Wild count on big-ticket signings to fuel rebound

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 3:00 AM
by Brian Schiazza

Exactly one week before Christmas 2011, the Minnesota Wild had the best record in the NHL at 20-8-5.

Fast forward to July 4, 2012, and the same club that finished the season at 35-36-11 was at the top of the NHL heap again -- for its twin signings of the most coveted free agents on the market, left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.

Now they just need to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After its sensational start, Minnesota collapsed and missed the postseason for a fourth straight season, finishing 14 points out of the eighth seed in posting its worst record since 2001-02. The team was saddled with 395 man-games lost to injury and used an NHL-high 47 players last season as key cogs Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Devin Setoguchi, Guillaume Latendresse and Greg Zanon spent time on the injured list.

The injuries were the biggest reason the Wild averaged a League-low 2.02 goals per game and they fueled an 11-28-7 finish that dropped them to 12th in the Western Conference.

"It was," general manager Chuck Fletcher said, "a tale of two seasons."