Yesterday, the editors here at Hockey Wilderness did their final season grades for the Wild's centers. Now it's time to see how us staff writers graded them.
Dan Czarnecki (WIMinnesotaWildFan)
Mikko Koivu: B
Koivu had a pretty decent season for the Wild. During the playoffs, many people thought he should be stripped of his "C" patch because he simply couldn't do too much in our tough playoff series against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks. During the regular season though, he racked up the goals and assists, and led us to wins. I still think Koivu will serve the Wild well as the captain.
Kyle Brodziak: C
Brodziak's performance was just "meh" to say the least. He scored only 4 goals during the regular season, but did pretty well on the PK line. It would have been nice to see him score more, but there's always room for improvement.
Matt Cullen: A-
Cullen is a solid contributor on our 2nd line. When he got injured at perhaps the worst time during this season, our second line became non-existent. But, when he came back from his injury, the 2nd line sprang back to life again. He also provided some helpful mentoring to Jason Zucker.
Zenon Konopka: C
Just like for my mid-season grades, I graded Konopka a little bit tougher simply because he didn't rack up that much ice time this season. But, for the times he did happen to be out on the ice, he was a pretty good defenseman. He was also pretty good in the faceoff circle, but he didn't really bring much to our forecheck. To say the least, I would have graded him a little bit better if he got more ice time.
Mikael Granlund: C-
Granlund didn't really live up to the hype that the Wild hoped for. The first time we recalled him from Houston, he didn't do too much in terms of contributing on any line he was placed on. After we sent him back down, and then recalled him again, still the same old story. But, after recalling him for a final time due to being plagued with the injury bug at the worst possible time, he finally managed to score his first goal in a Wild sweater. I'll give him some credit though, as he had a pretty decent season with the Aeros, as he scored 10 goals and had 18 assists during the Aeros' regular season, as well as a goal and an assist in the playoffs. In short, Granlund is a rookie that still needs more time to develop until he's ready for the NHL. Give him a few years, and he'll be a great player for the Wild.
Aaron Holm (The Nooge)
Mikko Koivu: B-
Mikko finished the season just 1 point behind the Wild's leading points guy, 2nd overall in assists and tied for 3rd on the team in goals (11g/26a 37pts). Much like the rest of the team he seemed to fall apart late in the season and was a ghost offensively in the playoffs. Some have attributed this to a undisclosed injury, some say that "C" on his sweater is weighing him down, or perhaps its all the words he keeps inside from not talking enough for the fans to hear it. At any rate you cannot deny his importance to this team. He is consistently one of the best defensive centers in the league and his work ethic on and off the ice is second to none. Without Koivu, this team doesn't even make it to the playoffs.
Kyle Brodziak: C
Brodziak definitely had a slow year despite being given every opportunity to succeed. Yeo put an immense amount of faith in Brodziak by placing him on the top power play unit and playing him against the some of the top lines in the Western Conference. The only reason his grade is as high as it is here is because he always seemed to be once bounce away from catching fire in my opinion. So he gets some credit for putting himself in a position to score and for not being as big a defensive liability as his -18 would suggest.
Matt Cullen: B+
Of the forwards, Cullen is the one I struggled most with on whether or not he deserved an A. He is a veteran, a leader and you could see him on the bench constantly talking, taking Jason Zucker under his wing and instilling a great deal of confidence in the youth. If this was his last season in a Wild uniform I will be sorely disappointed. If he moves on, I wish him all the best. If he retires I would immediately ask him to get behind the bench as an assitant to Yeo. Cullens 27 points (7g/20a) puts him in a 4th place tie with The Gooch on the Wild this season and his +9 and 3 playoff points were a team best. Another team lead he shared this season, age. He and Brett Clark are both 36.
Zenon Konopka: D-
About the only thing you can say about Konopka is his bunny is huge, and so is his nose. Although he did lead the team in one category, penalty minutes. His 117 PIM beats the next guy by 50. I recall Russo saying we would like this guy, great on faceoffs and penalty kills. Sorry Russo, after further review I respectfully disagree. The D- is kind to say the least, and he gets that for NOT dropping the gloves in the playoffs (helps he only played 2 games) and actually being somewhat decent at times on the forecheck.
Mikael Granlund: C+
With expectations sky high for this kid, and the struggles he had coming out of the gate, I struggled to find reasons to give him a lower grade but also could not find much reason to give him the grade we had all penciled in before the season. The spirit is there, the effort is there, but one thing I think he learned this season is he needs to be stronger on his skates. We did see some evidence of this after he was recalled back from Houston. I was a bit surprised Yeo didn't give him a sniff in the playoffs either, not that he would have made the difference. A lot of promise for this kid and remember, he is just a kid. At 20 years old he his the 2nd youngest man-boy on this years roster.
Mikko Koivu: C-
It was an average season for Koivu. Once thought to be a top line forward, he put up second line numbers this season and performed a disappearing act at the end of the season causing Wild fans to wonder if he was injured. Koivu scored goals five goals in his final 20 games. Koivu was unimpressive during the stretch run when the Wild needed offensive production from him. If the Wild are going to be successful next season, Koivu is going to have to step up and provide more offense than he did this season. Koivu won 54.0 percent of his faceoffs this season. In my opinion, Koivu’s play at the end of the season was disappointing and he has to be better if the Wild are going to take the next step in becoming an elite team.
Kyle Brodziak: D
This past season, Brodziak’s production dropped off significantly from the 2011-12 season, where he set personal bests in goals and points. Brodziak was also an unimpressive -18, a career worst. For what the Wild are paying Brodziak, expectations were not being met on the score sheet and he should be expected to produce more points going forward. Brodziak won 49.4 percent of his faceoffs this season.
Matt Cullen: C+
An actual member of the state of hockey and a former Saint Cloud State Husky. I can still remember him getting behind the Fighting Sioux defense when he was in college. Cullen is in the last year of his contract could come cheaper and based on his play this past season. With the emergence of rookie center Mikael Granlund Cullen "might" become a casualty. Cullen is 36 and his numbers haven’t fallen off all that much, so the Wild could retain him as a third line center and at a much cheaper price. In my humble opinion, Cullen still has some game left and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes in the offensive zone and was the Wild’s points leader during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Cullen won 57.9 percent of his faceoffs this season.
Zenon Konopka: B
The Wild needed toughness and added some in the offseason. Konopka is an able pugilist and according to Hockey Fights lost one fight in nine bouts, that’s not bad odds. Konopka is a good team player that sticks up for the star players when other team’s goons and agitators take runs at them. Konopka was also a good faceoff man as well, winning 60.7 percent of the faceoffs that he took this season.
Mikael Granlund: C+
Granlund has a lot of offensive upside and we have all seen the highlight videos from International play, but it didn’t translate to the NHL this past season. The Wild have done a good job not rushing their prized first round draft choice into the top six forward positions and let him play a majority of his games in Houston this past season, furthering his development. There are going to be better days ahead for Granlund. In the faceoff circle Granlund won 47.1 percent of the faceoffs he took, not too bad for a first year center.
Mikko Koivu: B-
The Good: Koivu, again, was Koivu. He provided reasonable scoring, good defense, and size up the middle, was pretty good at face-offs. The Bad: Koivu didn't really take his point production to the next level with Parise. One has to wonder at this point if A) Koivu will be Koivu, no matter his line mates, and B) If Koivu's game essentially won't be elevated or decreased whether he's got Zach Parise or Antti Miettenen on his wing, then why not split up the Koivu-Parise line and let a guy like Granlund have his game elevated by an elite winger in Parise? He also played poorly enough down the stretch and in the playoffs that we assume that he was being hampered by injury. I'm definitely a Koivu guy, but he's got to step up the point total to higher than when his line mates were tire fires, and remain healthy throughout the season for him to earn an A from me. His playoff series hurts his grade further.
Kyle Brodziak: C+
Brodziak is hard to judge, in that he didn't maintain his offense over the last few seasons, but he also played the toughest minutes of anyone on the Top-9, which contributed in large part to his abysmal +/-. I felt his game got better when he was playing with Pominville as opposed to Heatley. Flopped on the 1st PP unit, but wasn't really a good fit for it to begin with, so I won't hold it against him. Hopefully, he gets to play with players next year that can bring some of his offensive game out, instead of being used as a solely defensive guy.
Matt Cullen: A
Cullen only scored 27 points, and half of those during March, but I'll be damned if he wasn't impactful. He was able to bring the best out of Setoguchi, Zucker, and Bouchard, solidifying a second line when it was sorely needed, dishing out assists, winning face-offs, and keeping up with the speedy Seto and JZ. His importance to the team was further demonstrated when he was injured near the end of the season, and the team suffered dramatically. It's too bad that there's likely not a place for the 36-year-old former SCSU Husky on the team next year (at least not for the money and term he'll likely want), because he was really an underrated part of why the team had the success they had. Good on you, Cully.
Zenon Konopka: D+
Meh. He was about what we expected, and not very impactful. I don't dislike him as much as some in here do.
Mikael Granlund: D+
I think it's a bit of an easy out to give him an Incomplete. Let's look at the facts: He was a disappointment, and failed to live up to lofty expectations, and did not click at all with any line he was on. This included the Cullen-Seto pairing that went off in March. That can't be ignored. What also should not be ignored is that he was neither put on the wing, where he may have done better, or on a plum assignment, such as the one that Charlie Coyle enjoyed, or even Jason Zucker, once Cullen and Seto figured it out. Granlund's scoring (2-6; .3 PPG) was also around the mid-point of Zucker (4-1; .25) and Coyle (8-6; .38). Certainly disappointing, but not the dumpster fire the casual fan is making it out to be. As he's succeeded at every level he's been at- including SM-Liiga and the AHL- I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him come back and develop into the player we all thought he could be. With that in mind, he's not far above failing for this season.
Mikko Koivu: B
Personally, I love what the captain has done over the years. And I don’t think you can fairly grade him solely based on his flop in the playoffs. The top line just got shut down by the best team in pro hockey, and there is nothing more really to add to that on a high level. His overall play this year may have been good enough for an "A-" but there are still too many instances where Koivu needs to get motivated by an isolated incident before he steps up. I want to see more of that, more of the time.
Kyle Brodziak: C-
After four years with the team, I am still waiting for him to show me something, ANYTHING to make me want to have him around. Offensively, he got better every year until this year, and he was on the ice for way too many goals by the bad guys. Brodziak had a two-goal game against Edmonton on April 16. Before that, he went nine games without recording a point. After the two goal game, he did not record another.
Matt Cullen: A-
After the lower body injury that kept him out six games, the Wild crawled to the finish line and needed a win on the last day of the season just to get in. Cullen had just two points in his last seven game, and just was not the same after the injury. But neither was the team. I am going to give him a pass for that because of what he did before the injury. He was a big part of why the Wild made the playoffs during that run where the Wild could do no wrong.
Zenon Konopka: D
I don’t have much to say here. There is a reason why the Wild NEEDED to go get Mike Rupp. He was not much of a liability defensively, but there were only a few times where he seemed to step up and take on the role for which he was signed. From Feb. 17 to March 9, he was a healthy scratch six times, and that is when the Wild was playing fairly decent hockey (5-3-0), with two of the losses to Anaheim and Chicago.
Mikael Granlund: D
If I give "ZK" a D, I have to give Granlund a "D", although I think an "incomplete" would be much more appropriate. He needed to spend the whole year in Houston as it turns out and only got return trips to the NHL because of injuries. He struggled in adjusting to the smaller North American rinks. Maybe this was just a phase and he’ll return next season ready to set the league on fire. But he has a lot of work to do.
Mikko Koivu: Mikko came out in the first two and a half months of the year, playing like a Mikko we had never seen before. He meshed well with new line-mate Parise, and they were a great scoring tandem. But, April came and Mikko saw his game fall off, and saw that play carry on into the postseason. Bottom line, team captains just can not play like that in the last month and the playoffs. C+
Kyle Brodziak: I honestly don't know why Brodziak isn't getting an 'F' here. The comparison between Brodziak from last year and Brodziak from this year, makes last year's version looking like Wayne Gretzky. Brodziak never looked confident at any point this season and it showed several times, when he should of had some goals, but choked. Simply a terrible season, from Minnesota's third line center. D-
Matt Cullen: Being realistic, Cullen was this team's best center this season. At times, he was the best player on the team. He was playing like he was 5 years younger. He was turning defenseman inside out, and he was a great asset in the defensive zone as well. Ryan Suter may be the team MVP this year, but Matt Cullen sure gave him a run for the money in that category. A-
Zenon Konopka: Konopka was a nice addition to the fourth line. He is a faceoff winning machine, and can take the puck down and spend a shift in the offensive zone. He was kind of the team enforcer, but him and Mike Rupp took turns with that title. He was a sucker for taking stupid penalties though, which kind of is a buzzkill to me. Since everyone else seems to mention it, Konopka is also the owner of a pet bunny, called "Hoppy" too (You all know this, but it always has to be mentioned). Pets aside, its a solid season for Konopka. B-
Mikael Granlund: Its really hard to grade Granlund, given his constantly going up and down between Minnesota and Houston this year. But, when he played with Minnesota, he looked out of place. He simply did not belong with the big club this year. He still has a ways to go with his development, but he is still worth getting excited about. C-