The Minnesota Wild lost a heartbreaker to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. The loss of Mikko Koivu could already be seen but three of this season’s constants helped them earn a point- great goaltending, solid team defense, and a timely goal from Martin Havlat. Some thoughts:
-There are people in this world who can read stupidity and let it slide. I unfortunately am not one of those people. Its a character flaw. Reading Russo’s article on Koivu today I made the mistake of letting my eyes wander down to the comment section. That people in the state of hockey could be so ignorant of hockey is just amazing to me. In 3 years I have managed to teach myself this game by simply watching as much as I could. I used to read Russo and say “oh yeah I agree.” Now I find myself making comments on games and then later reading Russo say the same thing. Yes I still enjoy the validation but its nice to know that I am seeing parts of the game that 3 years ago would have escaped me.
Join me after the jump.
But back to my point, Mikko Koivu is Mikko Koivu. He is not Sidney Crosby or Henrik Sedin. (Although with a scoring winger I believe he could put up Sedin numbers) The reason Mikko Koivu got the contract he did is that he does everything. He anchors the powerplay and the penalty kill. He takes key defensive zone faceoffs. He leads the team with his hard work. To crack jokes or attack him for his lack of offense is just ignorant. He is second on the team in points. Only Andrew Brunette has more powerplay goals than he does. He is currently 13th in scoring in the NHL among centers. Take a look at the players above him in scoring and think about who those centers have for linemates. I love Antti Miettinen, I think he is one of the better forecheckers on the team and he creates offense because of that. But a goal scorer he is not. Throw a perennial 30 goal guy on that line and they become a 40 goal guy easily. Mikko is that good.
The last few games Mikko has played like a man possessed. All that hard work finally paid off when he scored against Anaheim. Unfortunately he was injured right after that. I have no doubt that if he had not been injured the floodgates were about to be opened. I also have no doubt that Mikko changed that game. Yes it was only one goal, but after going down 1-0, his goal changed the momentum and the team never looked back.
-One of the most debated issues every season for the Wild is what to do at the deadline. There is a camp that believes with no chance to win the Cup the team should sell, sell, sell. While I understand this viewpoint you have to remember first and foremost hockey is a business. The Wild need to make the playoffs to break even financially. So I understand management’s desire to go for it. However it is pretty clear that while the Fletcher wants to make the playoffs he is not going to mortgage the future. I agree with that as well. This is a sellers market and I would not want to see the Wild give up assets for a rental.
That being said, they have to find another center. You are not going to replace Mikko, but they don’t need to. Matt Cullen and Kyle Brodziak have done well on the offensive lines and can easily slide into the top two spots. John Madden is John Madden and according to Richards is clicking very well with Clutterbuck and Nystrom. What the Wild need to bring in is a 3/4 guy that can handle penalty kill minutes. Yes its “another John Madden” but that’s what the team needs. A depth move should also be relatively cheap- a late round pick or a marginal prospect. In addition this kind of move won’t mess up the chemistry of the team.
-In the same theme of not understanding hockey, I’m always amazed about peoples understanding of contracts and the cap. Picking up a depth rental at this point in the season is pretty much irrelevant to the Wild’s cap situation. There is no such thing as an overpaid cap-killing expiring contract at the deadline. (Obviously a team with no cap room can’t pick up a 10m player, but you get my point)
-The Wild finish their homestand against the Oilers on Tuesday. It would be great to finish with a win. This is the time for the team to come together and rally around Mikko’s injury. Make it a motivation not a season killer.