Is Mikko Koivu's contract worth too much money?

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mikkokoivu.jpgYesterday’s announcement of Mikko Koivu’s seven year, $47.25 million contract extension seemed to bring out a lot of exasperated and aghast reactions. Some folks still aren’t even aware of who Mikko Koivu is in some cases. The main reaction, however, was incredulity. “What?! How is he worth nearly $7 million a year?!”

I guess that’s the right question to ask here: Is Mikko Koivu worth that kind of money? Brian “Buddha” Reynolds over at Hockey Wilderness certainly believes so and vehemently at that.

What was really happening is that Koivu was (and of times still is) out against the opponent’s top line. It makes it more difficult to score when you are slated with preventing the other team from scoring. The top line for the Wild serves as a scoring /checking line. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are not out to shut down Sidney Crosby when he visits, but Koivu and Brunette are.

Oh, and his point total has gone up every season except the Mathias Ohlund cheap shot stick chop season.

Got it? To re-cap: Koivu has been hosed his entire career, and yet still puts up 60-70 points. Put him on a line with another great player. Then, and only then, can you tell me he doesn’t stack up with those other guys. Put the other guys on a line with Bruno (Andrew Brunette) and Mittens (Antti Miettinen) and let’s see how many points they put up.

I’m not sure that Reynolds wanted to have it look like he said the Wild had a rough going of things by saying that Koivu has been “hosed” his whole career, but out of context it could look like that. That said, if you can name a big, scoring winger that’s played alongside Koivu throughout his career you’re a better person than I am. For the record, no, Martin Havlat did not play on Koivu’s wing last year at all. Havlat was on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Guillaume Latendresse.

So you’ve got the view of the Wild fan on what they think of the deal, but how about someone a little bit separated from the situation who can view things for what they are? Thankfully, the statistical gurus from Behind The Net are here to help shed some light on things.

He literally does everything: he takes on tough competition, he wins faceoffs at a very high rate, he scores and he logs a huge amount of PP and PK time.  Even though Minnesota seemingly followed a strategy of conceding shots (but limiting the quality of each chance), they’ve consistently outshot their opponents when Koivu is on the ice.  The only potential downside for Koivu is injuries, but he’s been very durable over the last two seasons.

It’s likely that Koivu will actually even outperform his contract over the next few years – if you’re going to drop $50M on a player, it had better be one this good.

In other words, Koivu is worth it and then some. So how do so many fans fall asleep at the wheel on him? Chances are, if you didn’t know about Mikko Koivu before you do now. For my money, and for what the Wild do and how they seem to operate he’s worth every penny.

Home-grown guy? Check. One of the better players in the NHL? Check. Plays both sides of the puck well? Check. The only thing that Mikko Koivu is lacking that’s preventing him from being the next governor of Minnesota is being from Minnesota himself. To those of you fretting over this deal saying it’s a “comparison-buster” and other guys will use this deal as a starting point in future negotiations, you can just stop that right now.  There are very few players in the NHL that do what Mikko Koivu can do and do it well enough to be a first line talent.

Sharks defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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Talk about the ideal start.

Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.