The Minnesota Wild department at The Hockey Writers is starting a series that will look at the franchise’s top-10 all-time players, in honor of their 20th anniversary last season. THW’s Wild team consisting of myself, Justin Walters, Devon Platana, and Aaron Heckmann voted on this list, and it began with the 10th spot, as we work our way down to the best player in franchise history.
We’ve already covered the tenth and ninth place spots, which now moves us to No. 8 on this list. That player is Andrew Brunette, and he will always be a part of Wild history with his famous overtime goal in Game 7 of the 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Colorado Avalanche. That goal finished the Wild’s impressive comeback after being down three games to one. They faced elimination three straight times, and succeeded in one of the best comebacks in Wild history. That was also the last goal Patrick Roy would allow in his career, as he retired following that game.
Brunette spent 16 seasons in the NHL, he started with the Washington Capitals, then spent a season in Nashville before heading to the Atlanta Thrashers for two seasons. Following his time with the Thrashers, he came to the Wild for the first time. He spent three seasons with the Wild, when he scored his now-famous goal, and then joined the team he scored against, the Avalanche.
He spent three seasons there before becoming a boomerang, and heading back to the State of Hockey for another three seasons, before finally finishing his career out with one final season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Similar to former teammate Brian Rolston, his time with the Wild was interrupted thanks to the lockout of 2004-05; when hockey returned, he signed with the Avalanche.
Following his retirement, the Wild hired him to be an assistant coach, and he moved up the ladder from there. However, when the front office made a change for a new general manager, Paul Fenton, Brunette had to move on. He stayed in the NHL, but went south to the Florida Panthers to be their assistant coach, where he works to this day.
Tenure with the Wild
Brunette wasn’t a flashy player by any means, but every time he stepped on the ice for the Wild, he made an impact. He was typically found in front of the opposing net, waiting for the opportunity to knock in a teammate’s pass or slam home a rebound. His position was very close to Zach Parise’s, without the flair. They both would have been considered a slot forward for the Wild, being they spent the majority of their time in front of the net, blocking the goalie’s vision and trying to knock in “garbage” goals.
Brunette was one of those players that could be relied on for his consistency, and he rarely missed a game. Out of his six seasons with the Wild, he played in all 82 games in four of them. In the other two seasons he still managed to play 81 games and 80 games, respectively, something not many players can accomplish even in today’s era of play.
His hardworking, but easy-going attitude also won over the hearts of many Wild fans. He was one of the few players that always seem to enjoy their time on the ice, making himself one of the players who’s hard not to like.
Why is Brunette Deserving?
Brunette is deserving for a few reasons. The first being his famous overtime-winning goal, of course. To this day, almost 19 years later, that is still the best playoff finish the Wild have had. The second reason is he continued one of the NHL’s Iron Man streaks prior to and during his time in Minnesota.
He played in 509 consecutive games — that’s seven-straight seasons of missing very few contests — and it would have been eight had it not been for the lockout. Not many players play a full season, let alone do it multiple seasons in a row, like Brunette did. Sadly, it did come to an end with the Wild when he suffered a lower-body injury that ended the streak.
The third and final reason he’s deserving are his stats with the Wild. In his combined six seasons, he played 489 games and scored 119 goals, 202 assists, and had 321 points. As far as defensive stats go, he had 82 hits and 64 blocks. Those stats aren’t as phenomenal, but he was not known as a defensive-minded forward. His offensive stats ranked him in the top ten amongst all Wild players.
Brunette may not be Marian Gaborik, but he was still very influential to the Wild. It was mentioned previously that after he retired he returned to Minnesota as an assistant coach, but that’s not all he did. He held that position for two seasons before being named a hockey operations advisor for one season, and then finally was promoted to assistant general manager.
He held that position for nearly two seasons before he moved to the Panthers organization, where he helped them to their most recent playoff run. He may have been a good player, but he seems to be working out well as a coach too.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Top 10 list and let us know what you thought of our selections by leaving comments below.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.