#3: Minnesota Wild
May 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks shake hands with the Minnesota Wild after eliminating them in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Wild barely snuck into the post-season, when on the final day of the 2013 regular season, they defeated the Colorado Avalanche, and won in a tiebreak against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It earned them their first playoff appearance since 2008. It was an uphill battle for the Wild since that point, going up against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks. They were eventually eliminated in five games. The Wild’s $98 million dollar men, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, caused more excitement in the off-season with their identical signings, than they did in the following season. The Wild move from the Vancouver Canucks-dominated Northwest Division to the new Central Division, meaning they will face the top-ranked Blackhawks, as well as strong teams in the St. Louis Blues, and upstart Winnipeg Jets. The Wild will have to become more responsible defensively, as #1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom handled a heavy workload last season, and he injured himself before Game One of their quarterfinal series. With back-up Josh Harding battling MS, Suter, Tom Gilbert, and new addition Keith Ballard will have to be stellar. Dany Heatley looks to return healthy after missing the end of the year with shoulder injury, and his return needs to bolster a Wild offense that finished 12th in Goals For in the Western Conference last season.