~ 4G 2A = 6pts
4. #77 Tom Gilbert ~ 2G 4A = 6pts
5. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 0G 4A = 4pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 14 PIM's
2. #4 Clayton Stoner ~ 9 PIM's
3. #14 Darroll Powe ~ 9 PIM's
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (3-1-1) 2.40GAA .910%SP
2. #37 Josh Harding (1-1-0) 3.39GAA .873%SP 1SO
Anaheim Ducks (3-1-1) 7pts 2nd in the Pacific
3.20 Goals For per Game (8th in the NHL)
3.20 Goals Against per Game (23rd in the NHL)
14th ranked Power Play (20%)
28th ranked Penalty Kill (66.7%)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #34 Daniel Winnik ~ 5G 2A = 7pts
2. #11 Saku Koivu ~ 1G 6A = 7pts
3. #15 Ryan Getzlaf ~ 2G 3A = 5pts
4. #8 Teemu Selanne ~ 2G 3A = 5pts
5. #10 Corey Perry ~ 1G 3A = 4pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #39 Matt Beleskey ~ 12 PIM's
2. #10 Corey Perry ~ 9 PIM's
3. #55 Bryan Allen ~ 6 PIM's
1. #1 Jonas Hiller (2-1-1) 3.43GAA .868%SP
2. #30 Viktor Fasth (1-0-0) 1.85GAA .905%SP
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If you've followed this team for a bulk of their history, you know that some horrible mistakes have been made. Now must of know that you can generally learn some valuable lessons from those mistakes, however we also know that the people in charge for most of the team's history didn't seem to take in those lessons. It's a toss-up as to who has the most mistakes between former General Manager, Doug Risebrough or former head of scouting, Tommy Thompson but for the most part, I'm going to focus on the latter. So all aboard, as we're hopping about the way-back machine to take a peak at just how different the Minnesota Wild could have been had different choices been made.
The Wild's first three NHL Entry Drafts were fairly successful when it came to the first round: Marian Gaborik in 2000, Mikko Koivu in 2001, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in 2002. I would like to point out though, that instead of Bouchard, the Wild could have drafted Alexander Semin (13th), yet his production had been questionable last season, but at least he was playing. Starting with the 2003 draft, is when things start to get interesting. Yes, we drafted Brent Burns and he was an important part of the Wild for a several years, but there were some interesting choices that could have been made. Coming after Burns, were Ryan Kesler (23rd) and Corey Perry (28th). Both Kesler and Perry have been important players on their respective teams. I can't be too upset with the Burns pick, but to a degree it's the starting point of when fans could say "what was Thompson thinking?"
If you don't like nightmares or don't have a strong stomach, now is the time to stop reading, as this is where things start to get ugly. In 2004, Minnesota went for the boneheaded, homer first round bust pick of AJ Thelen. Now I'll admit, this wasn't a particularly strong draft, but trust me there were better players than Thelen. Travis Zajac (20th), Wojtek Wolski (21st), and Cory Schneider (26th) were drafted after Thelen, albeit I'm not a fan of drafting goaltenders in the first round. If you thought 2004 was bad, 2005 is even worse. This is the year we picked Benoit Pouliot with the 4th overall pick. When was the last time you peeked at that draft class? Players picked after Pouliot were Anze Kopitar (11th) and Marc Staal (12th). Heck, there were even some much better picks that came in the 2nd round than Pouliot, such as James Neal. And it just continues with 2006 with James Sheppard, 2007 with Colton Gillies, 2008 with Tyler Cuma, and 2009 with Nick Leddy (great pick, just foolish with a later trade).
Now that we've traveled back in time and have seen what could have been, now we get to play "what if." Just imagine if Risebrough would have not ticked Gaborik off. Between botched contract negotiations and then failing to trade him before the trade deadline, Risebrough let him walk away for absolutely nothing. Imagine a roster with Gaborik, Kopitar, Neal, and Leddy combined with the likes of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and Mikko Koivu. And then add that to solid coaching by the likes of Jacques Lemaire. I know that I could imagine that there would have been more frequent playoff appearances. Just imagine what Chuck Fletcher would have had to work with when he took over as General Manager. Instead, Fletcher has had to work hard at restocking the prospect cupboard.
Yes, things could have been much, much different, and quite possibly, much better. As the old saying goes, "if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride." It's all well and good to wish about changes to the past, but at this point it won't change anything. However, if smarter people had been in charge of the Minnesota Wild, it's not foolish to believe that this team would be in a better position. Here's to hoping that the current regime doesn't make the mistakes of the past.