An offseason shake-up to the Wild's roster didn't just change the look of the lineup.
The team's leadership was also restructured, with Jared Spurgeon taking over as captain, and now Spurgeon has the chance to guide the Wild into the playoffs after the team clinched a berth Saturday at San Jose.
"He cares about how the team does and doesn't care about Jared Spurgeon's stats," coach Dean Evason said. "Doesn't care about his ice time. All he cares about is the end result, and I think that has filtered to the group.
"The success that we've had up to this point is largely in part because of his leadership qualities."
Before the season, Spurgeon was appointed just the second full-time captain in team history. The team decided not to bring back Mikko Koivu, who eventually signed with Columbus before retiring in February.
Since Spurgeon became captain, his message to the locker room has been how important everyone is to the team, a philosophy that's played out on the ice, where the team has been led by its depth.
Take just last week, when the Wild swept its four-game road trip. Goalies Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen both posted victories, 11 players scored and 17 picked up at least a point.
"It's a whole group effort," said Spurgeon, who played in his 700th game Wednesday against the Blues at Xcel Energy Center. "This year more than others in the past we've had everyone contributing whether it's a single game or a couple games in a row. Any single night someone else is stepping up, and that's been big for us.
"That's the reason why we've put ourselves in the position we are right now."
With longtime veterans like Koivu, Eric Staal and Devan Dubnyk gone, new players arrived. Not only have they panned out in action, the team has come together off the ice. Being on the road, where COVID-19 restrictions have limited where players can go, has helped them bond.
"When you're only allowed to hang out in your meal room and you're not really allowed to go out, we've spent a lot of time together," Spurgeon said. "We've been having a lot of fun with it."
And like the team's playing style, not just one player has the spotlight.
"We have a lot of vocal guys, whether it's in between periods or before games," Spurgeon said. "Everyone speaks their mind and feels free to do that. I think that's one of those keys that everyone feels comfortable speaking up in that room whether it's your first year or second year or your 10th year. I think as a group, we're bouncing ideas off each other and just supporting each other."
700 and counting
Spurgeon on Wednesday became the third player in Wild history and only the second defenseman to skate in 700 NHL games. He trails only Nick Schultz (743) and Koivu (1,028) for the most played with the Wild.
Carson Soucy also hit a milestone, suiting up for his 100th NHL game.