No. 50: Minnesota Wild

2013 Ultimate Standings

Updated: September 23, 2013, 12:36 PM ET
By Ben Arledge | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 87
Title track: 67
Ownership: 33
Coaching: 86
Players: 51
Fan relations: 33
Affordability: 60
Stadium experience: 19
Bang for the buck: 68

One year ago, the Wild were widely picked as the team to represent the West in the finals. That same team finished eighth in the West and limped into the playoffs, only to lose in five games to the Blackhawks in the first round. Still, Minnesota hopped 36 ranks in the title track category and 34 in bang for the buck rating, and there is no arguing that the team has talent and should contend in 2013-14. Last year's acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter made a big splash, but the talent that was already in place, including Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom, can't be overlooked. Less popular among fans was the July signing of veteran goon Matt Cooke, whose prior head-hunting ways with the Penguins and Canucks inspired the league to ban blindside hits to the head. Said Cooke upon inking the three-year, $7.5 million dollar deal: "I'm sure there's a lot of fans there who maybe aren't fond of me."

Despite an ultimately disappointing season, fans still love going to games -- at least partially due to the Xcel Energy Center. The home of the Wild was fifth-rated in the NHL in our survey and second in fan-friendly game environment. From College Nights to Hockey Day Minnesota, the 13-year-old arena keeps America's biggest hockey fans happy. With a strong team-fan connection and a skilled roster, it is no surprise the Wild skipped 37 spots in our standings, joining our top 50. Welcome and bienvenue!

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