Mikko Koivu. Leader of men, Kaptain Finland, Oh Kaptain my Kaptain. The list of nicknames goes on and on, none of which fully express the amount of weight the organization and fans put on Koivu's shoulders. The contract extension the Wild and Koivu agreed on last summer will kick in this coming season, causing expectations to only rise, which may or may not be realistic.
No matter what, Koivu is the leader of this team, and right now, as he goes so goes the team. This was proven by the complete failure of the team when Koivu was hurt, and also in the near constant questions about the team "waiting" for Koivu, and consistently waiting for Koivu to save them.
Was the staff here at Hockey Wilderness willing to criticize the Kaptain? Make the jump and find out.
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JS- GRADE: B+ We may never know if his finger injury actually did cost us a playoff spot, but what we do know is that the team looked lost without him. His leadership qualities were put into question on many a night this season, as he would become invisible for stretches of games. Make no mistake though, it's likely he was our most valuable player this year, especially towards the end when he did everything in his power to get the Wild back on their feet as he put up 13 points in the final 13 games he played. His worth was also shown when both Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen became obsolete in Koivu's absence. (3 points each and no goals in 11 Koivu-less games). He co-led the team in points despite playing less games than Martin Havlat and he ended the season with +4, which is excellent on this squad. I feel he can step up his game still with better linemates, and if the reason for Miettinen's presence on his wing truly is that Koivu wants him there, he needs to think of what's better for the team. He has to know Mittens is slowing him down. Perhaps Bruno's time has also passed on Koivu's other wing. The Wild will need him to keep playing the way he ended the season, and even surpass that level. We all know there's more to Koivu than what we saw this year.
Elise- GRADE: B+ Went through some rough stretches but you could see how much his absence affected the team when he went down with the hand injury. Fun fact: his shooting percentage was exactly the same as last year.
Dan- GRADE: B+ Not as dominant as he was last season but he still provided the team the leader it needed. He played the most ice-time than any Wild forward, and was tied for the lead with most points. Is he worth $6.750 million till 2018? For sure!
Monica- GRADE: A A and not just for the effort. Captain Koivu has been a staple for the Wild and has carried much of the team. After a rough start to the season in Finland (though a great first game for Koivu himself) the season looked all too familiar for the Wild faithful. When he broke his finger against his brother Saku's Ducks it shattered the hopes of the Wild making the post season.
Bryan- Grade: B Kaptain Koivu wound up leading the team in scoring, but that is likely due to martin Havlat being hurt for the stretch run. His team fell apart around him, calling his leadership into question, and expectations only go up for him next season. Still, his fire and heart were refreshing night in and night out, even playing through a broken finger on his strong hand. The guy gets a pass simply for being the only one who cared most nights.
Nathan- Grade: B-. Mikko Koivu is set to earn a hefty raise next season, and if his output doesn't increase (even if that isn't his role on the team) people across the NHL will be looking even more skeptically at that deal. The heart and soul of the franchise, Koivu still isn't the offensive threat this team needs. Whether they need him to be the driving force of the offense is irrelevant. Koivu is the face, and this season the franchise failed, and you can look to Koivu's performance as part of that. 62 points from a top-line center is mediocre, a +4 from one of the best two-way centers in the game is average, but looking at what happened to the team with Koivu out of the lineup speaks volumes for his importance to the team. The Wild live and die by Koivu's performance and leadership. When Koivu failed, the team failed. He needs a more consistent season next year and a jump in output while taking an even bigger role in leading the team. They'll need it, especially if they go really young.
Cumulative GPA: 3.12 B
Mikko Koivu is the Minnesota Wild. Regardless of who Chuck Fletcher brings in, who steps up, or who falls flat, the success and failures of this team fall to Koivu. The pressure that comes with the C does not seem to have gotten to his game, though the scrutiny does seem to have gotten to him a bit off the ice.
He is clearly worthy of the extension he signed, and whatever happens to the team over the course of that deal, the dollars and term will immediately be pointed to. Either it is the best deal Fletcher will ever sign, or it will be the deal that costs him his job. It all falls on Mikko. Again.