When you think of the Minnesota Wild, the word “offensive” may not always come to mind. The first eight seasons in the franchise’s history were spent with the defensive-minded Jacques Lemaire behind the bench. During those eight seasons, they only exceeded 200 goals four times.
However, the Wild have been doing a decent job at scoring goals in more recent years, including this season. As of March 24, the team is averaging 2.97 goals per game (GF/G), tied for 14th across the league. If Minnesota can get that average up by a couple more decimal points, it would be the third time in franchise history that the team averaged three or more goals per game.
With that said, below is a look at the five highest-scoring teams that the Wild have ever iced. Due to a few shortened seasons, the list is sorted by goals against average so that each team is on a leveled playing field.
5. 2006-07 NHL Season: 2.87 GF/G
Some may find it surprising to see a team coached by Lemaire this high on the list. However, the team had a surprising amount of offensive talent in the 2006-07 NHL season. They had three 20-goal scorers, including Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston, who put up 30 and 31 goals, respectively. What’s even more intriguing is that Gaborik scored his 30 goals in just 48 games. If he stayed healthy, he would’ve been on pace for a 50-goal season, which is still something that hasn’t happened yet in the team’s history.
Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to spread that goal production across the lineup. Once you take away their five top goal-scorers (who combined for 126 goals), the rest of the team scored just 109 goals between them. Even though the Wild had some impressive goal-scoring performances during the 2006-07 NHL Season, the team still ended up finishing as a middle-of-the-pack offensive team. By the end of the season, they ranked 18th in GF/G.
4. 2020-21 NHL Season: 2.97 GF/G
The Wild have looked like one of the best teams in the league this season after coming back from a two-week hiatus in February due to COVID-19 concerns. During the time since their return, they’re 13-5-1 and have scored four or more goals nine times. While none of the players this season are competing for the Rocket Richard Trophy, the team is scoring by committee. It’s 30 games into the 2020-21 NHL Season, and they already have 10 players with five or more goals. Joel Eriksson Ek leads the team in goals with 11, which is already the most he’s recorded in his short NHL career. Not far behind him is rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov, who has 10 in his first season (on pace for 27 in 82 games).
The good thing about the team that the Wild have been able to ice this season is that they don’t have that one goal-scorer that other clubs need to watch out for. There’s very much a “next man up” sort of mentality when the team plays. If one of their top players isn’t scoring, someone else will step it up. At the same time, it also means that if no one is scoring, there isn’t that perennial 30 or 40-goal scorer to lean on.
3. 2017-18 NHL Season: 3.09 GF/G
The 2017-18 Wild are the first team to appear on this list that averaged over 3.00 GF/G. The team was 11th in the league for goals after tallying 253 in the regular season. At the age of 33, Eric Staal scored 42 goals, tied with Evgeni Malkin for fourth in the Rocket Richard race. Staal’s goal total also tied a franchise record set by Gaborik in the 2007-08 NHL season.
However, Staal wasn’t the only player potting pucks in 2017-18. Jason Zucker scored a career-high 33 goals, something he hasn’t come close to since then. Matthew Dumba also scored a career-best 14 goals, while 41-year-old Matt Cullen tallied double digits in goals (11) for the 16th time in his career. In total, everyone from the top to the bottom of the Wild’s lineup contributed in some form offensively that season. However, the offense disappeared once the playoffs began, as Minnesota was eliminated in five games in the first round of the playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets.
The Wild only scored more than two goals twice that series and were shutout by the Jets in the last two games.
2. 2019-20 NHL Season: 3.19 GF/G
Believe it or not, last season’s Minnesota Wild were on pace to be the second-highest scoring team in franchise history until the COVID-19 pandemic put things on pause. At 3.19 GF/G, the team was on pace to score 262 goals in an 82-game season. While their goal total ranked 15th across the league, it showed a potential offensive (or at least balanced) identity for the franchise. Zach Parise led the team with 25 goals, scored 20 or more back-to-back for the first time since the 2014-15 and 2015-16 NHL seasons. In his first “full” season with Minnesota, Kevin Fiala scored 23 goals and looked like he had the potential to be a 30-goal scorer in years to come.
While the 2019-20 version of the Wild were one of the franchise’s more offensively talented teams, it was a lack of preventing goals that led to the end of their season. Despite scoring 220 in the regular season, the team allowed just as many. Come playoff time, they weren’t getting the defensive stops they needed. After shutting out the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 in Game 1 of the qualifying round, the Wild were outscored 12-7 in the next three games, leading to their elimination.
1. 2016-17 NHL Season: 3.24 GF/G
The title of the highest-scoring team in Wild history goes to the one that was coached by Bruce Boudreau in his first season behind the bench in St. Paul. Their 266 goals that season were second in the league only to the Pittsburgh Penguins (282). By the end of the campaign, the team finished with a 49-25-8 record, good for second in the Central Division.
Staal (28), Mikael Granlund (26), Nino Niederreiter (25) and Zucker (22) were the Wild’s 20-goal scorers on the roster. In total, Minnesota had 12 players who finished with 10 or more goals.
Not only did the Wild have their highest-scoring season in 2016-17, but Boudreau had them playing well defensively too. Only 208 goals were surrendered that season, ranked seventh-best in the NHL.
Unfortunately, the perfect combination of offense and defense wasn’t good enough for Minnesota. The Wild were eliminated 4-1 in the first round of the 2017 NHL Playoffs courtesy of the St. Louis Blues. While the team managed to hold the Blues to 11 goals in five games, they were only able to score eight all series, and half of those goals came from Parise and Charlie Coyle, who had two apiece. It was also the Wild’s third first-round exit in five years to that point.
While the Wild have had a defensive identity for much of their existence, they have had some outlier seasons where they’re able to score goals at an impressive rate. However, it’s too bad that whenever they had these offensively-gifted teams, the goals dried up once the playoffs began.
Fortunately, the Wild’s future is looking bright, and they have been able to put on some goal-scoring displays this season. What matters next is sustaining that ability when it matters. In order to do that, they need to find consistency. There’ll be moments when they’ll score three or more goals for several games in a row, only to net three total in their next three games. Regardless, one thing is clear: the Wild have been scoring more goals over the last five or so seasons, and it’s making for interesting hockey.
All team and player statistics in this article were found on Hockey Reference.
As a lifelong hockey fan and recent Master of Journalism graduate, it’s always been my dream to write about the sport. That’s why you can find me here on THW covering the Minnesota Wild! You may also see my work on FanDuel, the Ottawa Citizen, and various sports betting sites. Follow me on Twitter @devplat!