Today the Minnesota Wild announced 26-year old Mikko Koivu as the first ever permanent captain in team history.
When Koivu’s on, I love the way that he plays the game. He’s a solid two-way center that can set players up, bury the puck and check. He’s easily one of the top players and leaders on the team.
So why am I so disappointed in this move?
We all knew that this move was coming. Koivu had been anointed as the captain of this team ever since Brian Rolston packed his bags and moved back to New Jersey. Under Lemaire’s rotating captaincy last season, Koivu wore the C on his chest four months out of the season, during which the team shined with 31-19-6 record.
Truth be told, however, I was hoping that the team would forego his expected crowning for another season.
The main reason why, I think, is because of how Koivu reacted last season when he didn’t have the C on his chest.
As captain, the young Finn played inspired hockey last season. The letter on his chest seemed to give him an air about him that said “I don’t care who else is on the ice. I’m the best player out here.” Without the C last season and, so far this season, that confidence has yet to show up.
Maybe this move will spark something in him. Maybe it will cause him to realize that it’s time for him to step up like he did last season, and maybe that’s why the move was made.
But last season, when Koivu didn’t have the C on his chest, he looked lost, just as he has this season. This is something that I feel that the team should have addressed prior to giving him this honor.
Now my views on this may differ from many. Personally, I see the captain of the team primarily as a figurehead—someone who is there to talk to the refs and act as that liaison between the refs and the rest of their team. To me, the test of a true leader is not whether you lead when you are looked at to lead and expected to lead, but instead whether or not you lead when you are not expected to.
I haven’t been in the Wild locker room but, in my opinion, Koivu has simply not done that throughout his career.
But now the die has been cast and its Koivu’s responsibility to be THE leader on and off the ice for this team.
He was chosen for this honor over seasoned veterans such as Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan—two players who have been there and done that.
Koivu has many, if not most, of the traits that you look for in a captain. He’s got a natural leadership and charisma that many people are immediately drawn to. He has the respect of his teammates. He is talented and motivated.
But he does not have the experience.
Koivu has not yet experienced making it out of the first round of the playoffs. In fact, he only has a handful of playoff games to his name.
Should this be the only thing that the coach looks at when deciding the captain? Certainly not.
But on a team that is struggling, whether or not this player knows how to win when the going gets tough should be a factor, and the going doesn’t get any tougher than winning in the playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a horrible choice.
Of the players that the Wild were likely considering, I don’t know that there was a bad choice among them. Koivu is going to be a fantastic captain for this team, hopefully for a long, long time.
But for where the team is at right now, I would have just preferred a player that had a little more experience in winning and winning under adversity.