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  • Can Brock Faber Help Snap the Wild Out Of Their Playoff Funk?

    Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
    Justin Hein


    Brock Faber holds a unique position on his team: He’s the first Minnesota-born Wild player to grow up with the franchise for his entire childhood. 

    Sure, many native Minnesotans have played for the team before. Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau played a combined 129 games for the Wild, but Bjugstad was nine years old, and Rau was eight when the Wild played their first game. Sammy Walker and Brennan Menell were born in the late-90’s. However, Faber is on track to be a cornerstone player, while Walker has mostly played in Iowa, and the Wild traded Mennell. 

    In terms of impact, Zach Parise may be the closest example. Parise was born in Minnesota but was 16 years old playing at Shattuck St. Mary’s by the time the Wild played their inaugural game. He was born in July 1984, and the North Stars played in Minnesota until 1993. Parise has a foot in both worlds, especially since his father played for the North Stars. By contrast, Faber is a true lifer, born in 2002 -- after the Wild’s inaugural season. 

    That gives Faber a singular perspective on the Wild. To his generation of Minnesotans, the North Stars are less than a distant memory – they’re a distant memory of his parents’ generation. To people around Faber’s age, the Wild aren’t some kind of replacement or a novelty. Certainly, they don’t wax poetic about how much this market deserves a hockey team or how nice it is to have a team again

    The Wild are an institution. And they play in a town that needs a winner.  

    Because of his age, Faber may know that better than anybody in the building. The Wild have won four playoff series in his lifetime, two of which came in 2003, when Faber was eight months old. By contrast, he’s witnessed nine first-round losses. He understands that getting to the playoffs is great, but it’s not everything. 

    Of all the Minnesotans who will ever know that feeling, he has the best chance to make it happen. 

    Faber’s win-or-go-home attitude shows up on the ice. Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues was massive for whatever playoff hopes the Wild had left. With five minutes left, Minnesota needed a goal. Faber took a risk and abandoned his spot at the blue line, skating deep into the offensive zone. 



    You can see in his face that he knows the stakes in this game. Faber is fired up. It’s rare for a rookie defenseman to display that understanding of the situation and still have the confidence to execute. With five minutes left in the game, nobody would question Faber for retreating to the point to support Jacob Middleton. But this is about more than his job – enforcing his will on the game. 

    If you want to know where Faber gets this killer instinct, look back to his college career. Faber returned to the Gophers in 2022-23 with his sights set on a championship. The Athletic’s Joe Smith went behind the scenes with the Gophers during that year’s NCAA playoff, which ended in a crushing loss in the finals to Quinnipiac. The Gophers gave away a 2-0 lead and lost ten seconds into overtime. 

    Faber has completely remade his game since then, adding offense in his NHL rookie season that nobody would have predicted based on his NCAA performance. As Joe Smith pointed out in a recent column, Faber is arguably the best two-way rookie defenseman since Aaron Ekblad. That’s a surprise, given the scouting reports from his final year in Dinkytown. 



    It’s not hard to imagine that losing to Quinnipiac has fueled Faber’s newfound offensive game. He grew up around these good-not-great Wild teams, then blew a lead with the Gophers in the biggest moment of his career. 

    And who took that ring right off his finger? Quinnipiac, a scrappy team with a relentless 200-foot game that thrived on the counterattack. One offseason later, Faber seems determined to make things happen himself. He jumps into the rush, runs the power play, and cheats low in the offensive zone whenever the opportunity arises. 

    This new-look Brock Faber has all those traits Minnesota has lacked for so long. Faber finds another gear in the biggest moments. He has a killer instinct. And if he becomes a leader on the Wild as he did with the Gophers, it could be a turning point in this team’s culture. 

    There’s a well-known quote from the TV series Shoresy about how great teams don’t just love to win, but they hate to lose. I understand the phrase's appeal, but the truth is that the hate-to-lose attitude comes with a price. It’s based on fear, which manifests in missed scoring chances, gripping the stick too tight, blowing leads, and streaky performance. 

    That hate-to-lose attitude has been evident on the Wild for over a decade. Mikko Koivu was famous for his temper after a big loss. It shines through in their defensive reputation around the league, cultivated through consistently structured play. 

    Hating to lose does nothing for a team in a tied game. Perhaps that’s the reason for the Wild’s consistent playoff disappointments. 

    For example, take their 5-4 playoff loss to the Dallas Stars in 2016. The Wild came out flat for two periods, and the Stars claimed a 4-0 lead. With a series loss staring them in the face, Minnesota suddenly became a team possessed. In the third period, they scored three goals in nine minutes. Then, one bad bounce closed the door. 

    Faber’s NCAA finals loss was as devastating as it gets. In a way, perhaps that’s freeing, or maybe it drives him. Either way, he knows that hockey is not a game of sitting in your structure and waiting for a mistake. It’s a relentless game in which you must enforce your will upon your opponents. How else could Quinnipiac come from behind against that stacked Gopher team? 

    That relentlessness is on display every time Faber makes a play. He jumps into the play for 25 minutes a night to outnumber his opponents. Faber stares the other team in the face and says, I bet we can score before you can punish us. After watching playoff loss after playoff loss, he refuses to play on his heels like he saw the Wild play for his entire childhood. 

    Brock Faber has that killer instinct that the Wild have needed for so long. Hopefully, it’s contagious.


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    I'll be honest, I yada yada yada'd through some of this article (couple beers tonight.)  I do agree that Faber is the the face of this franchise going forward, if they do not burn him out with minutes and putting depressed players (that can't be fucked to care) around him.

    I super look forward to the Russian scoring line that is coming, but Faber is how you build a winning team.




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    Faber can't do it alone, he'll need help. It was nice to see Rossi pot 2 against the Blues also. It looked like he cared. No question that Ek has that other gear. 

    And Johansson cared too after his goal and that's the most emotion I've seen out of him in a long time....maybe ever. 

    This new crop of draft picks need that same intensity, and I'm not sure if they bring it or not. Dino, to me, looks like he has it. Kaprizov usually looks the same way. 

    However, Boldy doesn't necessarily have that same look....yet. I'm not down on the kid, I just think there's a lot more potential in him than he is currently showing. He should be one of those guys who in big moments forces his will on opponents. 

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    55 minutes ago, mnfaninnc said:

    However, Boldy doesn't necessarily have that same look....yet. I'm not down on the kid, I just think there's a lot more potential in him than he is currently showing. He should be one of those guys who in big moments forces his will on opponents. 

    Agree 100%.  I think Boldy could easily become an annual 30-40 goal scorer.  He is the guy who takes the puck aggressively to the net, and unlike a bull in a china shop (Foligno), he does it with a nice balance of power and finesse.

    I see him only getting better as he finds more success.  Putting him with KK97 and Ek has been great for him.  It's too bad we didn't make the playoffs because I think he is ready and I would have liked to see what that line could have done at that level.

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    24 minutes ago, Will D. Ness said:

    It's too bad we didn't make the playoffs because I think he is ready and I would have liked to see what that line could have done at that level.

    C’mon there’s still a 4% chance…

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