Last season the Minnesota Wild made the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. That was the year the Wild finished third in the Western Conference and won their first ever Northwest division title. After that season the Wild were favored to become perennial challenge for teams in the Western Conference.
However after a mediocre 2008-2009 season, in which the Wild finished 9th in the West, Marion Gaborik left for free agency, and the only coach in Wild history, Jacques Lemaire, resigned. General Manager Doug Risebrough was later fired, leading to a nearly complete turnover in the Wild front office.
It was not until the lockout shorten season of 2012-2013 that the Wild made the playoffs again. Barely squeaking in with the 8th seed in the west. A good season for the Wild, but still a disappointment for a team that spent 196 million dollars on two free agents.
So why aren't the Wild better?
The Wild have made 97 draft picks in franchise history. Only two Wild draft picks have ever been to an all star game, Marion Gaborik and Brent Burns. 55 picks have never played in an NHL game (including 5 from 2011 and 7 picks from 2012 that still have a good chance of making it to the NHL).Currently the Wild only have 4 out of 14 first round Wild picks on their roster. Their draft history is not that good.
With the 3rd overall pick in the 2000 NHL draft the Minnesota Wild select Marion Gaborik. That was the first selection in teams history, and it was a good one. The franchises 2nd pick netted them Nick Schultz, a quality D-man that played parts of 10 seasons with the club. The rest of the picks? Not so good.
Here is a quick recap of all first round picks since the franchise's inception in 2000.
(pick number in brackets)
2000. (3) Marian Gaborik: Easily the best pick in franchise history. Still is the Wild's leader in goals (219) and points (437). Only Rick Dipetro and Dany Heatly were selected ahead of Gaborik, but Gaborik is probably the best player picked from that class.
2001. (6) Mikko Koivu: In a draft do-over the Wild would easily make the same pick, with Jason Spezza and Ilya Kovalchuk already off the board.
2002. (8) Pierre-Marc Bouchard: Look promising early in his career, but has been battling concussion and has seen a major decrease in games played and production. Good selection, but the possibility of having Alexander Semin in a Wild jersey is exciting.
2003. (20) Brent Burns: Again a good selection, a very serviceable defender for the Wild for 6 seasons before being traded to the Sharks. Ryan Getzlaf went 19th overall that draft, but the Wild could have had Corey Perry, Mike Richards or even Shea Weber.
2004. (12) A.J. Thelen: Here is where the problems begin. Thelen has yet to play a game in the NHL. The Wild would probably have loved to have the services of David Krejci, Travis Zajac or Mike Green.
2005. (4) Benoit Pouliot: Had one good season with the Canadians. With the 4th overall pick the Wild should have gotten much more production. Anze Kopitar, T.J Oshie and James Neal were all available.
2006. (9) James Sheppard: Currently splitting time between the NHL and AHL in the Sharks organization. List of star players remain available, highlighted by Claude Giroux.
2007. (16) Colton Gillies: Claimed off waivers by the Blue Jackets. Max Pacioretty, David Perron and P.K. Subban are all better alternatives.
2008. (23) Tyler Cuma: Splitting time between the Wild and the AHL's Houston Aeros. Does not look like much potential. Roman Josi, and Slava Voynov would have been better options, and both earned a contract extension from their club.
2009. (16) Nick Leddy: Looks good for the Blackhawks during the playoffs, not a bad selection for the Wild, but a bad trade nonetheless.
2010. (10) Mikael Granlund: Too early to tell, but does look promising.
2011. (10,28) Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips: Again, too early in the evaluating process, but both players do come with high hopes.
2012. (7) Mathew Dumba: Hopefully will soon see this future star with the Wild.
The Wild completely missed on their first rounders from 2004 to 2009. Players that were drafted in that time frame are now leading their club to the playoffs, and are annually competing with each other for top point producers, or top defenders.
Due to the missed drafting opportunities for 6 years, the Wild are now paying the price. If the Wild drafted the likes Claude Giroux and P.K. Subban, maybe they would not have to offer 13 year $98 million dollar contracts to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.