Even though the team was founded in 1997, it wasn’t until the 2000-01 campaign that the Minnesota Wild started playing. However, the consensus for most fans states that the true history of the organization began the very next season when they took Mikko Koivu with the sixth-overall pick of the Draft.
A hard-nosed centre, Koivu was just a kid out of Finland trying to make his way into the world’s top-flight hockey league. He had found some success with TPS in the Finnish SM-liiga, but little did he know that he’d wind up becoming one of the biggest legends in modern National Hockey League History.
But even despite having a nearly-flawless résumé with the organization, according to this article on ClutchBet.com, some fans still dare question if Mikko Koivu is the best Minnesota Wild player ever. That’s why today, we’re going to set the record straight and answer this question once and for all.
A Slow, But Steady Start
Mikko Koivu was taken in the 2001 NHL Draft by a franchise that was still learning the ropes and trying to be competitive. He didn’t move to the U.S right away and stayed overseas until the 2004-05 season. He joined the team’s AHL affiliate to try and make adjustments to the style, lifestyle, and perks of NHL hockey.
As a rookie, Koivu shined with 21 goals, scoring the first on Nov. 6, 2005, against the Anaheim Ducks and with the great Jean-Sebastian Giguere on the net. He overcame injuries early in his career and showcased his durability and leadership year in and year out, topping the 20-goal plateau with ease and rarely missing a game after that third season.
Then, in 2009, the Finnish star finally became the team’s first full-time captain, instantly paying back his coach’s confidence by scoring one goal, one assist, and the shootout game-winner vs. the divisional rivals Colorado Avalanche. It was just the first of many legendary performances by the lefty.
Koivu went to hang on to that captain status until he finally decided to walk away from the game in 2021. His veteran presence in the locker room was key during one of the toughest times in franchise history, as they missed the playoffs more often than not and struggled to compete at the highest level. He became one of the most respected players in the league, let alone in the organization.
A Record Man
If the intangibles weren’t enough to consider Mikko Koivu as the greatest Minnesota Wild player of all time, then we can talk about his numbers. He’s the all-time franchise leader in games played (1,035) and was the first player to top the 1,000-game mark with the organization. Also, he ranks first in points (709) and assists (504), shots (2,270), and power-play points (252).
Those records are unlikely to be topped in an era in which most players often pursue bright lights and big markets. Also, he’s the player in franchise history to ever have his jersey retired, and no. 9 will hang high on the rafters forever.
“Having my jersey number retired by the Minnesota Wild is a greater honor than I know how to say in English or in Finnish,” Koivu said during his jersey retirement ceremony.
. “I have so many great memories of playing in this building and living in the Twin Cities. And it’s all because of the great people here in Minnesota.” the legendary Centre added.
A Controversial Retirement
Perhaps what makes some people question Koivu’s legacy with the Minnesota Wild is the fact that he spent the final year of his career somewhere else. It was somewhat shocking to see him sign a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Wild and finish his career away from the team he was for more than a decade.
But that shouldn’t tarnish an otherwise unmatched résumé with the organization. It’s like holding something against Michael Jordan for that brief tenure with the Washington Wizards rather than uplifting him for all the things he did for the Chicago Bulls.
Also, it was the organization that decided not to re-sign him, as he admitted that he even considered retiring when the Wild allowed him to become a free agent. Even so, Koivu always cherished his days in Minny:
“Minnesota just really became home for me and the way I was always treated there by the fans, the organization, my teammates,” Koivu said. “And also Team Finland, the great memories with them. As of right now, I think I will look back on how much I got from the game of hockey, the people involved and things like that. That’s something that I really appreciate, and I’m sure looking back in the next couple of weeks and things like that, you start to realize how special it was.”
All things considered, it’ll be a while before someone comes even close to what Koivu meant for the Wild.