Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mikko Koivu Jersey card

I thought I had another Saku Koivu jersey card to feature, to coincide with the announcement of his retirement, but I can't seem to find it; I debated whether to instead feature another Montréal Canadiens first-round draft pick, or the player who I think will take his place as the clear #1 center, or another soon-to-be Finnish star.

But I went with another choice, Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, Saku's brother, and possibly Team Finland's next full-time captain (he did captain them to a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships). Mikko had kind words for Saku in the Star-Tribune.

Mikko Koivu was also a first-round pick, the sixth-overall player chosen in 2001, but he's more physically imposing than Saku at 6'3'' and 222 pounds. He also produces a little less offense in the points-per-game department, though he's the Wild's all-time leading scorer for the time being. One thing he has over Saku is recognition for his two-way play (he always gets Selke votes and even finished fourth in 2008-09) - and he's much more disciplined, particularly in the offensive zone.

The Wild now have a powerhouse team that can take on any other team in the league and contend for the Stanley Cup for at least the next three years, in part because Koivu and Zach Parise are exactly on the same talent and effort levels in the #1 and #2 center spots, and both are proven leaders who have worn the 'C' on their chests and who have shown they were good choices for it.

What started out as a boring, middle-state expansion team has grown into a team that's hard not to respect and even admire (unless you're a fan of the natural rivals Chicago Blackhawks, I guess), and the transformation happened with Koivu at the helm of that dressing room, under his watch. And there's a reason why management chose to retain him while they added and changed the talent around him: he's that good.

And so here's a card from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set (card #AF-MK of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), showing him with the Wild's white (away) uniform, with a big green swatch:

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