When I first saw the Koivu announcement, the very first thing I thought was that it was a good signing. He’s a home-grown guy who is their heart-and-soul captain. It might be a bit of an overpayment, but not by much. Regardless, I didn’t really think twice or question that it was a good signing.
So imagine my surprise when I jump on Twitter and find everyone from Manhattan to British Columbia bashing his contract with the Minnesota Wild. 7 years, $47.25 million for a cap hit of $6.75 mill per year. I heard everything from “overpaid” to “overrated.” And since, I’ve even heard someone say the contract is as stupid as the Jeff Finger deal. No, I’m not kidding—Jeff Finger.
This gets into a much bigger concept than just a center and his contract with the Wild. When I read all of the people piling onto Chuck Fletcher and his proximity to common sense, I started to wonder how many people have actually seen Mikko Koivu play. How many people knew more about the guy than just his last name? How many people knew more about his style of play than just the numbers they could find on hockeydb.com?
Outsiders are quick to say that he’s not worth the money, that there are better players for that amount, and that he could have been signed for less. But when you talk to people who follow the Wild—a jilted bunch to be sure—you find that they are overwhelmingly excited about the move. So what gives?
When I talk about the Minnesota Wild, there are two guys that I trust. Mike Russo at the Star Tribune is one of the best mainstream writers you’ll find. Brian Reynolds at Hockey Wilderness is one of the best bloggers out there. They’re two of the best in the entire NHL and they both cover the Wild. That’s where I’m going when any news comes out of the Twin Cities.
Actually, the entire situation reminded of being a kid in school. Remember when you were in high school and no one could think for themselves? Remember how it seemed like everyone would just go along with whatever the cool kids thought, because well… they were cool? It seems like social media and the hockey community have a tendency to bring that back to life, even as adults.
Along with that, I learned in college that there’s a healthy balance between listening and having a mind of your own. You have to be who you are. When you think for yourself, it’s a lot easier to defend your views. But if you just blindly hold on to your thoughts without listening to others with an open mind, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great perspectives in the world.
Russo and Reynolds—they aren’t the cool kids (as much as they might want to be in the story). No, they’re the SMART kids. Even when I have an idea of what’s going on, I still listen to the smart kids.
“Now, as for why he is worth it, even without the points. Why that is difficult to explain to people outside of Minnesota. It takes watching the guy play for 82 games a season to see why. It’s those pesky intangibles. The leadership, the steady presence, the battles in the corner. It’s the little things that few people in the league do as well as he does, but that don’t show up in the stat sheet.
Sure, lots of guys have the leadership. There are 30 captains and 60 alternates in the league, right? Lots of grizzled vets like Owen Nolan out there to provide that element. Plenty of centers have face off win % above 50%. More than a fair share of players have 70+ points a year.
But how many have all of it?
There’s your answer. There is the $6.75 million answer.” –Bryan Reynolds (Hockey Wilderness)
That seems fairly convincing. So does this (and I’d suggest you click on both links so you can read the articles in their entirety).
“1) Unless you watch the Wild on a daily basis or more than the one or two times he comes to your building a year, you’ve got no clue his value to the Wild. So if you’re doing statistical analysis on Koivu’s points compared to Tomas Plekanec or somebody else, sorry, you lost me right there. You can’t analyze Koivu by his, say, goal scoring because of the reasons I said above. He forgoes goals for other areas. Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t. But he does and will continue to. And you can’t analyze Koivu by his stats because the Wild’s scoring depth can’t compare to other teams.
And it’s not just the lack of snipers he plays with. Last season, Brunette, Koivu and Miettinen faced an opponent’s top checking line and two best defensemen pretty much 82 games on virtually every shift. When the Wild improves its depth, then maybe Koivu won’t be checked as hard and you can start using statistical analysis to determine Koivu’s worth.
2) Trust me, I get all the, “Oh my Goodness, how does Mikko Koivu make more than Kane and Getzlaf and Toews and Parise and Datsyuk and a little less than Marleau and so on and on.” I get it, but that’s not how you determine comparables in the NHL.
Kane, Getzlaf, Toews, these guys are on second contracts. They’ll get theirs. Datsyuk (6.7) was signed in 2007, and plays for a team that made sure teammates didn’t get more than Nick Lidstrom. Marleau (6.9) desperately wanted to stay in San Jose. He would have gotten more on the open market. Parise will definitely get his $$$ on his next contract. He’s a year from restricted free agency and two from unrestricted free agency.
This is Koivu’s fourth contract. There’s a difference between a guy becoming a restricted Group II free agent (Pavelski or somebody like that) and an unrestricted Group III free agent. So while in premise you can say, “Is he better than X,” that’s not how it works.
3) Unless you know the history of the Wild, you can’t really understand why the Wild couldn’t risk losing Koivu. This is a team that lost Brian Rolston after three consecutive 30-goal seasons. This is a team that just lost Marian Gaborik, a true gamebreaker. This is a team that for years has had trouble developing or acquiring top centermen. The Wild could not risk losing Koivu. So there was an immense pressure here, which led to all the leverage being on Koivu’s side. You can’t replace Mikko Koivu. The Wild had no choice.” –Mike Russo (Russo’s Rants, Star Tribune)
There’s a reason that these are the two guys I trust.
But like I said, the weirdest part was the fans reaction in the wake of the announcement. The distaste for the contract had a bit of a snowball effect over the course of about 45 minutes. It went from, “I’m not so sure that’s a good contract,” to “That is a huge over payment,” to “That’s the worst contract since Jeff Finger. The Wild management is really going to be sorry about this one.” All of that happened in less than an hour. The beast was just feeding off of itself, gaining more and more steam before people stopped to think for themselves.
The argument du jour was comparing Koivu to Marian Gaborik and wondering why they wouldn’t shell out the big bucks for the sniper. But there are some serious differences between those two players. First and foremost, Mikko Koivu plays. Up until last year, Marian Gaborik spent as much time in the press box destroying the free cheese plate as he spent destroying goaltenders. When a team is going to drop that kind of investment, they will be hesitant to do it with a guy who hasn’t been as reliable. Also, his game is built on speed used to score goals. What happens if his injuries cause him to slow down and lose those abilities? What else does he bring to the table?
The flip side is Mikko Koivu. He’s the captain. He means more to the team than any stat hockeydb.com will come up with. His signing shows that they kept their leader. He plays the right way, he plays against the toughest opposition, and he can still score 70+ points. The team believes that the sky’s the limit for his offensive potential. The organization thinks they’re building something good with their young players and believe that when he has a better supporting cast, he’ll only add to his already well-rounded game. But even if his scoring numbers never improve, he’s still an incredibly valuable player. He’s not the oft-injured, one-trick pony that Gaborik is.
And to be honest, it’s hard to disagree with them.
“It’s a milestone day in the history of the Minnesota Wild… When you have your franchise player commit to you, really for the next eight seasons. He’s our best hockey player. He’s our captain. And he’s still just 27 with his best hockey years ahead of him.” –Chuck Fletcher
So how did we get to the point where it was the overwhelming opinion of people who thought that the Wild made a mistake by locking up their franchise’s cornerstone? Well, it certainly looks like this could be an ugly downside of the internet and how quickly information spreads.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen anyone else’s opinion, quite the opposite. The sharing of information will probably be our generation’s greatest gift to society. I’m just saying that people should take what they hear with a grain of salt and put it through their own filter test. Use your OWN critical thinking skills and decide for yourself before blindly following others. Do some research and trust your sources before you decide that the contract is bad.
There could be a life lesson in there somewhere.