Minnesota Wild Player Previews 2013/2014: Mikko Koivu


May 7, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu (9) looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is, team captain, Mikko Koivu.

Writing about Mikko Koivu’s 2013 season is quite strange to do when one has just completed an article about Zach Parise’s year, because, in all honesty, they pretty much had the exact same season. The two players were glued together throughout the regular season and playoffs, and their numbers show it. They clearly had good chemistry and consistently drove the Wild’s offensive play, often carrying the team on their backs, and yet, seeming to not get sufficiant reward for the hard work.

This was a big year for Koivu as he finally had an elite winger alongside him who could thrive on his vaunted playmaking skills and determination on the ice, and turn it into top level production.

Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:



Like Parise, Koivu put up a decent points total and contributed heavily at even strength, on the powerplay and on the penalty kill. 50% of his assists were recorded while the other team was shorthanded, but none of his goals. His shot attempts and shooting % were pretty much on par with the last few years.

Looking at his underlying numbers shows just how much he played with Parise, as all of their numbers are fairly similar:



Like Parise, he took on tough compeition with a lot of offensive zone starts and thrived, posting positive corsi scores.

Interestingly, a higher rate of goals were conceded by the Wild than scored per 20 minutes when Koivu was on the ice this year. His PDO of 975 suggests he, like Parise, suffered from some bad fortune this year in terms of Sh% and Sv% while they were on the ice. I expect this to regress back towards the mean next year.

(Click To Enlarge)  (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)

This player usage chart is interesting just to see how close Koivu and Parise’s bubbles are on the chart. They were inseparable this year, both in real life and the stats sheet.

The narratives around Koivu over the last few years have generally been:

-He’s more of a very good 2C on a top team rather than a true 1C.

-His cap hit is way too high for a player of his type.

-He isn’t a good leader.

Firstly, the leadership question is complete BS. It’s impossible to know whether a guy is a good leader or not unless you’re actually working with him on a regular basis. All I know is that Koivu’s intensity and work rate are often spoken about by players and coaches, so that’s something reasonably concrete that points to good leadership. Koivu will be the captain next year and for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure why this is constantly an issue.

As for the questions about whether or not he is a true top-line centre, I agree that he is certainly not in the top tier of NHL pivots (Jonathan Toews gave him a painful reminder of this during the Wild’s 4-1 series loss) but he is still a vital player for the Wild and can perform to a very high level at both ends of the ice and on special teams.

He is certainly overpaid. His cap hit of $6,750,000 is comparable to the cap hits of Anze Kopitar, Nicklas Backstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, who are all  better players. Luckily the league-wide cap is going up next year so, if Chuck Fletcher plays it smart, the Wild shouldn’t end up in a tight cap-situation, therefore, I can live with the cost of keeping Koivu.

Here’s how his points production has trended throughout his career:

His points per game rate was very consistent between 2009 and 2012. The graph forms quite a neat curve as his production increased, peaked, and now begins to tail off. Of course, he might come back next season and get up to just under .90, or maybe higher so I’m not gonna say he’s in decline just yet (though, as I mentioned in the Parise article, historically, players tend to decline when they get the wrong side of 30).

It’s clear to see from the graph how his points totals increased as he developed as a player and saw his role with the team grow to the point where he was the undisputed #1 centre. It’s interesting that he often had fairly mediocre wingers alongside him, but managed to enjoy some good production in his peak years. That gives me a lot of optimism that he can have a career year in 2013/2014, now that he will have Parise and Pominville/Coyle alongside him for (hopefully) 82 games and has a full offseason to prepare. It’s easy to forget that he had a lot of injury problems in 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, so last year was very much a comeback year for him. Time will tell whether or not he has another gear to move into to show that he is a true #1 center in this league.

His Season Is A Success If…

He plays 82 games, as the last time he did was 2006-2007. He gets his points per game average up to around .87 a game or higher. A better showing in the playoffs this year would help to mend some of the damage his reputation took during his meltdown in the Blackhawks series.

His Season Is A Disappointment If…

He misses more time due to injury and/or sees no dramatic increase in his production. Now that the team has 2 elite wingers, blame will fall on Koivu’s shoulders if he can’t generate a lot of offence with them.

Okay, that’s it for Kaptain Koivu. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Chuck Coyle and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.

*Numbers in this article courtesy of: