By now, you’ve seen many editions of various all-decade teams. Minnesota is no different, with many all-decade rosters of the Minnesota Wild.
However, there is still one team we have yet to hear from, and it will be painful for Wild fans. It is the 2010 all-decade ‘what could have been’ team.
What does that mean exactly? The team that Minnesota did not make the most of — or even draft at all.
No, this is not going to be a list of just draft-pick failures. We would literally be here all day writing those out. There are also going to be players who were traded or released too soon as well, as upon their departure from Minnesota they found the grass to be greener elsewhere.
So to get on with our team, take something for indigestion or pour a glass of your favorite beverage before glancing over the roster. Because it will be more likely to cause you pain than anything else.
Ok, here we go…
Left Wing – Alex Tuch
Kicking off the list is Tuch, who was part of the infamous expansion draft blunder by Minnesota. In 2017, with Vegas entering the league, the Wild gave the Golden Knights their 2014 first-round draft pick in order for Vegas to select Erik Haula — an honorable mention for the center position on this list — as they left Mathew Dumba and Eric Staal exposed.
Since the expansion draft, the right-hand shot Tuch has tallied 100 points (40 goals-60 assists) and has signed a seven-year extension to stay with the Golden Knights through the 2025-26 season. Minnesota has often been lacking right-handed shots on its roster, and letting Tuch go in the expansion draft so soon is a move Wild fans are often left wondering ‘what if’ about.
Center – Sebastian Aho
Last season in Carolina, there was a big resurgence for the Hurricanes as they re-joined the postseason for the first time in a decade. Leading the charge for Carolina last season — and the year before that even — was Aho, who has become one of the premier centers in the NHL.
If you did not know this, Minnesota had a chance to draft Aho in the 2015 Draft, as the Finnish forward fell all the way to 35th overall — where Carolina snatched him up. Minnesota had the 20th pick in that draft, but the Wild instead opted for Joel Eriksson Ek, who has turned into a decent center for the Wild himself, but provides nowhere near the offensive output Aho can put up.
With a gaping hole at the top-line center for the Wild in the very near future coming up, not taking Aho is a pick that could haunt the Wild for quite some time.
Right Wing – Brock Boeser
Speaking of that same 2015 draft and the same pick – 20th overall – the Wild also passed on another scoring forward who could have helped out the roster in recent years. Boeser, a Burnsville native, was still on the board for Minnesota when it selected Eriksson Ek. Fans were questioning why – and to this day, still do – the right-shot winger was not taken in lieu of the two-way center Eriksson Ek. Boeser fell to Vancouver three spots later, but this has turned into one of the bigger draft blunders by the Wild in recent years.
Since being drafted by the Canucks, Boeser posted numbers in two seasons with the University of North Dakota before signing his entry-level contract in 2017. In his first two full seasons with the Canucks, Boeser has posted back-to-back seasons of 25-plus goals and 55-plus points while being named to an NHL All-Star Game in 2018 — one in which he won MVP honors.
Defenseman – Nick Leddy
With the first pick in the Chuck Fletcher era, Minnesota drafted Leddy in the first round of the 2009 entry draft. Leddy remained a Wild prospect for roughly nine months, as he was traded the following March to Chicago in the now-infamous deal that brought Cam Barker to Minnesota. Barker, as we all know, was bought out in the summer of 2011 after just 71 games with the Wild.
Leddy, meanwhile, blossomed into a solid all-around defenseman with Chicago, helping the 2013 team win the Stanley Cup before getting traded to the New York Islanders in 2014. Since the trade to New York, Leddy became the Islanders’ top defenseman and now has amassed nearly 300 points in his NHL career.
One could easily wonder how different the Wild blueline would be over the last decade had they not made the trade for Barker in March of 2010…
Defenseman – Brent Burns
Speaking of trade blunders early in the decade, another trade that went awry was the draft-day trade in 2011 – inside the Xcel Energy Center – that sent star defenseman Burns to San Jose for a package of Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi and the Sharks’ first-round pick that day, which ended up being forward Zack Phillips.
The Wild thought they got a steal with the package, as did the home crowd, for Burns who was almost certainly not going to re-sign with the Wild once his contract expired in 2012.
Well, the Wild seemingly did not get the better end of this deal. Phillips never sniffed the NHL level, Setoguchi never found that 30-goal mark he was hitting in San Jose and Coyle played parts of seven seasons with Minnesota before he was traded last March. Coyle’s play often left fans and media alike baffled, as he could not find consistency with the Wild.
Meanwhile, Burns went on to become an absolute superstar in the NHL. Since his arrival in San Jose, Burns has amassed 492 points in 630 games, signed a new contract in 2016, made the All-Star game 3 times and most importantly won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman in 2017.
The Wild have clearly lacked a superstar on their roster, but imagine had Burns stayed and turned into the star for Minnesota just like he did with San Jose.
Goaltender – Josh Harding
With all respect to Darcy Kuemper, who is having a career renaissance in Arizona right now, the biggest what if for the Wild in goal from the last decade was Harding.
We all remember that Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, and it limited his ability in that lockout-shortened season. He came back in 2013-14 and was playing like one of the best goalies in the league before Kuemper had to take over mid-season as Harding could not continue on with his condition.
A 2003 draft pick, Harding was arguably the most talented goaltender the Wild have ever had on their roster. He showed that talent in that final season of 2013-14 before he had to fade away into post-hockey life so suddenly. What would the Wild goaltending situation look like had Harding not suffered this disease and continued on his Vezina worthy play from 2013-14? We will never know, as it will always be a big ‘what if’ for the Wild.