The Minnesota Wild have done better through 27 games than any hockey analyst or writer ever predicted. The Wild currently sit at the top of the NHL, boasting a record of 17-7-3, equaling out to 37 points. Everyone knows the Stanley Cup is not won in October or November, but for this franchise this is truly something remarkable. The Wild have not made the Playoffs in the last three seasons, and have not won a playoff series since 2003. With new coach Mike Yeo at the helm, and new faces like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in the locker room, the Wild are arguably the best team in the NHL. Though the Wild are winning, and the team is doing well, there is still plenty of room for improvement. This series will look at a number of Wild players, giving a sort of progress report (about a quarter way through the season is a progress report, we’ll do report cards at the mid way and end points… just like High School all over again) of how they are contributing to the team.
We start with the man who drives the Wild, Captain Mikko Koivu.
First, we’ll dive into the stats, and his coach’s thoughts. Through 27 games, Mikko Koivu has a team leading 21 points (4-17), and is currently a +6. He is playing between 20 and 26 minutes per game and is being a constant force on the ice, playing on both the Power Play and the Penalty Kill. Through all of this, Head Coach Mike Yeo has been very vocal in press scrums and interviews about how good Mikko is. Yeo emphasizes a lot how Mikko does not get the attention he deserves, and how he feels he should be a top contender for the Selke award (best defensive forward).
The main knock on Mikko through these first 27 games is going to be his lack of goals. He has four through 27 games, which puts him on pace for about 16 (I still believe he is going to score at least 20). This can be attributed to a couple of different factors. For one, the biggest story coming out of the offseason this summer was the acquisition of forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The big talk this summer was that these were going to be the elite wingers that would benefit from the elite passing skills that Mikko possesses (Mikko has always been a great passer, which is evidenced by 17 assists in 27 games). This was what Mikko heard for months before coming into camp, so naturally he was trying to use them. The other main reason for this lack of goals is the horrid slump that Mikko started out in this year. He did not score his first goal this year until game 10. He averaged about 3 shots per game through the first 10 games, and has held steady since then. There were definitely some points in these 10 games that Mikko gave up good shots for passes (some 2 on 1 situations come to mind), but for the most part, Mikko just couldn’t find the back of the net. I would also attribute some of this to the line shuffling that the Wild have endured due to injuries (the top line of Heatley-Koivu-Latendresse was really playing well before G-Lat went down with a concussion). Koivu and Heatley have had 4 different line mates, and have had to build chemistry on the fly.
Overall Mikko Koivu is playing good hockey. He is distributing the puck well, he is killing penalties (Wild are 11th in the NHL), and managing the Power Play (Wild are 23rd in the NHL, and to be fair, the Power Play has been pretty terrible thus far: another reason for Mikko’s goal drought perhaps?). Mikko is the embodiment of the Captaincy in the NHL to me. He plays hard every minute of every game, and he plays every aspect of the game. Mikko will get his points, and he will be crucial to the continued success of the Wild moving forward.
Progress Report Grade: A-
He has been solid, but he can still improve a bit in the scoring department.
Your thoughts are always welcome.
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