O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Being the named the captain of an NHL team is both an honor and a responsibility. It also has its drawbacks. When a team is struggling, along with the coach and GM, the captain can quickly become a scapegoat. Over the past few years we’ve seen some very talented players like Patrik Elias and Patrick Marleau be stripped of the captaincy. It is a tough job that some players, no matter how talented, just aren’t suited for.
Long before being named the first permanent captain in Minnesota Wild history, Mikko Koivu seemed to be the unofficial holder of that position. Koivu was 1st named a captain in February 2008. He was then given the position 4 times during the 2008-09 season, being the only player to be named more than once. It was widely expected and widely accepted when he indeed was named the permanent captain in fall of 2009. Unfortunately the team has struggled since then. For the most part the blame has been placed where it belongs- injuries, inconsistent play, and at times questionable coaching. However this season there have been small darts beginning to be thrown Mikko’s way.
Though not in multitudes, I have read comments such as “Where is the Captain?” “Why isn’t Mikko getting these guys moving?” and other similar remarks. But tonight was the worst. Following the shorthanded goal against the Wild someone on twitter remarked “Mikko should lose the C for that.” Now I’m not one to make a big deal out of one comment, especially one on twitter, but it is clear there is a level of negativity toward the team this season that we haven’t seen in years past. Coach Todd Richards’ job is on the line, the sellout streak is over, and everyone seems to be on edge. Coupled with all that is Mikko signing a huge contract extension that will make him the team’s highest paid player. If this team struggles like last season, it is only a matter of time before this notion becomes more widespread. I want to put a halt to it now.
There is no one the team that works harder than Mikko Koivu. He centers the top line, works on the PP and PK units, goes into corners, wins faceoffs and does whatever it takes to win. He is a 70 point player spending most of his time on a line with two guys who probably wouldn’t be on the top line for any other team in the league. In short he is the heart and soul of this team and there is no one better to be the captain. That’s not to say, however, that he’s above criticism. If he makes a bad play, has an off game or the team is struggling, it is his job as captain to take some of the heat. But, to say he should be replaced for a bad play is doltish, ignorant, and absurd.
This team has been very good at times. They have also been very bad. But GM Chuck Fletcher will accept nothing less than success. Sooner or later the Wild will become a winning team, and they will do it with Mikko Koivu wearing the C.