Hey everyone! I'm here today to discuss a very important aspect of hockey off-season writing: lists.
To be more specific, this is about "best of" lists. You know the ones where writers rank the best _____ in franchise history. They are a staple this time of year. Whether it is by position, coaches, total lines or even building an all-time Mount Rushmore-style building of players, normally at least one large organization makes a month out of July and/or August creating a "best of" list for all 30 teams.
But Wild fans, can we all agree to skip out of these? Please? No one's feelings will be hurt.
Look, it is nice to feel included. Everyone likes seeing some news about their team and getting the ensuing attention. There would be some awkwardness mixed with cries of bias if only 29 teams were included for a "best of" series.
There is also awkwardness in having a "best of" list for a franchise still in its infancy. How can there be a Minnesota Wild "Mount Rushmore" if the Wild have existed for less time than it actually took to build Mount Rushmore? 13 years is enough time for George Washington to show up, but that doesn't mean John Adams and his Alien and Sedition Act deserve to be honored alongside Washington and Jefferson just because there are only three Presidents to choose.
What makes these "best of" lists worse is that every time a Wild one comes out the list gets preceded by an apology. One that's pretty half-ass yet true, like "coming up with an all-time team for an organization that's only existed for 12 years isn't exactly the most difficult task in the world."
That quote comes from Chris Peters over at CBS Sports' Eye on Hockey blog, which published their own Minnesota NHL All-Time Team late last month.
F- Mikko Koivu
F- Marian Gaborik
F- Andrew Brunette
D- Nick Schultz
D- Brent Burns
G- Niklas Backstrom
(Should note that this isn't a shot at Chris or Eye on Hockey. We like Chris. He's been great to us. If anything, the fact that he has been one of our earliest supporters makes it easier to use his post as an example to point out this annual offseason problem.)
To be fair, there are some great things to come from this group. Koivu has come a long way and blossomed as the team's first permanent captain. He has developed into the first player to likely spend his entire career with the team. Brunette took part in one of the most memorable moments in franchise history when he scored the Game 7 overtime winner against Colorado in 2003. Although Gaborik won't receive a hero's welcome at the X anytime soon (if ever), his five goal game against New York in 2007 in a Wild uniform will stand the test of time.
However, not much else does. Minnesota's "best of" list is not done. In fact, it's the opposite of having a "new" history book in school end in a year where there were 12 NHL teams. Two still currently play for the Wild. Five of these six are active players in the NHL, who you can still see play. And the sixth? The sixth (Brunette) has a role with the team after retiring in 2013.
Yes, this year. Remember the good times of 2012 when the 6 best players in Minnesota played?
Minnesota is so young that Brent Burns' grooming style has evolved more than the team.
|Credit: Puck Daddy|
Two. That is not an exaggeration. Only Manny Fernandez and Backstrom have played more than 200 games, which is a staggering 21% of all regular season games in franchise history.
No offense to Backstrom because he has earned a Jennings Trophy (along with Fernandez) and Vezina nomination in his NHL career, but how much of an honor is it to be the best goaltender in Minnesota Wild history when you literally are picking from a goalie tandem?
While Dwayne Roloson was a part of the team's early history, he only played 167 games. Others who don't fit the requirement yet have made an impact for Minnesota are Matt Cullen, Pavol Demitra Kurtis Foster, Mark Parrish and Martin Havlat. Oh and two guys who made their Wild debut last season.
Only 35 players in franchise history have surpassed the 200 game barrier. Heck, technically 20 players have worn the "C" for Minnesota.
Although not every organization is an Original Six team like Boston with two of the top defensemen in NHL history spending the majority of their careers there, picking six players from a list of 35 is as pointless as breaking down the best playoff runs. The Bruins have one player who played on the team in the 2000s (and it's just the year 2000). Minnesota has a total of 6 who played 200 games for the organization and left the team before the 2004-05 Lockout.
Maybe it is unfair to compare the Wild's history to a team like Boston. Minnesota exists on another plane because of its relative youth and should have its list compared to one of the other eight teams who began after 1990. Nashville, who hit the ice two years before the Wild, also has a lot of active players on their all-time list. That "best of" list includes current Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.
Still at least the Predators have a debate over that spot with Kimmo Timonen. That isn't the case with Minnesota.
Suter, in his 48 games played in an Iron Range Red sweater (53 including playoffs), finished a close second for the Norris Trophy and had the best individual year of any defensemen in franchise history. That alone might make Suter the best in Wild history. Just the Lockout-shortened year. Or at the very least, a season-long performance puts him in the discussion where one can make an argument.
Who else is up there? Filip Kuba? Marek Zidlicky? Minnesota's two all-time defensemen on this list are a guy traded away for a bought-out player and a current forward. Agree or not, Suter's 28 assists in just 48 games is nearly a third of Nick Schultz's total.
Even those extra couple years make a difference. Say what you want about it being sad that Parise and Suter are waiting their turn to be added to a Mount Rushmore or "best of" list - at least they are top-end players. In five years, both Minnesota and they will be in a different place. However, the number of spots won by default make having a "best of" or an all-time team pointless for now. That's okay.
The historical foundation is still being built. Why comment on it until there is time for things to settle? We're still waiting for Minnesota's Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Its FDR likely hasn't been born yet.
So large writing organizations of the world...if you want to skip the Wild when it comes to these "best of" lists, be our guest. We aren't mad. You save work and history for where it's actually earned.
Or you could always just make it the best in Minnesota (the state) history. Not the best goalies to choose from, but at least there are more than two.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
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