We head to the northern Midwest in our second NHL Saturday miniseries today, as we look back upon 21 seasons of Minnesota Wild professional hockey. The Twin Cities, of course, lost the North Stars in the 1990s, but it did not take long for the league to bring back the sport to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Since then, the new team has made it to the postseason 12 times, winning its division once (2012) as well. Alas, Minnesota also has reached the conference finals once (2003). Neither of those teams shows up below …

No. 5: 2020-21 Minnesota Wild

In a Covid-shortened season, the Wild managed a 35-16-5 record for 75 points and third place in the West Division. The team was No. 8 in scoring offense and No. 15 in scoring defense (out of 31 teams), and it went toe-to-toe with the second-place squad in a seven-game, first-round playoff series. However, the defensive deficiencies came back to haunt the Wild, as the Vegas Golden Knights won Game 7 at home by a 6-2 score. Vegas was the No. 1 team in the SRS that season, in fact, so it was a tough draw.

Only two skaters posted as many as 40 points on this team: left wings Kirill Kaprizov (27G, 24A) and Kevin Fiala (20G, 20A, 43 PIMs). How this team finished eighth in scoring is a testament to depth and coaching. Both goaltenders—Cam Talbot (19-8-5) and Kaapo Kahkonen (16-8-0)—were just about average (2.74 GAA), or slightly worse (.909 S%). The former was good overall in the playoff series (2.45 GAA, .923 S%), but Game 7 was just the nail in the coffin. Again, tough luck in the matchup here.

No. 4: 2014-15 Minnesota Wild

Just the second team in organizational history to reach triple digits in points, this Minnesota group posted a 46-28-8 record for 100 points—and a fourth-place finish in a clearly difficult Central Division. In a position like that, it pays off to be a defensive team, and the Wild gave up the fourth-fewest goals in the league. However, this was not a high-scoring team (14th in goals). In the postseason, Minnesota got by St. Louis in six games before getting swept by the eventual Cup champions from Chicago.

LW Zach Parise was the high scorer (33G, 29A, 41 PIMs), but as noted, this was a team with its roots behind the blue line. G Devan Dubnyk (27-9-2, 1.78 GAA, .936 S%) was the real star of the team, however, as even the backup goalies were scary bad (19-19-6). Come playoff time, Dubnyk wasn’t as strong, but the team outpowered the Blues with four wins by at least 2 goals each. Against the Blackhawks, though, the Wild dropped 3 one-goal games, and that was all she wrote for 2015.

No. 3: 2016-17 Minnesota Wild

With 106 points, this is remains the second-best team, standings-wise, in franchise lore, and it was a Top 3 team in the SRS. The Wild ended up with a 49-25-8 record and a second-place finish in the Central Division, built on the backs of balanced talent: No. 2 in scoring and No. 7 in scoring defense. However, Minnesota was upset by third-place St. Louis in the first round of the postseason, quickly losing the matchup in 5 games. Three of those were one-goal losses, including two in overtime. Doh!

Five skaters finished with at least 56 points, but no player managed a point-per-game pace for the season. Center Mikael Granlund (26G, 43A) was the closest. Meanwhile, Dubnyk was dominant in the net again (40-19-5, 2.25 GAA, .923 S%), although not as good as he had been in 2015, of course. He dropped that GAA to 1.86 in the playoffs, but the skaters couldn’t crack the opponent’s net at all: Minnesota scored just 8 goals in the five games, as Dubnyk surrendered just 10 scores himself.

No. 2: 2006-07 Minnesota Wild

The most-distant unit on this list, this version of the Wild was the first to crack 100 points: a 48-26-8 record for 104 points and a second-place finish in the Northwest Division. Minnesota was No. 1 in scoring defense, although the offense was anemic (No. 18 of 30 teams). With the bad misfortune to draw the eventual champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round, though, the Wild lost a low-scoring defensive matchup in 5 games, getting outscored just 12-9.

Right wing Marián Gáborík (30G, 27A, 40 PIMs, 48 games) was the team’s most dynamic skater, although C Brian Rolston (31G, 33A, 46 PIMs) and LW Pavol Demitra (25G, 39A, 28 PIMs) topped the team in scoring. G Niklas Bäckström (23-8-6, 1.97 GAA, .929 S%, 5 SOs) was ably backed by Manny Fernandez (22-16-1, 2 SOs), creating that top goal-prevention unit. But Anaheim won the first three games of the series by one-goal margins, and the Wild spirit was crushed, thoroughly.

No. 1: 2021-22 Minnesota Wild

In a fun coincidence, the best team in Minnesota franchise history is its most recent one: 53-22-7 for 113 points and second place (again) in the Central Division. This Wild squad finished No. 7 in the SRS, based on Top 5 offense (and the No. 18 defense out of 32 teams). In the first round of the postseason, Minnesota once against faced St. Louis and took a 2-1 series lead behind an offensive barrage. But then the goaltending broke down in the final three games, all losses, as the Blues moved on in six games.

Kaprizov topped all skaters with 108 points (47G, 61A), although he was ably backed by Fiala (33G, 52A, 52 PIMs) and LW Mats Zuccarello (24G, 55A). Fifteen different players posted at least 20 points on this team, but Talbot (32-12-4) and Kahkonen (12-8-3) were both middling again, if that (combining for a 2.79 GAA and a .911 S%). In fact, it was late acquisition Marc-Andre Fleury (9-2-0) who ran the postseason, although that plan fell apart with 15 St. Louis goals in the final three contests combined.