The Minnesota Wild are in the midst of one of the best seasons in franchise history. Leading the Western Conference and with the second-most points in the NHL, the Wild are five points up on the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the hotly-contested Central Division. They're one of just six teams in the league to average more than three goals per game (3.35), and boast the NHL's top goaltender in Devan Dubnyk, who leads the league in save percentage and goals-against average. But how did they get here? FOX Sports North breaks down the moves and moments that brought the Wild to this point, from the monster extension that kept captain Mikko Koivu in Minnesota to the record winning streak that changed it all.
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Oct. 20, 2009: Mikko Koivu is named the Wild's first full-time captain
The Wild ended their rotating captaincy during the 2009-10 season. Koivu responded with the best season of his career, scoring 71 points. He was rewarded with a seven-year, $47 million contract, then the richest deal in franchise history, as the Wild pulled out all the stops to retain their biggest star after losing Marian Gaborik to free agency a year earlier. Koivu has remained one of the Wild's cornerstones over the years and has already reached the 40-point threshold for the 10th consecutive season (not counting the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season).
USA TODAY SportsSergei Belski
July 4, 2012: The day that changed the franchise
Minnesota native Zach Parise's high-octane game was an immediate fit in the NHL when he signed with the New Jersey Devils in 2004. Parise scored at least 30 goals in his first five seasons, scoring a career-high 45 goals in 2008-09. The Devils' captain returned home in 2012, signing a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild. But he didn't come back alone. Defenseman Ryan Suter signed an identical deal on the same day, joining the Wild after seven seasons with the Nashville Predators. A two-time All-Star since joining the Wild, Suter leads the team in average ice time at 27:19. The duo made an immediate impact, helping Minnesota to its first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season. They haven't missed the playoffs since.
USA TODAY SportsBrad Rempel
Jan. 19, 2013: Mikael Granlund scores in his first game
The top European skater heading into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Granlund played two more seasons in Finland after being drafted No. 9 overall by the Wild. A lockout in 2012 delayed his debut even further, but the playmaking center lived up to the hype when he finally made his NHL debut, scoring in his first game. He scored the most memorable goal of his career during the playoffs in 2014 in Game 3 of the Western Conference first round, sliding the puck past Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov while sprawling on the ice to give the Wild a 1-0 overtime win. He's taken a huge step forward in his fifth season, and has a career-high 50 points through 56 games.
Associated PressAnn Heisenfelt
Jan. 14, 2015: The Wild trade for Devan Dubnyk
The Wild's goaltending prospects were looking bleak midway through the 2014-15 season. Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom were struggling, and Minnesota was a long shot to make the playoffs after a disastrous first half in the rough-and-tumble Central Division. Enter, Devan Dubnyk. The Wild dealt a third-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dubnyk and righted the ship almost immediately. The Wild won eight of their next 10 games, finishing the season 46-28-8 and beating the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. Dubnyk finished the season 27-9 with a .936 save percentage and finished third in the Vezina Trophy voting. His dominance has continued. Dubnyk currently leads the NHL with a .933 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average.
May 7, 2016: Bruce Boudreau is hired as the Wild's new head coach
The Wild had options after parting ways with Yeo last season, but rather than retain interim boss John Torchetti, general manager Chuck Fletcher went big. Fletcher went for the hottest name on the market, signing former Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. "Gabby" brought his President's Trophy-winning pedigree to Minnesota, coaching the Wild to a sizable lead in the Western Conference during his first half-season at the helm. He transformed the Wild's offense into one of the league's highest-scoring groups, while bringing in former NHL star Scott Stevens to improve the defense.
Associated PressJim Mone
July 1, 2016: Eric Staal signs with the Wild
Looking for answers following a first-round playoff loss to the Dallas Stars, the Wild turned to a veteran looking to rehabilitate his career. Staal took a massive pay cut to join the Wild, signing a three-year, $10.5 million contract and immediately outperforming his salary. The Wild's No. 1 center, Staal ranks second on the team in scoring with 44 points, and is on pace for his best season since 2012.
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Dec. 4, 2016: The Wild's franchise-record 12-game winning streak begins
When the streak began the Wild were a respectable 12-8-4, third in the Central Division and eight points behind the Chicago Blackhawks. By the time it ended they were the fifth-ranked team in the league. Minnesota won 12 consecutive games from Dec. 4-29, colliding with the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets on New Year's Eve in the first-ever meeting between two teams with winning streaks of at least 12 games in the history of the NHL, MLB, NBA or NFL.
USA TODAY SportsBrad Rempel
Dec. 7, 2016: Granlund takes a step forward
With 14 points in 24 games, Granlund was on pace for another respectable season heading into a matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 7, the second of the Wild's 12-game winning streak. It would prove to be a turning point for the 24-year-old. Granlund's scoring pace more than doubled from that point on. He's been a point-per-game player ever since, and is now tied for 17th in the NHL with a career-high 50 points, 35 of which have come in his last 32 games.