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Under Pressure: Mikko Koivu

Sep 23, 2013, 4:19 PM EDT

Mikko Koivu AP

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Minnesota Wild, we pick… captain Mikko Koivu.

On the surface, Koivu had a solid 2013 campaign. He finished second on the team with 37 points and captained the Wild to their first postseason appearance in four years.

But dig a little deeper, and cracks start to show.

Koivu scored 33 of his 37 points in the first three months of the season, followed by a tough April-May stretch that saw his production dry up and Minnesota struggle.

Koivu scored just one goal and four points in 14 April games, a slump that coincided with the Wild going 5-8-1 to close out the year, backing into the eighth and final playoff spot — and a first-round date with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

It was in that opening round where Koivu’s struggles got worse.

From the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

In his first playoff series since he was given the captain’s “C’’ Koivu played like a man unfamiliar with the job description during the Wild’s 5-2 loss to Chicago in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup quarterfinals…

…The Wild’s braintrust loves to defend Koivu by citing all the little things he does right, but the Wild, in this series, needs him to show up on something other than a microscope.

It’s a difficult challenge, facing the Blackhawks’ top line, but if the Wild is going to make a series of this, Koivu will need to at least be one of Minnesota’s better players.

So far, he hasn’t been close.

That nightmarish performance (minus-3, three minor penalties, 46 percent in the faceoff circle and just two shots on goal) was the low point, though things didn’t get much better. Koivu finished the series minus-6 overall and failed to score a single point.

Following the series, head coach Mike Yeo tried to put a brave face on things.

“I feel bad for Mikko,” Yeo explained. “He did a lot of the right things… and just didn’t get rewarded.”

Which brings us to the 2013-14 campaign.

Koivu enters not just a leader, but rather the leader — Minnesota never had a full-time captain prior to Koivu in 2009, having rotated the “C” for the first nine years of its existence.

There are challengers to the leadership mantle, though.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter arrived to great fanfare, signed more lucrative contracts and were given alternate captaincies immediately upon their arrival — and within a year, Parise led the team in scoring and Suter earned a Norris nomination as the league’s top defenseman.

But this is still Koivu’s team until otherwise noted. That, along with his hefty $6.75 million cap hit, should raise the stakes for what promises to be a crucial year. The Wild have much higher aspirations than squeaking into the postseason and winning one game — they’re spending to the max and want to make a playoff run.

“We can’t say that we haven’t made the playoffs in four years,” Yeo explained. “We made the playoffs last year. And now our focus is on something bigger than that.”

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

  1. 950003cups - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    He acored almost as many goals as Zach Parise in the playoffs. I think, after calculating it up, Koivu was one goal shy of the $98 Million Boy. I’d say he was right up to par with production.

    • fader2222 - Sep 23, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      1.75 more of a cap hit than zajac. How were his 20 pts last season?

  2. lofty35 - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Haha, you’re an idiot! That is the only thing you can say. Still mad Parise left

    • 950003cups - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:04 PM

      Don’t know why you think we’re pissed in NJ. We actually think its hysterical that you paid $98 million dollars for a guy who lost a step and never seems to produce in the postseason. The Wild ownership bought in to his 2012 audition / contract year, and paid the guy. Mark my words “in two years you all will give up hope and pray he “retires” and reunites with Ilya Kovalchuk in the KHL.”

      By the way, Devils fans are no longer pissed at Kovalchuk for leaving the NHL either. He too was losing a step each year as his pay would be increasing.

      • slickvb82 - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:03 PM

        If you Devils fans are “not pissed anymore” about Parise and now Kovalchuk, why still talking about them both??

        Probably because deep down you are still bitter about losing both and gaining a 41 yr old putts in Jagr that needs to retire already.

      • 950003cups - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:42 PM

        I agree about Jagr.

        Not pissed at Kovalchuk at all. He was losing his luster. In 3 years, it would’ve been ugly. Leaving now, while it may have been a year before his numbers start to drop, is much better since it was the last year he could have done it without hurting the team’s cap. The cap recapture is $250,000 (not cash, just cap penalty space) as opposed to over $4 million if he retired in 5 years.

        So, sorry to burst your bubble, but nobody is that pissed anymore.

        If Parise starts to finally produce in the postseason, then your teams investment will show to be well done.

        But………. That’s not gonna all of the sudden start to happen.

      • credible316 - Sep 23, 2013 at 8:51 PM

        No, hysterical is Parise, Kovalchuk, and that #1 overall pick. PS your tanning bed is ready, don’t forget those cute little glasses!

  3. 19to77 - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Problem is that the Wild use Koivu as their top everything. He centres their best scoring line, gets tough shutdown matchups against opposing top lines, he’s on their first PP AND PK units and so on. And it makes sense because he’s crazy versatile, but it’s expecting a bit too much. His offense isn’t quite top-line calibre. He’s more suited to a second-line role than setting up Parise. I get that you can just go and sign a first-line centre anytime, but this problem has been going on for years. Until last season he wasn’t just their top offensive centre, he was their top forward period. You wouldn’t play Kesler or Mike Richards like that, and Koivu’s no different.

    • slickvb82 - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:09 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. I would like to see Coyle center Parise and Pominville.

  4. rebekah319 - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    This topic of discussion is nothing new to a wild fan it has always been that way forever. Using him as top everything is not a problem I rather use him in every situation possible like we always do then put someone else out there. Besides nothing has changed in that regard. I would like people to understand that Mikko is not a scoring machine at all! He is a play making center that use both ends of the ice which he does pretty good ( again nothing has changed there) He is what he is and people tend to get carried away with the fact that he is doing everything else that is expected of him year after year- and does not get enough credit because everyone is too hung up on his lack of goals or points. Seeing the bigger picture would help at times for many and most people to understand him more. I am sure this will not be the last of this conversion this year….

  5. longcutskolvikes - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Koivu is a good two-way center who is getting paid too much. He’s not as good of a captain as his brother was.

    • lordfletcher - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      based on what you said, makes no sense to why he is or isn’t a good captain.

      Koivu is getting paid a lot compared to others in the league but is far from the worst contract. Could you imagine where this team would be without Koivu if he walked free like Gabby? Fletcher had to pay him.

      get over it

      • sjackelenjacks2323 - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        “Could you imagine where this team would be without Koivu if he walked free like Gabby?” …..Yeah, because that one playoff appearance in the last 5 years (as an 8 seed by the way) has just been awesome. Mikko is NOT a difference maker. He is a nice 2nd line center, nothing more.

  6. rebekah319 - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    That was the lamest comment ever not as good as of a captain as his brother? They are 2 different people/ players.. what does that have to do with anything? And I would pay Mikko the money he makes any day of the week over some……..

    • longcutskolvikes - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:08 PM

      You can love Koivu all you want. He’s probably the third guy on the team that should be wearing the C. In a way he’s perfect for Minnesota, pretty good, but not exceptional. I guess I like him better than Jim Dowd…

      • lordfletcher - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:21 PM

        3rd guy who should be wearing the C ???

        Remember 3+ years ago when fans were complaining about the revolving C that we only issued on a monthly basis. EVERYONE wanted Koivu to have the C, and till he is traded, he wears the C.

        Imagine if they removed the C from Koivu but asked that he doesn’t get upset and still plays for the Wild, yeah…. good idea.

        pfff!

      • longcutskolvikes - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:35 PM

        I see I touched a nerve. You always make good points on this site, so let me just say that I respect your opinion, and even agree with you most of the time. As a Habs fan, I know all about contracts that are too big for the production they get out of guys. Koivu is fine. Enjoy watching him. I still stand by what I said.

      • lordfletcher - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:37 PM

        you didn’t touch a nerve at all… I just don’t think your opinion makes sense for this club is all.

        Cheers :D

  7. radio854321 - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Koivu is r guy…I love it

  8. bigben1513 - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Sounds to me like a lot of devils fans are bitter no one wants to play there I think koivu is overrated in the state but underrated in the league he’s a good player but not a god send

    • lordfletcher - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      it’s not all Devil fans, so don’t wrap them all into it. There is one here (obvious name) that won’t stop crying loudly all over these boards… broken record

      Be nice, us Minnesota fans don’t have much to brag about as hardware goes :D

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:38 AM

        you do, you just have to go to a different sport, in a different decade, in a different century. We all remember 1991, like it was yesterday, or going on 22 years

  9. greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Koivu is the captain of the team, but Parise should be the captain of the team. Parise should be captain because he will actually talk to the media and not hide under cliché after cliché. On the same play for example:

    Koivu would say along the lines of: It’s just a tough game for us, we played okay for the most part.

    Parise would say along the lines of: We played like crap, we skated like crap, and our power play was crap.

    • slickvb82 - Sep 24, 2013 at 2:20 AM

      So @geatmiamisportsmind….let me see if I grasp what you’re saying. Basically the way an individual responded to the media makes him a better captain? Could have fooled me, I thought it was how he responded to the team.

      Nice try though “great sports mind”

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        Yeah a real captain will come out and speak the truth, while a “captain” like Koivu, will hide behind everyone else

  10. rebekah319 - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    I wish people would think before saying something like that? or at least get your facts straight about him not talking to the media there is a reason for that- and if you have been a fan of this team as long as I have then you would know instead of judging him.

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