We’ve become accustomed in recent winters to thinking about the Wild as a mix of young and old players and the Wolves as a team of incredibly young players.
This winter is a departure for both franchises — and perhaps the best indicator that both will make the postseason in the same year for just the second time ever (with 2002-03 being the other year).
Think of the Wild and Wolves as old and (getting) older — a good thing, at least in the short term.
Let’s start with the Wild. Per Hockey Reference, the average age of a Wild player — taking into account how much time each player spends on the ice — is 29.0 years. That makes the Wild the fourth-oldest team in the NHL this season.
In making the postseason each of the past five seasons, the Wild has never been particularly young nor old — ranking anywhere from 12th to 21st in the NHL each of those five seasons in terms of average age of its players.
This year’s Wild team has much of the same core back one year older from last year and added Matt Cullen — soon to be 41 — to the forward mix. When Chris Stewart turns 30 at the end of October, the Wild will have seven regular skaters that age or older. Whenever Zach Parise returns, he will make eight.
That might have consequences at some point given the aging curve for NHL players, but for now it’s generally a good thing. Five of the six oldest NHL teams made the playoffs last season, and the eighth-oldest — the Penguins, who employed Cullen last season — won the Stanley Cup.
Veteran teams, as long as they still have talent, tend to outperform young teams. Even after a tough first two games, the Wild should have confidence things will even out over the course of 82 games with this roster.
The Wolves, meanwhile, were the youngest team in the NBA last season with an average age of 24.0 years, per Basketball Reference.
Given that, perhaps it’s not surprising they finished 31-51. Only three of the 10 youngest teams in the NBA last season made the playoffs. But the six oldest NBA teams made the playoffs — including the Warriors and Cavaliers, who met in the NBA Finals won by Golden State.
Age data for this season hasn’t been compiled league-wide on Basketball Reference, but the average age of the nine players who could be expected to play the most minutes for the Wolves this season is 27.9 – nearly four years older than last year’s overall number and on par with the age of the sixth-oldest team in the NBA last season.
Even though Andrew Wiggins (22) and Karl-Anthony Towns (21) are still extremely young, the Wolves added Taj Gibson (32) and Jamal Crawford (37) while essentially swapping roster spots with Ricky Rubio (almost 27) for Jeff Teague (29) and Zach LaVine (22) for Jimmy Butler (28).
If both the Wild and Wolves churn out wins this winter, it will come as a result of a variety of factors. But their suddenly very veteran rosters probably will be chief among them.