Porous Penalty Kill Spoils Mikko Koivu’s Jersey Retirement in Wild’s 6-2 loss to Nashville

Narratives can be powerful things.  Especially when they get repeated over and over.  Why?  Because people begin to believe them, even if they may be false or exaggerate the truth.

Case in point, the jersey retirement ceremony for Mikko Koivu on Sunday prior to the Minnesota Wild’s game against the Nashville Predators.  Jersey retirement is normally reserved for players who were Hall of Famers or considered to be the best at their position.

There is a myth of greatness about the Turku, Finland-native.  True, he’s the all time franchise leader in regular season points and games played which are simple facts.  When you look at the highlights of his career, its mostly from the regular season.

The Kronwalling play, yelling at the Vancouver bench after scoring on them in his first game since this slash by Matias Ohlund, and the forehand-to-backhand shootout move.

Do you remember when Bobby Ryan scored with Mikko Koivu’s stick?  Somehow that didn’t make the jersey retirement montage, not sure why.  The vast majority of Koivu’s highlights are from what he’s done in the regular season because there simply isn’t much to look at because it pokes a hole in the narrative of #9’s aura of greatness.

In the team’s nine playoff appearances that took place throughout his 15-year career with the Minnesota Wild, he only helped them get beyond the 1st round twice.  Koivu had 28 points and was a -18 in 59 playoff games.  When the team needed him most he was invisible or ineffective.

After the team let Marian Gaborik walk for nothing in return they needed a player to market as the ‘face’ of the franchise and with little to choose from they decided to go with Mikko Koivu.  The broadcasters were instructed to emphasize his importance as a defensive player because they knew he wasn’t going to be a league leader offensively and from there a narrative was born.

Beat writers repeated it and with social media, visiting broadcasters repeated it, and fans repeated those same assertions.  Some of these fans even had charts with advanced metrics as they did their best to rationalize why the team was paying him $6.75 million a season to score 11-14 goals a year despite getting top line ice time and the majority of the minutes on the power play as well.

Organizationally, the team had to market a 1980’s Volvo station wagon (Koivu) because the Ferrari (Gaborik) had left the garage.  So you double down on bringing up its reliability (games played) and safety rating (defense) because you know its not flashy nor will its on the street performance give you a lot to brag about.  Its boxy, safe, slow and boring.  Sound like the Wild for much of its existence?

I get it, for fans of a certain age, he was the player they grew up identifying with.  Younger people are very impressionable and as they grow older they develop a feeling of nostalgia or loyalty towards those players they cheered for in their youth.  Yet even if that was your favorite player does that mean they should get their jersey retired?

With the precedent the Wild just set by retiring Koivu’s jersey, I suppose the team will have to retire Jared Spurgeon‘s #46 because he’ll probably hold the most games played and all time points record among the team’s defenseman by the time his contract ends at the conclusion of the 2026-27 season.  Like Koivu, he was an effective good player but barring some dramatic improvement to his game he’s not likely to be a Hall of Famer either.

I realize that not every player who has a retired jersey is a Hall of Famer.  Like the Wild, some teams have retired jersey numbers just to recognize its fans or like Seattle where they retired the #32 to mark they are the NHL’s 32nd franchise.  While a few fans of those clubs might like that, many see that as a source of embarrassment.

So why do it?

Two reasons come to mind.  One, the Wild are a club that likes to lean heavily on Minnesota’s hockey history yet it really doesn’t have much of significance to crow about.  Let’s face it, as a franchise they have one division title in 20+ seasons and they have had only one run beyond the 2nd round of the playoffs and that was almost 20 years ago.

Secondly, the team needed to get butts in the seats.  Some of you may remember the team started the year with some games that did not sellout.  Even with a Winter Classic fans didn’t seem overly bullish on this team’s chances, especially after buying out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise which had to have irked some of the more provincial Minnesota Wild fans.

The Wild organization chose to retire his jersey, likely because they thought the fans would like it.  And without question some certainly have.  Others are not so enamored with that idea like SKOR North’s Judd Zulgad, but what’s done is done.

Ok, rant over.

Speaking of narratives that may have questionable validity.  How about the narrative that the Minnesota Wild are a Stanley Cup contender?

A flagging penalty kill, a losing record against playoff contenders are all signs that this team may not be the contender some had thought they were back in December.  Goals against has been climbing at alarming level going from about 2.7 goals against per game to over 3.2 goals against per game is a good indicator that goaltending and team defense has been struggling.

Minnesota has surrendered at least 4 goals in 12 out of their last 15 games, and as good as the Wild are offensively you’re not going to win too many games giving up that many each night.

Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen are both giving up the kind of ‘soft’ goals each game that erode a team’s morale.  Can you remember the last time a Wild goaltender ‘stole’ a game for the Minnesota Wild?  Me neither.  We only have one shutout this season, that has to be near a franchise low for a ‘defensive minded’ club like we’ve been for so much of our existence.

That’s not to say that its all the goaltending’s fault for Minnesota’s post-All Star Game Break struggles, certainly the team is allowing teams to work cross-ice passes way too easily which usually seems to coincide with many of the opposing goals we’re seeing lately.

Minnesota managed to outscore a porous Detroit Red Wings team only to lose the next night to the Columbus Blue Jackets who got blanked 6-0 the night before by the New York Islanders.  If the Wild are truly a contender, they should’ve won both of those games, not just one.

Wild Twitter went on a fury when TNT‘s Anson Carter mocked the depth of the Minnesota Wild.  The team is healthy now and they’re still struggling.  So are we really as deep as we once thought we were earlier in the season?  If you’re a Wild fan hoping Minnesota trades for a goaltender or a defenseman to stop the freefall, doesn’t that confirm what Carter had said all along?

Simply put, the truth isn’t always convenient and it may destroy the narrative we wish to see rather than the one we actually have.

 

What did you think of this week’s slate of games for the Minnesota Wild?  Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!

Iowa Wild’s Playoff Hopes Slipping Away

Earlier in the season, on November 28th, the Iowa Wild were on the road playing against the Henderson Silver Knights for the first time in franchise history.  Iowa was off to a hot start in the season and had a comfortable 3-goal lead going into the 3rd period of that game.  A scrum after the whistle that saw Marco Rossi get hurt, resulted into a late-game rally by the Silver Knights who ambushed Iowa with a 6-5 victory.

The loss marked a turning point in the season.

Without Rossi and then eventually Matt Boldy, who got called up to play in Minnesota, saw the club go through a tough transition without its two young star forwards.  Iowa went from being a team that was one of the more high scoring teams in the AHL, to being a club that struggled to score, especially on the man advantage.

It has been feast or famine ever since and the team has steadily fallen in the AHL Central Division standings.  Injuries and call ups to the big club certainly played a role in undermining the team’s cohesion, but the team had its share of self-inflicted wounds as ill-timed penalties squandered chances to rally late in games.

The arrival of Zane McIntyre restored stability in the crease, and even gave the team the flexibility to trade away Andrew Hammond to Montreal.  Yet the team lacked consistency and its veteran core wasn’t able to help carry the team offensively they way they had in previous seasons.  There wasn’t a Gerald Mayhew-type of veteran ringer to carry the offense.

Two seasons ago, Iowa was having its best season ever as they were near the top of the American Hockey League standings with the AHL goaltender of the year in Kaapo Kahkonen, the league’s best defenseman Brennan Menell and MVP Mayhew and league’s scoring leader in Sam Anas.  Covid-19 froze that season in its tracks so we’ll never know how far that team would’ve gone.

Same thing happened last year and Iowa weathered an abbreviated season.  Now it’s playoff hopes appear to be steadily slipping away as winning one game and losing two has meant a slow death spiral in the league standings.  Or perhaps it feels like you’ve been placed into Saturday detention like this Iowa Wild parody of the classic 1980’s film the Breakfast Club in the video clip provided below.

They need to find a way to get its odd collection of players to work together to make the best of its current situation or they will find themselves out of the post-season once again because winning one and losing two each week won’t get that done.

Iowa Wild (23-24-4-3)  51pts  6th in the AHL Central

18.6% Power Play (23rd in the AHL)

84.7% Penalty Kill (2nd in the AHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #23 Marco Rossi ~ 16G 26A = 42pts

2. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 15G 22A = 37pts

3. #18 Mason Shaw ~ 13G 22A = 35pts

4. #13 Nick Swaney ~ 12G 15A = 27pts

5. #11 Adam Beckman ~ 8G 18A = 26pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 128 PIM’s

2. #14 Brandon Baddock ~ 97 PIM’s

3. #18 Mason Shaw ~ 85 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #70 Zane McIntyre (12-9-2)  2.42GAA  .918%  1SO

2. #92 Hunter Jones (2-6-1)  3.59GAA  .884%

Wild Prospect Report:

RW / C – Josh Pillar (Saskatoon, WHL) ~ Since being traded from Kamloops, ice time has been hard to come by with the Blades as he returns from an injury.  He managed to register his first goal  and went 10-for-14 on his draws as a member of the Blades in a 4-3 overtime win against Lethbridge on Wednesday night.  On Friday he’d add another helper as he starts to become a regular on the scoresheet for Saskatoon.  Pillar has 12 goals, 21 assists, 33 points, 36 PIM’s and is a +3 in 36 games.

C – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ Senior has recently asked the Minnesota Wild for permission to talk to other teams, a request the team has granted.  Meanwhile, McBain keeps boosting his possible value as a trade asset by adding a goal and two helpers in Boston College’s 4-3 overtime win against New Hampshire on Wednesday.  McBain has 19 goals, 13 assists, 32 points, 14 PIM’s and is a +13 in 23 games.

D – Marshall Warren (Boston College, H-East) ~ Puck moving defenseman had 2 assists in the Eagles’ 4-3 overtime victory over New Hampshire to keep their season alive.  He would then score a goal in Boston College’s 4-3 loss to Northeastern.  Warren has 6 goals, 15 assists, 20 points, 12 PIM’s and is a -3 in 37 games.

LW – Nikita Nesterenko (Boston College, H-East) ~ Brooklyn, New York-native had a power play goal in Boston College’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Wildcats.  Nesterenko has 7 goals, 17 assists, 24 points, 50 PIM’s and is a +8 in 36 games.

C / RW – Marat Khusnutdinov (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL) ~ The skilled forward had a goal in SKA St. Petersburg’s 4-3 victory over Dinamo Minsk on Tuesday.  Khusnutdinov has a goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +2 in 4 playoff games.

D – Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw, WHL) ~ Moose Jaw’s captain had an assist on 4 shots in the Warriors’ 5-2 win against Calgary on Friday.  He would add another assist on 5 shots in Moose Jaw’s 5-2 loss to Lethbridge on Saturday.  Hunt has 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 points, 41 PIM’s and is +13 in 43 games.

D – Carson Lambos (Winnipeg, WHL) ~ Ice’s alternate captain had two assists on 1 shot in Winnipeg’s 6-3 victory against Brandon.  On Friday, he’d another assist on 3 shots in the Ice’s 5-0 rout of the Wheat Kings.  Lambos has 9 goals, 25 assists, 34 points, 45 PIM’s and is +29 in 36 games.

D – Jack Peart (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ Mr. Hockey Award winner in 2021 had an assist in the Huskies’ 5-2 loss to Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.  Peart has 2 goals, 15 assists, 17 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +2 in 29 games.

D – Kyle Masters (Red Deer, WHL) ~ Puck moving defenseman had an assist on 2 shots in Red Deer’s 6-2 victory over Medicine Hat on Saturday.  Masters has 3 goals, 11 assists, 14 points, 3 PIM’s and is +28 in 57 games.

LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ Yaroslavl, Russia-native had a goal in Connecticut’s 3-1 win over Boston University.  Firstov has 10 goals, 11 assists, 21 points, 16 PIM’s and is a +8 in 33 games.

High School Hockey Report:  The Minnesota Boys State Hockey Tournament wrapped up the 2021-22 High School Season.  It was another fantastic tournament!  We would like to congratulate all of the players, coaches, athletes, schools and communities who made it to this year’s Tourney!

Class A Championship: Hermantown 3, Warroad 2

Class A 3rd Place: Mahtomedi 4, Alexandria 2

Class A Consolation: Minneapolis 4, Monticello 1

Herb Brooks Award Winner (Class A): Matthew Hard (Warroad)

All Tournament Team (Class A):  Drew Pitts (Minneapolis) Charlie Drage (Mahtomedi) Ben Dardis (Mahtomedi) Carson Reed (Warroad) Daimon Gardner (Warroad) Jayson Shaugabay (Warroad) Hampton Slukynsky (Warroad) Ty Hanson (Hermantown) Beau Janzig (Hermantown) Zam Plante (Hermantown) Max Plante (Hermantown) Kade Kohanksi (Hermantown)

Class A Coach of the YearJoe Dziedzic (Minneapolis)

Class AA Championship: Andover 6, Maple Grove 5 2OT

Class AA 3rd Place: Hill-Murray 3, Prior Lake 2

Class AA Consolation: Edina 3, Moorhead 2 OT

Herb Brooks Award Winner (Class AA): Weston Knox (Andover)

All Tournament Team (Class AA):  Alex Bump (Prior Lake) Jackson Anderson (Prior Lake) Leo Gruba (Hill-Murray) Jack Erickson (Hill-Murray) Landen Gunderson (Maple Grove) Josh Giuliani (Maple Grove) Finn Brink (Maple Grove) Danny Nelson (Maple Grove) Weston Knox (Andover) Cayden Casey (Andover) Gavyn Thoreson (Andover) Austin Brauns (Andover)

Class AA Coach of the Year: Todd Bergland (Maple Grove)

2022 Mr. Hockey AwardMax Strand (Roseau)

2022 Frank Brimsek Award (Top Goaltender)Ben Dardis (Mahtomedi)