The Sunday Roundtable is a weekly feature where every Sunday a group of Wild fans discuss what's going on with the Minnesota Wild and other hockey-related issues. Today's question is "Is losing Mikko Koivu for an extended period of time the worst thing which could have happened to the Wild's playoff hopes?"
The Speckled Kiwi:
Not at all. Losing Backstrom would have been devastating. Koivu is significant injury but we have guys that could stand up instead of him and we got good depth at center. A guy like Brodie or Cullen could take over for a stretch.
No. Right now, it would have to be losing Backstrom and then Theo (again) and having to rely on Khudobin and or Hackett for more than two or three games.
The thing this season is that Richards has FINALLY adjusted to what it takes to coach in the NHL. The system actually did change once we found out that Mikko was out. Instead of a 2-1-2 forechecking system, he did switch to a 1-2-2. Although it wasn't really a neutral zone trap, the number of forwards that the team was sending in on the forecheck was often just one. It would depend on who was on the ice if you were determining which position was in deep.
Slowing the game down enough so that puck possession becomes easier is enough for this roster. Losing both of our starting goalies would pretty much doom the Wild into season oblivion.
While the loss is very significant because they've lost the best 2-way player on the team, it isn't the most damaging in my opinion. The simple reasoning behind my own assessment is that Havlat's line has become the most damaging to opposing teams. When its Bouchard-Cullen/Brodz-Havlat out there with Burns and Schultz feeding them they spend the most time on the other end of the ice and generate the most offense. Backstrom and Theodore are playing out of their minds right now and the biggest reason losing Mikko for 3 weeks wasn't nearly as big of a deal as it could have been last year. The team is playing incredibly well together right now.
Losing Mikko Koivu for any period of time is devastating. He's the heart and soul of the Wild, the captain and a top-five defensive forward. Koivu is also an offensive threat and makes those around him better; he's the sole reason the Brunette-Koivu-Miettinen line has been the first line this season. So not having the Captain down the stretch will be a challenge for Minnesota.
However with that said, the Wild have thankfully been able to adapt away from the Marian Gaborik-led teams where one star made the difference. This year's team has more depth than in the past and have shown to be able to cope without players for extended periods of time. One player does not make this team and unless Marty Havlat, Niklas Backstrom and Brent Burns join Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, the Wild can overcome losing a Mikko Koivu.