This time around rather than a Top-5 or Top-10 all time Minnesota Wild player list. I thought I’d go through the list of uniform numbers worn by ALL of the guys who have suited up for the Wild and select the best at each. There’s a total of 62 numbers that have been stitched onto the backs of the red, green and white sweaters since 2000. From here on out I’ll make my selection for the best player to wear that particular number. Some will be easy, 18 of the 62 have been worn by only a single player. The remaining 44 will vary in difficulty as some very good players have worn the same numbers while suiting up for the Minnesota franchise. I’ll be looking at players over their whole career not just the time they spent with the Wild. Popularity with fans or teammates doesn’t necessarily equate to the best player. That may make some of my selections less popular. If so, that’s what the comment area is for. There are 30 even and 32 odd numbers. Today we’ll start with nine of the odd numbers. Over the next few articles we’ll look at the rest of the odds and move on to the evens.
# 1 Yes, I know no player has ever worn #1. This was retired to “honor” the fans. Somehow as a fan I don’t feel very “honored” when we’re facing the second lockout since 2004. Hey, Craig Leopold(owner) and players (NHLPA), getting a CBA done before training camp and/or start of the regular season would “honor” your commitment to the fans who pay dearly to watch you, buy NHL merchandise and $5.oo hotdogs.
#3 Ladislav Benysek (2000-02) Keith Carney (2006-08) Marek Zidlicky (2008-12)
A battle of the D-men here. In this one I give the nod to Marek Zidlicky. His 306 points over 570 career NHL games trumps Carney’s 228 over 1018 games. Zids 44 power play goals is just one shy of Carney’s career total. The Czech Republic products .88 penalty minutes per games beats the others as well. Carney did play an impressive 19 years in the NHL with 6 teams. His most impressive stat may be his career +/- of +164. He was selected to the 1998 US Olympic team while Zids suited up for the Czech Republic in 2006 and 2010.
#5 Brad Bombardir (2000-04) Kim Johnsson (2006-10) Greg Zanon (2010-12)
I’ve got to give this one to Kim Johnsson. His 67 goals, 217 assists over 739 career games while going a +27 through that span tops the popular Bombardir and Zanon in all these categories. “Bomber”, as fans call him put up 8 goals, 46 assists in 356 career contests winning a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2000. The one thing I do have to say about Greg Zanon is his insane shot blocking ability, it’s like having a second goalie on the ice. The man lacks fear, a sense of self preservation or nerve endings and quite possibly all three.
#7 Cliff Ronning (2002-03) Erik Westrum (2005-06) Clayton Stoner (2009-10) Matt Cullen (2010-12)
Lucky #7 goes to Cliff Ronning in a close race with Matt Cullen. Ronning posted 306 goals, 563 assists for 869 points over 1137 games spanning a 20 year NHL career with 7 teams. Cullen so far has 195 goals 340 assists for 535 points over 16 years in the league with 7 teams as well.. That equates to a .76 point per game average for Ronning to Cully’s .52 ppg. Cliff also takes the +/- race by a career total of +45 to -59. If I included charity work and the Cully’s Kids organization that might put Matt over the top, but we’re looking at on ice performance here.
#9 Hnat Domenichelli (2002-03) Alexandre Daigle (2003-06) Mikko Koivu (2006-12)
This one comes down to Mikko and Alexandre. Well no not really. It’s Mikko Koivu for the win. While Daigle did manage to last 12 years in the league he is considered one of the biggest busts of all time for a first overall pick in the draft. Koivu, a 6th overall pick is fairing much better. The Wild’s Captain has career numbers of 108 goals, 253 assists over 488 games. Daigle posted 129goals and198 assists over 616 games in the NHL. The most glaring difference between the two comes in the +/- category. Mikko has a respectable +24 over 7 seasons while Alexandre put up a dismal -179 for his career. Ouch! Lets just say defense wasn’t his strength. Mikko plays strong, responsible defense and is the Wild’s leader on and off the ice.
#11 Kai Nurminen (2000-01) Pascal Dupuis (2000-07) Dominic Moore (2006-07) Chris Simon (2007-08) Owen Nolan (2008-10) John Madden (2010-11)
There are three contenders in this category, Dupuis, Madden, Nolan. The winner here is Owen Nolan. The grizzled veteran of 20 NHL campaigns played a total of 1265 regular season and playoff games. He put up a balanced scoring attack with 422 goals, 463 assists for 885 regular season points, he added another 21 goals and 19 assists in 65 playoff games. 155 of his goals, over a third of his output (37% to be exact) came on the power play. He piled up 1793 penalty minutes averaging 90 a year. Madden and Dupuis’ number while solid lack the longevity and .74 point per game average of Nolan, coming in at .39 and .45 respectively. Madden recently hung up his skates while Dupuis looks to have a few years left at the age of 33. Nolan still played 73 games in the ’09-’10 season while turning 39. I’d also put him up as the best NHL’er to come out of Ireland as well.
Now I’ll throw in 4 of the uncontested numbers. Hopefully as time moves on these will show up on the backs of more Minnesota Wild players.
#43 Warren Peters (2010-12)
Warren Peters has put up 4 goals and 4 assists over 96 career games with 3 teams. He was signed as a free agent this past July with Pittsburgh.
#49 (2008-09)Dan Fritsche
Dan Fritsche,the only man to wear no. 49 for Minnesota, has suited up for three teams over a 6year NHL career. He’s played 256 games while scoring 34 goals and 42 assists. He spent just 34 games with the Wild during the 2008-09 season. He’s your no. 49
#51 James Sheppard (2008-10)
James Sheppard has no competition for the title here. Drafted 9th overall in 2006 he spent 3 lackluster years with the Wild, 4 if you count the season he sat out injured after breaking his knee cap just before the start of training camp in 2010. He has yet to live up to expectations producing just 11 goals and 38 assists over 224 career NHL games. He hopes to turn things around in San Jose.
#55 Nick Schultz (2001-12)
Nick Schultz is the consumate stay at home defenseman. Over an 11 year NHL career with the Wild and now Oilers he’s scored just 26 goals and added 106 assists in 763 games. A deadly poke check and great positional play are what make him so valuable to his teams. It will be a while before the wild have another no. 55 of this caliber.
That’s the first batch of top players by number coming up on Wednesday we’ll continue our march through the odds.