A Strong Two-Way Captain: Mikko Koivu
Mikko Koivu is Mr. Minnesota Wild. Drafted in 2001, Koivu has spent his entire NHL career in Minnesota and has been their only permanent captain in franchise history. He has played the most games in a Wild uniform and leads the team in points all time.
On the year, Koivu has 17 goals and 29 assists. His team currently has a goal differential of +60 and has allowed the 2nd lowest goals all year with 138.
Koivu is an interesting captain because he doesn’t stay in the limelight. He seems mentally tough and does play in all phases of the game, but it’s still TBD on him being a difference-maker in the playoffs. Wild fans will probably beg to differ but I’m not completely sold on Koivu. He reminds me a lot of Shane Doan or Dustin Brown where he lets others around him take all the credit when in reality he puts in a ton of hard work.
Koivu is TBD for the test.
Stanley Cup Experience: Eric Staal
If the Wild were going to win the Stanley Cup, the biggest factor could be the addition of Eric Staal. Staal has been in the NHL for 13 years and has already won a cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He also has won a World Championship in 2007 and a gold medal in 2010 with Team Canada.
Staal had spent his entire career with the Hurricanes until he was traded to the New York Rangers last year because his contract was expiring. Staal signed a deal with the Minnesota Wild and has been one of the most productive players on the roster. Staal has scored 17 goals and 28 assists and has been a major reason for the Wild’s success. He brings leadership as a former captain and he knows what it takes to win a cup.
Drafted 17th overall in 2003 by the New Jersey Devils, Zach Parise lived up to very high expectations in the NHL. Parise is a very high IQ forward who makes a living scoring gritty goals in the crease and out-smarting opposing defense and goaltenders. Parise was named captain of the Devils in his 2011 and led his team to the Stanley Cup final against the LA Kings that year. The Devils lost in 6 games to an extremely talented Kings group. Parise’s highlight season was in 2008-2009 when he scored a career high 45 goals and 49 assists.
After 7 years in New Jersey, Parise decided to test free agency, much to the displeasure of Devils fans who didn’t want to lose their young captain. The other big fish free agent that year was Ryan Suter, defenseman from the Nashville Predators. Surprisingly, both stars signed matching deals with Minnesota worth $98M over 13 years. Since then, Suter has been a rock defensively and Parise has been putting up good numbers for the Wild.
Stanley Cup experience is important because not everything in sports is X’s and O’s. The mental portion of the game needs to kick in in times of doubt. When you’re down 0-3 in a 7 game series, someone needs to step up and be a motivator especially to young players on the team.
The Wild do have enough Stanley Cup experience and pass this part of the test.