Thank the Lord! Only a few weeks left until the start of the NHL season. As with every offseason, hockey enthusiasts desperately try to find some way to fill the void that the Stanley Cup finals, Draft day and July 1st. All over the internet, debates rage on over who the Flordia Panthers should sign as their 7th defensemen, or the possibilities of impossible hypothetical situations like the projected point total of Sidney Crosby if he played on a line with Ovechkin and they were transported back to the 1980′s to take on the Edmonton Oilers.
From now until the beginning of the season, I’ll try and look at the Wild’s offseason acquisitions/signings and give as in depth as possible analysis. Then, I’ll assign a letter grade for the move (its not just the kids going back to school!)
Mikko Koivu- Chances are, unless you’re a Wild fan, you’ll be more familiar with the elder Koivu, Saku, who captained the Montreal Canadiens as well as the Finnish Olympic team (Silver in Torino!) while beating cancer somewhere in between.
This summer, Koivu signed a 47 million dollar contract with the team that drafted him. The deal which comes into effect NEXT season, (2011-2012) will see Koivu with the team for seven seasons at a cool 6.75 mil a season. A lot of amateur armchair GMs were perplexed by such a lucrative deal. Their precious stat sheets will tell them that Koivu only racked up 71 points this season. 6.75 Million? That’s Ovechkin money! They cried. That’s Crosby money! That’s Wade Redden money! 71 points doesn’t warrant such a lofty cap hit!
I’d be willing to bet that the majority of the naysayers, despite their infinite wisdom, have never really seen Koivu on the ice, or at the very least, talked to Wild fans. In the age of the internet, where limitless information is at the click of a mouse, this is inexcusable. If any of these people did, they’d realize there’s a lot more to Koivu’s game than his goals and assists.
Anyone who watches Koivu night in and night out knows what he brings to the table. Koivu has gone on record as saying that he’ll never cheat offensively if it will make him a defensive liability. He’s a work horse and a beast in all three zones. If Don Cherry saw him play a little more, he’d think twice before playing the softie European card.
The problem many people see is in comparable salaries around the league. For example, Patrick Marleau makes 6.9, and generally puts up much better numbers than Koivu. But what everyone’s ignoring is Marleau’s line mates; Thornton and Heatley, an exceptional playmaker and a natural sniper. Koivu has never had even one player of that caliber to team up with, let alone two.
But what really makes Koivu an important and deserving player within the organization is the fat that he’s the first PERMANENT captain in the franchise’s history. The Wild finally have someone on their roster worthy of representing the team. Nearly every team has a legitimate “face of the franchise.” Who did the Wild have? The man of Glass, Marian Gaborik, who couldn’t leave fast enough? Pierre-Marc Bouchard? Brian Rolston? Matt Johnson…?
Let’s face it, the franchise needed someone like this for the teams imagine. They don’t have a rich history, no real legacy to speak of. They’ve rarely fallen far enough in the standings to draft a generational talent ala Crosby or Ovechkin.
Yes its true, Koivu’s making BIG money, and no, it wouldn’t have hurt him to take a “home town discount” but I think he’s clearly a special player, especially for the Wild. No one who ever put on a Wild’s jersey up to this point was worthy of wearing the C full time. Why should he have to take a pay cut because the Wild brass handed out too much money to Pierre-Marc Bouchard?
Maybe if Datsyuk stops hogging all the Selke’s, we’ll see Koivu on the podium accepting the award, and maybe he’ll finally get the respect he deserves.
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Written by Shawn Stenhouse