Even though it’s the middle of October and snow isn’t on the ground (yet), hockey season is officially here. In Minnesota, the Wild is off to a 2-0 start and has yet to allow a goal, shutting out Colorado 5-0 in its home opener and then going to Colorado last Saturday and winning 3-0.
That’s an impossible standard to uphold, but at the very least it gives something for Wild fans to be excited about this season. And with the Minnesota Vikings at 2-4 after six games and the Timberwolves rebuilding its franchise with young talent, it might be a while before either team is relevant in the playoffs. The Wild gives Minnesota its next big chance at an immediate postseason contender. They may not only just make the playoffs, but could contend for the Stanley Cup.
If the Wild fail, then Minnesota will rightly turn its eyes toward the Minnesota Lynx, who have two WNBA titles in the last four years and have given the local sports scene some new energy. The Lynx became a winner with top draft choices and bringing Minnesota’s own Lindsay Whalen home in a trade. The Wild has become a contender through free agency and drafting skilled, young players.
So here are five reasons why the Minnesota Wild will be exciting to watch and a team to stick with this season through what fans hope is a run to the Stanley Cup.
Best Odds To Win A Championship
(Wild 20-1 — Vikings 200-1 — Timberwolves 85-1)
The numbers don’t lie. When it comes to the betting world in Las Vegas, the Wild is Minnesota’s best chance to win a world championship any time soon. According to the odds-makers, the Wild has 20-1 odds to win a Stanley Cup this season. That’s far better than either the Vikings or the Wolves. The Vikings entered the season at 200-1 odds to get to the Super Bowl, and that’s likely to go down after their 2-4 start. The Timberwolves have 85-1 odds to reach the NBA Finals, and with their youth combined with the Kevin Love trade, it would be a real surprise if they reached the playoffs and made a run. (The Twins entered 2014 longshots to make the position and were irrelevant before the All-Star break, finishing with at least 90 losses for the fourth straight season.)
Established Stars In Parise, Suter, Vanek
Two seasons ago, the Wild made the biggest splash in NHL free agency when the team signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They represent two of the game’s best at their positions, and they’re now two of the team’s most popular players. Parise is a native Minnesotan and Suter is married to a Minnesotan. This past offseason, the Wild boosted its scoring depth by adding Thomas Vanek, who played college hockey at Minnesota.
Franchise Has Plenty Of Playoff Experience
The Wild is an organization that’s shown it can win big games before and advance in the playoffs, and after a brief postseason lapse it appears they’re ready to make the next step. The Wild reached the Western Conference Finals back in 2003, and has made the postseason four times since. Two years ago, the Wild lost in the first round of the playoffs. Last year, they beat the Colorado Avalanche in the quarterfinals. They had all kinds of chances to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, but ultimately came up short in a close series. It’s an organization of coaches and players that knows what it takes to win big games.
Management Making The Right Decisions
Craig Leipold and Chuck Fletcher made the statement that they were investing to have a championship-caliber team when they signed Parise and Suter in free agency two years ago. The two collectively took less money to play together and increase their chances of winning a Stanley Cup. This year they added Vanek, a perennial 30-goal scorer who should bring even more offense to the team. Mix that with skilled young players in Mikael Granlund, who emerged in last year’s playoffs, and Jonas Brodin, who just signed a six-year contract extension, and the Wild is committing itself to winning. And we can’t forget to mention players like Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula, Jason Zucker and even Darcy Kuemper.
Xcel Energy Center Is A Consistent Sell Out
There’s a reason why the Minnesota Wild is coined the “Team of 18,000-Plus.” Ever since the team moved into Xcel Energy Center, it’s proven that Minnesota is the State of Hockey and will provide sellout crowds in attendance for virtually every game. The team invests in quality players, and in return fans pack the arena to see them win at a high level. They’ve had great atmospheres for playoff games and big regular season games, and it’s proven to be one of the hottest tickets in town.
Now that the team is off to a 2-0 start, fans are more excited and it’s safe to invest in a team that’s on track to be a winner this season. How far they go will depend on their health and consistency throughout the season.