Members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins — the only team in the NFL’s Super Bowl era to go undefeated, including playoffs, for an entire season — were famous for popping champagne each season when the final unbeaten team in the league lost, ensuring their run to perfection remained a singular accomplishment.
One would imagine, or at least hope, that there are no similar bubbly rituals with the members of the 2006-07 Minnesota Wild.
But that Jacques Lemaire-coached team, led by 30-goal scorers Brian Rolston and Marian Gaborik, veteran Pavol Demitra, a young Mikko Koivu and a stifling defense, has an interesting if oft-overlooked distinction: it had the best regular season of any team in Wild history, finishing with a team-record 104 points.
A few versions of the Wild have challenged the mark. The 2007-08 squad racked up 98 points on the way to the Wild’s only division title in team history. Mike Yeo’s squads in 2013-14 and 2014-15 had 98 and 100 points, respectively, en route to reaching the second round of the playoffs both seasons.
And yes, the 2002-03 Wild, which reached the Western Conference finals as a No. 6 seed, had 95 points before the scoring system was tweaked to include shootouts — making it more likely to get two points instead of one in an overtime game.
But a fact is a fact: that Wild team of a decade ago has remained the gold standard for points in a season by a Minnesota team.
For about three-fourths of this season, it looked like that record would be obliterated by the current Wild. The Wild’s record entering March, through 61 games, was 41-14-6 — good for 88 points. Minnesota, then, needed just 17 points in its final 21 to beat the team record.
A massive March swoon, though, has left the Wild at 47-25-8 — and 102 points — with just two games, both on the road, left in the season and with the Wild locked into a playoff seed and likely to rest players. With three wins in its past four games and points in five of its last six, the Wild actually had to play catch-up to threaten that 2006-07 team.
It leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Wild team of a decade ago was pretty underrated. Whereas Vikings fans of a certain age immediately recall the 15-1 season of 1998 as the best of the post-1970s era and Timberwolves fans immediately know 2003-04 was that franchise’s best season, the 2006-07 Wild squad doesn’t hold that same place in our minds.
Maybe it’s because that team didn’t even win its division and fizzled out quickly in the playoffs, losing a five-game series in the first round to Anaheim? Indeed, the Wild was only the seventh-best team in a loaded Western Conference that season.
Maybe it’s because the season looked pretty pedestrian halfway through? Minnesota was 21-18-2 at the midpoint, then went 27-8-the rest of the way (to finish at 48-26-8) after some fans perhaps lost a little interest?
Regardless, that team has earned the right to call itself the best regular-season squad in Wild history. We’ll know in a few days whether that improbable distinction continues or whether this year’s more celebrated team stakes that claim.