Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Wild Preview: Mikko Koivu Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

GM Bill Guerin is reshaping the Minnesota Wild (player links go to other posts on my blog, team links are sponsored by Amazon): gone are Eric Staal, Alex Galchenyuk, Jason Zucker, Devan Dubnyk, Luke Kenin, Ryan Donato and even long-time captain Mikko Koivu, in are Cam Talbot, Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, and Dakota Mermis... so far.

What makes their odds look good:
Talbot isn't a bad goalie, he had a Vezina-worthy season in 2016-17 - far enough to doubt, close enough for Wild fans to believe. Kevin Fiala, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba are top-unit players, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter still play top-unit minutes, Marco Rossi and Matthew Boldy look like solid prospects and Kirill Kaprizov actually has a fair shot at a Calder Trophy with what he accomplished last season in the KHL (first in goals, third in points, All-Star at age 22, one of a handful of point-per-game players in the entire league).

Question marks:
Other teams have used Johansson as a middle-six forward, the Wild may not have that luxury, and it remains to be seen if he can produce at top-line level. Does Suter start breaking down now taht he's in his mid-30s? Will Parise get injured again? How many young guys steal jobs from veterans with their play?

Minnesota is clearly in a rebuild; Guerin wants veterans he knows and trusts to not disrupt the process and perhaps help win a few games here and there, but this roster is the middle-point in a huge turnover, and it's unclear who will be there three years from now save for Rossi and Boldy. Still, in a top-heavy and shallow West Division, the Wild have a legitimate shot at a playoff spot; they'll battle for fourth place with the Arizona Coyotes.

Fifth in the West Division, a point or two behind Arizona.

There was a loud minority clamoring for Koivu's departure online these past few years, but I've never seen it reflected in the larger realm of Wild fans. Instead, most praised his effort level and two-way (although more and more on the defensive side as the years went on) play and saw him as a fine captain, just perhaps overpaid in the twilight of his career. Because it seems too commonplace in today's NHL, I wasn't exactly shocked when Guerin announced #9 would not even be re-signed as a fourth-line center, but found it sad that a player of his stature who had played his entire career with the team and been the first player in franchise history to hit the 1000 mark (and scoring the shootout winner in the milestone game) would not be allowed to retire in green and red. Here he is wearing the team's original white (home) uniform on card #HM-MK from Fleer's 2007-08 Hot Prospects set and Hot Materials subset, manufactured by Upper Deck:
It features a nice, dark green ame-worn jersey swatch.

I believe he will get along fine with John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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