Mikko Koivu has made a remarkable impression on the Minnesota Wild over the course of his career. Whether it is through his play on the ice or his character and leadership in the locker room, he is a player you want on an NHL club.
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The question at hand is whether Koivu deserves to have his number retired, which is only awarded to players with the utmost respect and dignity. Has his career warranted the honor of having his number hang forever from the rafters? If so, he will be the first player in franchise history to get their jersey number retired.
How It All Began
June 23, 2001 — On the day the Wild drafted Koivu, little did they know he would become the longest captain in franchise history. He was taken in the first round, sixth overall in the 2001 Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida. Looking back, he should have been taken 3rd overall behind Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Spezza who both have had successful careers.
For the Wild, who had finished last in their division the season before, a player of Koivu’s caliber was essential to help build a playoff team. Even though it was expected that he would be drafted so high, he is still one of the best selections in Wild history who has served as captain and is a franchise leader in many categories.
It is a day that will never be forgotten in the organization, a star in the making that would inevitably bring a ton of value to a roster that lacked elite company.
His Career Legacy in Minnesota
Koivu is one of the best players to ever wear a Wild uniform. He is the franchise leader in games played (1,028), assists (504), points (709), plus-minus (plus-70) and shots (2,270). He also is second in even-strength (135), power-play (60) and shorthanded goals (10).
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Koivu is one of the best in overtime, his signature forehand backhand move in the shootout never fails to make you smile, goalies know it’s coming, yet they can’t stop him because of how quick he can elevate the puck with such precision.
He has been a model of consistency but is best known for his excellence in his own end throughout his career which has landed him in talks as one of the game’s greatest defensive players of the last decade. He has often been in the Selke Trophy conversation, and he came just short in 2017.
Koivu has been the Wild captain for 12 seasons and is in the last year of his contract. He is a leadership presence on and off the ice, with teammates Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and his character has been on a pedestal throughout his career as he has not strayed away from it. Whether it is mentoring prospects, a needed presence during emotional times or a voice of authority when a team reset is needed, Koivu is your guy.
After Koivu suffered an ACL injury last season, his career was hanging by a thread, so it was astonishing that his recovery process went so smoothly that he was back on the ice this season.
Koivu is loyal which was evidently displayed at the trade deadline this season. He has stayed with the organization that drafted him and decided not to waive his NMC (No Move Clause) for a chance to join a serious contender because he wanted to start and end his career in Minnesota, (from ‘Is this it for Mikko Koivu? With season in limbo, Wild captain talks future,’ The Athletic, 04/15/2020). When Koivu was demoted to the fourth line this season in order to provide more ice time for the youth, his head stayed up and his character was on display.
Koivu celebrated his 1,000th game in the NHL this season. He won the game in the shootout via his signature move against the division-rival Dallas Stars.
Should Koivu Get His Jersey Number in the Rafters?
I believe we will see Koivu’s jersey number retired and in the rafters. He deserves to be honored and remembered for his career and legacy he will leave in Minnesota.
His leadership, loyalty and consistency were vital to building the franchise into something that made the State of Hockey proud and relevant. Although he has yet to bring the Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey, unless the Wild make a massive run this season, he has done everything expected and then some.
According to Evolving Hockey, Koivu has been worth 18.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) since the 2007-08 season. Koivu deserves to have his jersey number retired, he has had an immense effect on the Wild franchise, it is as simple as that.
All Stats & Information Via NHL.com, Hockey Reference & Evolving Hockey
Aaron Heckmann is a journalism & broadcasting student. He covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage’s 10krinks. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.