“It’s not a good situation to be in,” Charlie Coyle uttered the biggest understatement after the Wild fell to the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout Tuesday night. Though he wasn’t talking about the Wild’s sudden fall in the Central Division standings, but instead of potentially losing Wild captain Mikko Koivu for an extended period of time. On Wednesday, the Wild’s worst nightmare was realized. Michael Russo of The Athletic reported that Mikko Koivu suffered a tear to the ACL and meniscus and will be lost for the season in his right knee.
Because why not?
In a season that was only going to be measured on the Wild making the post-season and their run in said playoffs, losing both Matt Dumba and Mikko Koivu is some of the last things this team needed. Dumba may return in time for the playoffs if the Wild qualify, but without someone like Koivu locking down the other team’s top lines, that feat is going to be much harder.
Filling the void the Koivu has left behind will be more than just finding a body to play the 18 minutes night the Koivu played. The Wild captain might not be the most prolific shooter on the team. In fact, he’s maybe good for 1.85 shots on goal per game. Yet, he’s a 52 percent in shot attempt percentage while he’s on the ice at 5v5. When Koivu is on the ice his line is getting their fair share of scoring chances.
Point is, the Wild do positive things when Mikko Koivu is on the ice in Green ‘n’ Wheat colors.
Moving forward, it looks like the Wild are going to count on Joel Eriksson Ek to take on some of that defensive load. Eriksson Ek, the Wild’s 2015 first round pick, has more than enough ability to play at the NHL level. The problem has been that Eriksson Ek just hasn’t found the net, and his lines have been sheltered by having most of his zone starts coming in the offensive zone. He can be a strong defensive force out there, but it’s safe to venture a guess that Eriksson Ek isn’t going to be matched up against the opponent’s top lines. That may have to be covered by platoon.
And while Koivu’s point production is down, the same as his linemates, Joel Eriksson Ek isn’t going to suddenly put up points in bunches. He’ll have to get way more disruptive arond the net, and find a way to find more room on the ice. One of the underrated things Koivu does was peel the puck off the boards and distribute the puck. Eriksson Ek hasn’t shown the ability to create room for himself to create offensive opportunities.
Koivu has been a polarizing player for Wild fans as the many want the captaincy ripped from his sweater, but make no bones about it, the Wild are going to miss his presence on the ice. He’s not a player that can be easily replaced - at least on anyone currently on the Wild roster or in the system.