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Wilderness Walk: Long Live the King

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More stories on Koivu’s extension, the Wild goalies impress, and the refs have rediscovered their love of whistles.

Minnesota Wild v Dallas Stars - Game Five Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Plenty of stories to read today, but many of them are just taking deeper looks at what we’ve been seeing from earlier this week. Top of that list has been Mikko Koivu’s extension, and with good reason. He’s the face of the franchise, the team’s first and only player to wear the “C”, and, if I can convince my wife, the inspiration for the name of my first dog... whenever I get one.

One aspect of Koivu’s extension that hasn’t been discussed from what I can tell, is what it means for the captaincy after he eventually retires. Koivu could continue to play after this latest contract ends. He’ll be 37 by then, which is old for the league, but hardly unheard of, especially for a player with strong skills and great defensive acumen. In any case, it’s unlikely the Wild will need to designate a new captain until after the 2019-2020 season. That will be a wonderful opportunity to officially pass the mantle of the team’s “leadership” group to the Nino Niederreiter-Mikael Granlund-Jared Spurgeon-Jason Zucker generation. In fact, by that point, a few of the Wild’s prospects joining the NHL ranks this season or last, namely Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, should probably be in the discussion too.

The significance of this is twofold. First, it represents a shift in the identity of the Minnesota Wild. As pointed out earlier this week by Tony Abbott, Koivu is the Wild. His style of play has been characteristic of the Wild’s identity for the entirety of the franchise’s existence. When the time comes to select a new captain, that player will have an outsize influence on the “new” Wild and how they are perceived. In truth, the Wild’s style of play has already shifted away from the defense-first, trap and grind to victory to some extent. The new captain, whenever he is selected, will probably mark the completion of that shift (unless he’s a Koivu-clone, which would not be terrible).

Second, it would signify the end of the Wild’s reliance on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. I’m not suggesting those two players won’t still be important to the team (in fact, I’m hoping both are still playing well by this time or the Wild are in big trouble). Rather, for the past several seasons, that double free agent signing has been the watermark for the Wild’s notoriety in the NHL. Since that point, the Wild’s successes and failures have all been referred back to that moment. If the Wild do not give the “C” to Parise or Suter, it’s a statement that this team is no longer just the team that Parise and Suter chose, but a team that has a new group of players it depends on.

Koivu’s extension increases the chances that the team looks to the younger generation for it’s next leaders instead of defaulting to Parise and Suter. That’s a good thing. Koivu has been and will continue to be a great captain, and I for one hope he keeps that patch on his sweater for the rest of his career, but when the time comes, I also hope the Wild take the opportunity to look forward.

Wild News

Is Wild's Koivu still one of the most polarizing Minnesota athletes? - StarTribune.com
Michael Rand ultimately concludes that Koivu isn’t, but perhaps he’ll change his mind again after reading the comments on this article.

Wild captain Koivu takes pay cut on two-year extension to stay in Minnesota | The Hockey News
More Kaptain news

MN Wild's Joel Eriksson Ek looks like he belongs. Now he's ready to make an impact
Help us, JEE, you’re our only hope.

Wild goalies rise to Boudreau's challenge in Winnipeg - StarTribune.com
Stepping up and doing work!

Uptick in league-wide penalties frustrates Wild players
Growing pains. The players will adjust and so will the referees. I expect it’ll settle someplace where less slashing is allowed, but more than what we saw on Monday.

Tending the Fields

Ranked: The NHL’s Top 100 Prospects in 2017 | The Hockey Writers

The Wild have four players on this list, which is slightly above the average (100 slots for 31 teams’ prospects equals 3.23 players per team).

Off the Trail

NHL 2017-18 Season Primer: Rule changes, key dates and info to know - Sportsnet.ca
With a new season approaching, we get you ready with some key dates, rule changes and other information you'll need to know.

There were 49 slashing penalties called last night. And that’s a good thing | The Hockey News
The crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations drew the ire of fans Monday, but, given time, players will adjust and that could be the best thing for the game.

Hockey world sends support to Brian Boyle after cancer diagnosis - Sportsnet.ca
Let’s say it all together now: f*** cancer.

Q&A: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on growing hockey in China - Sportsnet.ca
Basketball has been pretty successful, but Yao Ming provided a bankable star to attract attention.

Blues' Sanford gone 5-6 months; Bouwmeester out with broken ankle - Sportsnet.ca
Ouch. That is rotten luck.

Nashville Predators Name Roman Josi Captain | The Hockey Writers

That’s who I would have named if they had asked me. I wonder why they didn’t?