Saturday, September 14, 2019

Mikko Koivu Autographed Card

Usually, on September 14th, I feature someone who shares the same birthday as me (and I do still have signed Tim Wallach cards that I haven't shown here); I could have also featured a signed card from my favourite player of all time, but I'm thinking I'll hold onto it for a while until I finish writing a book in which he'll be heavily featured.
So I thought I'd continue with my month-long theme of twin-posting with my "regular" blog - where I predicted the Minnesota Wild would finish seventh in the Central Division in 2019-20 - and mention their much-maligned captain, Mikko Koivu.

Koivu was the Wild's first-round pick (6th overall) in 2011, behind Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Alexandr Svitov, Stephen Weiss, and Stanislav Chistov; it's fair to say he's had a better career than three of them. And of the remaining first-rounders, only Mike Komisarek (7th, 735 NHL games, 2009 All-Star Game participant), Dan Hamhuis (12th, 1000+ NHL games), RJ Umberger and Colby Armstrong have had an impact on a line-up for more than just a couple of seasons, so he was the best remaining player with some pedigree.

In later rounds, only Jason Pominville (55th), has more career points, and only Mike Cammalleri (49th), Patrick Sharp (95th), Tomas Plekanec (71st) Ryan Clowe (175th), and Kevin Bieksa (151st) carry some kind of clout; the only goalies who played more than 150 games are Cristobal Huet (214th), Ray Emery (99th), Craig Anderson (73rd), Martin Gerber (232nd), Peter Budaj (63rd), Pascal Leclaire (8th) and Mike Smith (161st).

If there was a do-over, he'd be a top-5 pick, and possibly even a top-3.

He consistently gets a ton of Selke votes, finishing in the top-5 three times spread out throughout the course of his consistent career: fourth in 2008-09, third in 2016-17 and fifth in 2017-18. His points-per-game average has been at or above 0.66 (so two points per three games, which was top-line material for most seasons in his career) 10 times in 14 seasons, and above 0.80 five times.

He owns most Wild franchise record, and I'm particularly fond of the order in which they came: he became the biggest point producer in mid-March of 2014 and only surpassed the total games mark two years later in late February of 2016.

He's also captained Team Finland, with whom he is extremely decorated with silver (2006) and bronze (2010) Olympic medals to go with World Championship gold (2011, as captain), silver (2007 and 2016) and bronze (2006 and 2008), World Cup silver (2004), World Juniors silver (2001) and bronze (2002), and U-18 gold (2000) and silver (2001).

And yet, reading online hockey boards for the past decade - even more so in the last five years - shows a lot of displeasure with Koivu, usually associated with his cap hit and lack of goal-scoring (no mention, however, that he almost always tops the 30-assist mark, topping 40 five times with a high of 49 in 2009-10). His cap hit this season (and last) is set at $5.5M, a $1.2M cut from his previous deal, despite the fact that he is still an offensive contributor to his team, among the two top centres and among the four most effective forwards.

I get it - the same thing happened to his older brother Saku Koivu here in Montréal, with people complaining he wasn't a "true" #1 centre until he was replaced with Scott Gomez, then people started remembering him fondly again, some folks actually calling for a Hall Of Fame induction.

So, yeah, things will stabilize for the younger Koivu too. Here is is wearing the Wild's red (home) uniform on card #135 from Upper Deck's 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in blue sharpie in January, when his team was in town to face the Montréal Canadiens.

I like the design of this set, by the way, the way the border is a lighter shade of the rest of the picture, bot just a generic white or deliberately off-putting colour the way UD has a habit of doing for OPC.

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