(Ed. Note: There’s entirely too much sunshine in the summer. So your friends at Puck Daddy are offering a month of thrown shade and perpetual gloom. Behold, our Summer of Disappointment series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to recall the biggest bummer moments, teams and players in franchise history! Please wade into their misery like a freezing resort pool, and add your own choices in the comments!)
Written by Tony Wiseau of Hockey Wilderness
Most Disappointing Team: 2012-2013 Minnesota Wild
To truly be disappointing, you have to have expectations. This, along with goal-scoring, was largely absent in the Wild’s first 11 years.
This changed dramatically when the Minnesota Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to fantastic and unassailable 13-year deals. With Parise and Suter on board, and a talented crop of NHL-ready prospects set to join the Wild, it seemed a given that the Wild would snap their four-year playoff drought.
And they did. So what was so disappointing?
It was that the Wild backed into the playoffs, and did so in the ugliest way possible. The last month of the season saw them go 5-8-1, most memorably losing a must-win game against a terrible Oilers team 6-1. They finished tied for 8th with the Columbus Blue Jackets, only getting into the postseason by virtue of a tie-breaker. Not exactly what Wild fans were dreaming about when the Parise-Suter press conference happened.
To cap it all off, the Wild were dominated in every way in their Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, and were dispatched by the eventual Cup Champions in an easy 5 games. In that series, Parise, Suter, and Mikko Koivu scored a combined 1 goal and 0 assists. And you thought Thomas Vanek’s postseason was miserable!
By the end of the season, the excitement felt by the State of Hockey the previous July gave way to a harsh reality: The Wild were not contenders. They weren’t even close.
Most Disappointing Wild: Dany Heatley
For about 10 minutes, I didn’t think of Heatley. Upon realizing my mistake, I had to punish myself Dobby-style and stick my ears in the oven.
When the Wild traded Martin Havlat for Heatley, it made sense. Havlat was a poor fit in Minnesota, and Heatley had spent the last 6 years torching opposing goalies for over 40 goals a season. The Wild had a bona-fide sniper to put next to Koivu! What could go wrong?!
Everything went wrong.
His first year in Minnesota was merely underwhelming. The real problem was everything that came after that. Over the next two seasons, Heatley’s speed and skills declined precipitously. The worst of it came last season, when Heatley’s corpse willed its way to 28 points (T-257th in the NHL), while dragging down the production of every single teammate simply by getting on the ice with them.
As ugly as that was to watch, that may not have been the way Heater most burned the Wild. Down the stretch in the 2013 season, Heatley injured his shoulder. No big deal, right? He wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire.
Wrong. The injury lingered into the off-season, preventing the Wild from using an amnesty buyout on the last year of his contract. This forced the Wild to buyout defenseman Tom Gilbert to free up cap space. Gilbert being on the Wild would have solidified a weak third-pairing, and Suter wouldn’t have had to play all the minutes.
The Corpse of Dany Heatley couldn’t even help his team by not playing. Good luck, Anaheim.
Most Disappointing Moment in Wild History: 2003 Western Conference Final
The Wild weren’t supposed to do much in the 2003 playoffs. The team had only been in existence for three years. They were just the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Beyond Marian Gaborik, the Wild’s offensive firepower came from… Andrew Brunette? Pascal Dupuis?
Gaborik, their goalie tandem, and the trap led the Wild to 3-1 series comebacks against the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks. After that, the only thing standing between the Wild and a surprising Stanley Cup appearance were the 7th-seed Anaheim Ducks. It was a crazy, crazy run.
Looking back, it was completely fueled by unsustainable percentages. The Wild had gone 15-for-57 on the Power Play in the first two rounds. That was an insane 26.3%, a huge increase over their 14.2% regular season mark. Their shooting percentage in those rounds was 13.1%, way above their regular season 9.5%.
But you try telling that to a 13-year-old. It was magic, gorrammit! Destiny!
The Wild were simply no match for the Conn Smythe-winning goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere (Though it bears noting that the Smythe was later stripped from Giguere and given to his oversized pads). Those numbers came crashing back to earth during a Ducks sweep, as the Wild went 1-for-16 (6.3%) on the Power Play, and scored one goal on 123 shots, an almost-impossible 0.8%.
13-year-old Tony learned that magic did not exist, the Wild finished last in their division the next year, and haven’t sniffed the Conference Final since. Happy endings for everyone!
Most Disappointing Wild Transaction: Trading for Cam Barker
It gives me no joy to cite this deal as the most disappointing in Wild history.
If you’re a Wild fan whointeracts with other Wild fans on the internet, you’ve heard about this deal over 9,000 times. Part of it is because it’s the only terrible move Chuck Fletcher ever made. (Cap Recapture is a myth! Like Global Warming!)
But the main reason a certain segment of Wild fans will not shut the hell up about it is Nick Leddy. Leddy is an Eden Prairie native, which makes a lot of weiners bust concrete in the State of Hockey. So when Fletcher traded “One of Us” for Barker in February 2010, it would take a lot for those Wild fans to see that trade as a win. It didn’t help that Leddy emerged as a fine puck-mover on the Cup-Winning Blackhawks
While it’s true that having Leddy would certainly be preferable to not having Leddy, giving him up wasn’t what made the deal a disaster. It was getting Barker. Barker was once picked #3 overall behind Ovechkin and Malkin, and scored 40 points in 08-09. Congratulations! You just read all of Barker’s career achievements!
The Wild thought they were getting a defenseman with size and a great shot. What they actually got was Barker, who had great size and an even greater inability to play hockey. In 71 games with the Wild, he scored 12 points. Not content with merely being an offensive liability, he also put up terrible possession numbers in that time. The Wild would buy out Barker only 16 months after trading their only top prospect for him.
Most Disappointing Wild Coach/Executive: Doug Risebrough
This may not be entirely fair, because there were some legitimately great things Risebrough did. He drafted Gaborik and Koivu in his first two drafts, arguably the best two players in Wild history. He hired Jacques Lemaire, the ideal person to squeeze wins out of a roster lacking in talent. Savvy moves like signing Brian Rolston and trading for Pavol Demitra led to a division title.
But that’s pretty much it. Risebrough’s biggest crime was that he sucked at sucking, keeping the Wild mired in mediocrity when it may have been best to let an expansion franchise tank. For example, the 2003 playoff run was nice, but had they missed the playoffs, the Wild may have been able to draft Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, or Jeff Carter.
And as for the draft picks Risebrough actually made? Take a look at these first-round picks and try to not vomit.
2004: A.J. Thelen
2005: Benoit Pouliot
2006: James Sheppard
2007: Colton Gilles
2008: Tyler Cuma
His track record past the first round is no better. The most notable picks were Josh Harding, Cal Clutterbuck, and Marco Scandella. Fine players, but they couldn’t make up for 5 straight first-round busts.
When you add that to over-paying players like Nick Schultz and Niklas Backstrom, completely failing to get any return for Gaborik in his walk year (with an assist from Gaborik’s groin), and squandering a chance at a deep playoff run by only acquiring Chris Simon at the 07-08 trade deadline, there’s no debate. Risebrough takes the crown here.
Most Disappointing Wild Fashion Choice: Letting the Original White Sweaters Stick Around
I’ve managed to talk myself into liking an abstract team name like “Wild”. It gave the new team a chance to forge their own identity, instead of letting fans pretend the team that spurned them came back. Can you imagine how pathetic that would have been?!
Besides, have you seen the other names that were being considered? “White Bears”? “Freeze”? “Northern Lights”? Does “I’m proud to be a Blue Ox” sound any less stupid than “I’m proud to be a Wild”? I submit not. Also, I love the Wild logo, and am filled with pity for the dozens of people too dense to agree on this point.
The original Wild white sweater (and its green counterpart) wasn’t a bad design, but it looked very dated after only a few years. The jagged numbers and busy shoulder patches just screamed “HOLY BALLS! IT’S THE EARLY 2000S! LET’S LISTEN TO LINKIN PARK! EXTREME!”.
They phased out the original home sweater fairly quickly, smartly bringing back the circular patch (which has since been imitated by every team, ever) with their red sweaters, and then brought in their current green sweaters, which are simply stunning.
While they gave great updates to the home uniforms, the road threads went 12 long years without a similarly sleek update. When the Wild unveiled their new road sweaters before last season, featuring a simpler green-and-white design, red numbers that popped out at TV viewers, and much more tasteful shoulder patches, you had to wonder why they took so long to provide such a needed update.
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Other disappointments (in order of appearance): New York Rangers • Calgary Flames • St. Louis Blues • New York Islanders • Dallas Stars • Boston Bruins • Colorado Avalanche • Washington Capitals • Ottawa Senators • Arizona Coyotes • Edmonton Oilers • San Jose Sharks • Winnipeg Jets • New Jersey Devils • Los Angeles Kings • Florida Panthers • Carolina Hurricanes • Buffalo Sabres • Montreal Canadiens • Tampa Bay Lightning • Chicago Blackhawks • Columbus Blue Jackets • Nashville Predators • Detroit Red Wings • Anaheim Ducks • Philadelphia Flyers • Pittsburgh Penguins • Vancouver Canucks • Toronto Maple Leafs