Now that Mikko Koivu, the only permanent captain the Minnesota Wild ever had, has moved on to the Columbus Blue Jackets, there is a leadership void that general manager Bill Guerin and head coach Dean Evason will be looking to fill going into the 2020-21 season.
In this series, we’re going to look at the primary candidates to be the next to wear the “C” for the Wild, in the form of a hypothetical resume sitting on a front office desk.
For your consideration: Marcus Foligno
Foligno has nearly a decade of NHL experience, spending his first six seasons with the Buffalo Sabres before coming to the Wild in a trade that sent Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville and a fourth-round selection in the 2018 draft to upstate New York and brought back Foligno, future Wild buyout candidate Tyler Ennis and a third-round pick that became prospect Jack McBain.
Since his NHL debut in 2011, Foligno has demonstrated the ability to not only impose his physicality on his team’s opponents, but also set the tone for the entire team, sparking energy, drive and hustle throughout the lineup. In six seasons with the Sabres, Foligno was amongst the leaders in hits nearly every season. With the Wild, Foligno has been the team leader in checking every season he’s been here. Foligno is strong, he’s tenacious, and he’s not afraid to throw his weight (or his fists) around to fire up his teammates.
And very little fires up a team (and makes an opponent nervous) like a good finished check.
Luca Sbisa just got hit by a truck named Marcus Foligno. pic.twitter.com/J6pAjIPLmq— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 4, 2020
When Foligno is not throwing his weight around, the man they call “Moose” plays a sound game predicated on hard work, defensive focus and a tough forecheck. And while Foligno and Ryan Hartman anchored a fourth line that was, at times, one of the better bottom six pairings in the league last season, Foligno’s versaility had him line hopping over the second half of the season as he filled in for injured or underperforming players. But no matter who he was paired with, Foligno’s grit and drive was evident most nights, and exactly what you want to see in a leader - someone who shows his linemates and teammates how to go all out.
This is what Marcus Foligno brings to your hockey club. Just awesome. pic.twitter.com/q8AddOI9ru— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 23, 2019
Defensively, the analytics bear out Foligno’s importance to the Wild, as his expected goals against and Corsi against regularized adjusted plus-minus rates are off the charts over the last three seasons. Foligno even garnered a handful of Selke Trophy votes after the 2018-19 season, a testament to his defensive prowess.
More than making his presence known on the ice, Foligno is a respected leader off the ice as well, both on the bench and in the locker room. By multiple accounts, he is one of the first guys to speak up during both good times and bad, despite not having a letter attached to his sweater.
And he’s a team-first kind of guy, as evidenced by his actions when awarded the Hero of the Game helmet after an 8-5 win against the Arizona Coyotes in December of this past season:
So cool, Marcus Foligno gets the Hero of the Game helmet after tonight's win and gives it to Dubnyk, saying, "we're a family in here." https://t.co/Xmj9WFjLUr— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) December 20, 2019
But Foligno not only accepts that role of leader, he enjoys it.
"You want to be a good teammate. That's the biggest thing. Just put the guys in this locker room first and do everything to be a good team guy. " — Marcus Foligno on his leadership skills growing this season. #mnwild pic.twitter.com/FIGgYnUSPn— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 11, 2019
But what is a resume without a few solid references?
Bruce Boudreau: “He’s been a great leader. I think the way he works, and the fact he’s such a good team player, people respect what he says.”
Michael Russo, The Athletic: “Marcus Foligno is team-first, is a willing spokesman in the locker room with the media win or loss, is willing to say it like it is rather than spew clichés and has an important, respected voice in that locker room. And most important, he has turned into an important player on the ice, somebody who is first over the boards on the penalty kill and is always willing to stand up for teammates.”
Giles Ferrell, Zone Coverage: “He has gone criminally under-appreciated for his work defensively. Maybe throw a Patrice Bergeron jersey on him and someone will give him more love for the Selke.”
So what do you think, Wilderness? Would you give Marcus Foligno the job of Wild captain?
Should Marcus Foligno be the next captain of the Minnesota Wild?
This poll is closed