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Last year's rank: 50
Title track: 61
Fan relations: 12
Stadium experience: 4
Bang for the buck: 51
The Wild improved in every single category, helping push them up 26 spots overall this year (after a jump of 37 spots last year). Although the team's on-ice success helped -- including a thrilling seven-game first-round playoff series in which Minnesota edged the Avalanche -- the push starts and ends with the Xcel Energy Center, which ranks fourth overall in our rankings. The new LED hanging scoreboard will only enhance the fan experience, bringing 10 video displays at center ice to 18,500 fans. "We want to enhance our home-ice advantage and give back to the fans what they give us each and every night," says Matt Majka, Wild chief operating officer. The X also houses the Hobey Baker Award, and its concourse displays jerseys from every high school team in Minnesota.
On the ice, there's plenty of talent, including Minnesota native Zach Parise, who, along with Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu, tallied 50-plus points last season. Five others notched double-digit goals. The front office then signed left winger Thomas Vanek this offseason to pack even more punch up front. The biggest question is who will be in net. The Wild started five goalies last season and dressed seven. Although Josh Harding was outstanding, he missed time while battling multiple sclerosis. Niklas Backstrom is coming back from abdomen and hip surgeries, and Darcy Kuemper still isn't under contract. Once the Wild settle on who will be in the crease, everything else could fall into place, as their franchise place continues to rise.