The Minnesota Wild got out to a 4-0 start this season. In a year where there was a lot of uncertainty and potentially could have been a retooling season or even just a step back from the successes of 2020-21, the team looked legitimately good. And it’s not just because of who they’ve played.
The Los Angeles Kings are still not great, but they’re better than last season. The same can be said of the Anaheim Ducks, at least at the end of October. The Winnipeg Jets looked ready to contend in the playoffs again and be near the top of the Central Division. Comeback victories against each of the Kings and Ducks and a monumental comeback in the home opener against the Jets set the tone for a scrappy, strong-willed identity of a last-minute comeback and eventual overtime victory.
So, does a 4-0 start before the team lost to the Nashville Predators mean the Wild have something special going?
For one thing, the 4-0 start is rare enough. It has only happened one other time in the franchise’s 21-year history, in 2007-08. Many may remember that season as the only time Minnesota has won its division.
Let’s look at three other teams that have started 4-0 recently and see where they ended up at the end of the year.
Vegas Golden Knights (2020-21)
Only two teams started 4-0 in the most recent NHL season, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars.
It would be a waste of time to consider Vegas’ short but immensely successful franchise history. Last season, the Golden Knights started 4-0. They had been built and retooled through free agency, so it wasn’t surprising to see them get off to a fast start.
What happened to that talented team as the season went past the first four games, though? They won the haphazardly-created Honda West Division and rolled through the first two rounds against a tough Wild team and the Colorado Avalanche, a bona fide contender. The Golden Knights fell in the conference final against the Montreal Canadiens but still ended the season as one of the final four teams remaining.
For the Wild, anything beyond just appearing in the playoffs would be considered a step forward.
Dallas Stars (2020-21)
The Stars were only a few months removed from an improbable Stanley Cup Final appearance. They came out and won four straight games to start the season and looked to prove that their run to the Final wasn’t a fluke. It was the start of a newfound trend.
Where did that 2020-21 team end up? Well, their fast start didn’t carry them throughout the season.
Dallas ended the year 23-19-14, good for fifth in the Central Division and out of the playoffs. The Stars came back down to Earth after the 2019-20 season.
Edmonton Oilers (2019-20)
The vaunted Oilers and the tremendous, generational scoring talent in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl didn’t just start 4-0 in 2019-20. They started 5-0. However, they finished 37-25-9, second in the Pacific Division. They played in the qualifying round of the delayed postseason and lost to a declining Chicago Blackhawks team, winning only one game in the five-game series.
Not a franchise-altering season, but not a devastatingly bad one, either. It was a mediocre season that ended with the same result as most other teams.
What does this mean for the Wild? Regardless of the start, it’s going to be about if they’re built for sustained success.
The Golden Knights have a deep roster built for runs like the one they had to the conference final last year. The Stars have some flaws and saw things go right to make a Stanley Cup Final before they reverted to the mean. The Oilers have top-end talent, but even that isn’t enough to make up for their shortcomings, resulting in a quick playoff exit.
Minnesota might not be at the Golden Knights’ level yet. It is most likely not where the Stars are, either. While comparing the more balanced Wild to the very top-heavy Oilers is misguided, the Wild are closer to being a team that doesn’t have all the tools for the highest levels of sustained success just yet.
A 4-0 start could be the beginning of something great for Minnesota. It could also be a mirage before a season full of ups and downs. The real story is, no one knows, but take the games as they happen. The season is 82 games long, and the first four results — be they wins or losses — do not determine the outcome of their season.
*Stats courtesy of HockeyReference.com unless otherwise noted.