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.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.