Friday, November 30, 2012

Wild All Time Top 10: #7 Niklas Backstrom

Niklas Backstom
Seasons With The Wild: 6
W-L-OT-SO: 160-109-42-26
GAA: 2.42
Save Percentage: .918

In the summer of 2006, the Wild signed little known Finnish goaltender Niklas Backstrom, to: 1. Fill the vacant roster spot left by Dwayne Roloson and 2. Back up Manny Fernandez. Backstrom had put up solid numbers playing for Oulun Karpat of the Finnish SM-liiga league (32-9-10-10, 1.68 GAA in his final season there), and decided to come play alongside the world's best players.

Following a Manny Fernandez knee injury in late January of 2007, Backstrom was thrown into the Wild's net as their number one goalie. He helped lead the team to their second playoff appearance, and earned his spot as the Wild's number one goalie. Its a position he still holds this day.

To date, Backstrom holds the following records for a Wild goaltender: Wins (160), Save percentage (.918), and Saves (9,213). His best season in the NHL, was by far, his first. He went 23-8-6-5 with a GAA of 1.97 and a save percentage of .929 in just 41 games. He has not come close to touching those in the seasons since.

But despite a bit of a fallback on the numbers, Backstrom has been a rock for the Wild in net (Except for maybe shootouts...). He has done a good job in keeping the Wild in games, especially in the ultra fierce Northwest Division.

Niklas Backstrom had some very tough holes to fill, when he followed Fernandez and Roloson between the pipes. But, he did far better than any of us had hoped, and he has cemented himself, as the best goalie in the franchise's short history.

Check back tomorrow to see who comes in at #6!
#7-Niklas Backstrom
#8-Brent Burns
#9-Pavol Demitra
#10-Dwayne Roloson/Manny Fernandez

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wild All Time Top 10: #8-Brent Burns

Brent Burns
Seasons With The Wild: 7
Goals: 55
Assists: 128
Points: 183

Brent Burns checks in as the only defenseman on this list. It took him a few seasons (Rotating back and forth between forward and defenseman), but he finally broke through as the big scoring d-man the Wild needed, in 07-08 when he notched 15 goals and 28 assists. In the combined 3 seasons prior to 07-08, Burns notched 12 goals and 35 assists.

Burns had injury riddled seasons in 08-09 (8-19-27 in 59 games) and 09-10 (3-17-20 in 47 games), but still had decent numbers in those seasons before bouncing back in 2010-11 with 17 goals and 29 assists, while once again anchoring the Wild's top d-man unit.

Burns was also a big physical presence (6'5", 225 pounds), and was not shy to throw his body around. In fact in 2 seasons (07-08, 10-11), he registered over 80 minutes in the penalty box, but more of that was due to his sometimes poor play in the defensive end, rather than his physical play.

There aren't many other defenseman who can even come close to cracking this list (Nick Schultz, Filip Kuba, Marek Zidlicky?). But Burns was the only one out of the bunch who stood out. 

Luckily for us, the Wild were smart to trade Burns while his value was high and he was traded at the 2011 NHL Draft in St. Paul for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and the 28th overall pick (Zack Phillips). So not only was Burns good for us when he played for us, he is still doing wonders for us now that he is gone. 

By all means isn't the best defenseman ever. But he did enough to crack this top 10 list, despite the injuries taking his best seasons away.

Check back tomorrow to see who comes in at #7!
#8-Brent Burns

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wild All Time Top 10: #9-Pavol Demitra

Pavol Demitra
Seasons With The Wild: 2
Goals: 40
Assists: 78
Points: 118

In the 2006 draft, then Wild GM Doug Risebrough decided to give up :s #17 overall pick and top prospect Patrick O'Sullivan to get the veteran forward Pavol Demitra away from Los Angeles (It was the #2 Draft Moment in Wild History, as ranked on this blog this past June). It instantly boosted a stale Wild offense, giving them a former 30 goal and 90 point scorer in Demitra. Oh...and he was going to play on the same line as his countryman Marian Gaborik.

From the opening puck drop of the 2006-07 season, Demitra was the man Gabby needed. But, he was also what the team needed. During that season, Demitra finished 2nd (Behind Brian Rolston) in points on the team, putting up a 25-39-64 line. He instantly became a fan favorite, helping the Wild to their 2nd playoff appearance in team history.

The following season, Demitra saw a drop off in goals (only scored 15), but carried the same number of assists (39), while being a driving force behind Gaborik's (42-41-83 +17) and the Wild's (Division Champs) season.

But unfortunately for Demitra and the State of Hockey, he could not help the team get that elusive Stanley Cup (Lost to the Ducks in 5 in 2007, and lost to the Avs in 6 in 2008), and the team let him leave via free agency following 07-08.

Following his tenure with the Wild, Demitra played a season and a half with Vancouver before he was released. He then played in the KHL for Lokomotiv Yarolsavl in the 2010-11 season.

Just prior to the 2011-12 season, Demitra was set to play for Lokomotiv once again, but he was killed along with the rest of his team as their jet crashed just as it was about to take off.

Pavol Demitra was one of the more underrated players in the NHL during his time. He was a 30 goal scorer 3 times in his career, and was consistently good at putting up at least 65 points in a season. He didnt quite have that type of success here, but, his contributions to the State of Hockey will never be forgotten.

Check back tomorrow and see who comes in at #8. 
#9-Pavol Demitra
#10-Dwayne Roloson/Manny Fernandez 

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wild All Time Top 10: #10-Dwayne Roloson/Manny Fernandez

Dwayne Roloson                                                       Manny Fernandez
4                        Seasons With The Wild                       6
62-71-26-17                     W-L-T-OT/SO                   113-102-20-20
.917                          Save Percentage                          .913
2.39                     Goals Against Average                      2.47

Never in the brief history of the franchise, has Minnesota been blessed with a better tandem of goalies (With all respect to current tandem of Backstrom/Harding).

They are counted as one, because at the time, you never singled out one goalie as better. You always referred to the Wild goaltender as Roloson and Fernandez.

Fernandez was a Wild original. He was on the team from the very first game until his trade to Boston following the 06-07 season, when he was replaced by Niklas Backstrom. Roloson joined the Wild in their second season, and left them at the trade deadline of 05-06, when he went on to help Edmonton reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1990.

Together, the pair registered 132 wins and averaged a 2.45 Goals Against Average between them in 4 seasons (Would of been 5, but the lockout of 04-05 happened).

But perhaps, there was no better shining moment for the both of them during the Wild's run to the conference finals in 2003. Yes, the Wild won both series in 7 games, but during those series, there was a goalie switch, that helped turn the momentum to the Wild's favor, enabling to come from behind from a 3-1 deficit both times.

Thats how the tandem worked, one would be in, then when he would start to fall off a bit, the other would step in and pick up the slack.

Roloson did earn an All Star appearance for the Wild in 2004, when the game was held here in St. Paul. During that season Roli posted a line of 19-18-11 with a meniscule 1.88 GAA. Manny's best year came in 05-06 when he went 30-18-7-1 with a 2.29 GAA.

Both goalies could of/should of been a #1 during there time here. But instead, they split the time, and shared the rewards.

The Wild weren't a very successful team during the duo's time together (Lack of offense...). But, they always gave the team a chance to win. Every night.

Check back tomorrow and see who comes in at #9.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell