Fifteen Greatest Minnesota Wild Players: #15 Pavol Demitra


Like many fans across the NHL you may have overlooked that the Minnesota Wild turned 15 years old as they began play this last season.  In trying to capture and honor fifteen seasons of Wild hockey I decided that I would take the next fifteen days and profile that I feel are the fifteen best Wild players past and present.

So without further adieu I present the first player and 15th on my all time best Minnesota Wild player list Pavol Demitra.

Pavol Demitra was not a member of the Wild for very long, but his impact was sudden and elevated the team to its best regular season ever in 2008. The Wild had been searching for a high-profile playmaker to match up with their young gun Marion Gaborik, so they decided to trade for Demitra prior to the 2006-2007 season from the Los Angeles Kings. Right away the two Slovakians hit it off and played great together forming a high scoring attack that had been missing from many of the previous Wild teams.

Demitra finished his first campaign in 2006-2007 with 25 goals and 64 points in 71 games his highest scoring season since 2002-2003 as a member of the St. Louis Blues. The next season in 2007-2008 Demitra would be one of the key players in Wild’s only Division title. His numbers were down from the previous year, but the team’s increased success marked with the fact that Marion Gaborik would net 42 goals as a member of his line speaks to his importance to one of the Wild’s best regular seasons ever.

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Despite that great regular season, the 2007-2008 playoffs would go down as one of the most disappointing as the Wild lost in the first round 4 games to 2 to the rival Avalanche. The fans and management felt jilted, and the pressure on GM Doug Riesbrough to change the team was huge. As a result Riesbrough decided not to re-sign Demitra and instead re-acquire Andrew Brunette, traded for Marek Zidlicky, and sign free agents Owen Nolan and Antti Miettinen.

Demitra would go on to play two more seasons in the NHL with the Canucks before leaving for the new KHL. His first season in the KHL Demitra would finish 5th in the league in scoring; not bad for a player who was now 35. The next season however would be cut short, as he and his entire team would perish in a plane crash over Russia.

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Pavol’s impact to the Wild can be seen today when you look into the rafters at Xcel Energy Center and catch a glimpse of the only Division title banner hanging in the arena. His acquisition signaled to the fans of Minnesota that the time had come for the franchise to move on from upstart expansion team to legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Sure the results weren’t quite a cup, but it was fun to watch a high power offensive player like Demitra wear a Wild jersey, it just made you think “We are actually that good.”