Last offseason, it was announced that longtime captain and face-of-the franchise Mikko Koivu was not going to be offered a new contract and the team would be moving in a different direction. As the season approached, the Wild announced Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in team history.
Now, a year later, the remaining four years of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s contracts have been bought out. A trend is developing that shows the team is looking to move in a new direction with fresh faces in the leadership group.
Since Parise and Suter signed over nine years ago, no other Wild players have had the “A” on their sweater for a full-time basis.
As we near training camp for the 2021-22 NHL season, two current roster players are likely to be chosen to fill those roles.
Here’s a look at the Wild’s top candidates:
Marcus Foligno – “Moose” has had a prominent influence in the Wild locker room over the past few seasons. His brother Nick and father Mike have both served as NHL captains and it is quite clear that he has leadership built into his genetics. Whether it means a big speech in the locker room, a fight to stand up for a teammate, or pure transparency in his discussions with the media, Marcus Foligno embodies all of the characteristics of a true leader.
Joel Eriksson Ek – “Mr. September” didn’t earn his nickname out of nowhere. Known for coming into camp in tip-top shape every fall, Joel Eriksson Ek saw his game take a noticeable leap offensively in 2020-21. Also, Eriksson Ek has finally received the league-wide credit that he deserves for his defensive play, finishing fourth in Selke Trophy voting last season. Now rewarded with a new eight-year contract by management and having earned the trust of his coaches and teammates, he would be a more-than-qualified candidate to become an alternate captain.
Jonas Brodin – Also starting the first year of a long-term (seven year) extension, Jonas Brodin has been a pillar of the Wild’s blueline since he broke into the league during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. As a nineteen-year-old defenseman playing big minutes in the NHL, the Wild knew they had something special in Brodin. He is as steady as they come in his own end and can handle the role of shutting down any team’s top scorers. He is a consistent leader that knows how to keep calm in stressful moments and back it up with his seemingly effortless style on the ice.
- Matt Dumba
- Alex Goligoski
- Mats Zuccarello
- Kirill Kaprizov
In the cases of Dumba and Goligoski, their chances are decreased mainly because of their short-term contract statuses. However, their known leadership qualities, especially inside the locker room, warrant them legitimate consideration.
Zuccarello has been on teams in New York that have come very close to winning a cup with many high-character players on those teams. With his team-first play style and wealth of experience, he also can’t be ruled out.
Finally, the biggest wildcard, Kirill Kaprizov. We are all aware of the skill level he possesses and the competitiveness he shows on the ice. However, having only 55 games of NHL experience under his belt makes it hard for me to imagine seeing the “A” on his sweater as early as next season.
Also, GM Bill Guerin is a believer that a team should have one full-time captain and two full-time alternate captains. He doesn’t subscribe to the idea of rotating players into those roles the same way that former Wild head coach Jaques Lemaire did with Wes Walz, Pavol Demitra, and several others.
So, we can be sure that these roles will be awarded to and kept by those players until the team decides to move in a different direction.