According to Tom Gulitti of NHL.com, general manager of the Minnesota Wild Bill Guerin has said the organization will name a new team captain before the start of the 2020-21 NHL season. After electing not to re-sign Mikko Koivu, the captaincy has been vacated and that means choosing someone to take the reigns.
“We’ll name a new captain and we’ll move forward. Big shoes to fill, but my personal belief is it’s an important position to fill and you just don’t want to leave the team in limbo.”
With that in mind, who are the top candidates for the position? Perhaps even more importantly, who is not a candidate based on speculation they may or may not be with the team long-term?
Considering his experience and presence in the NHL, it might be natural to assume Zach Parise would be in contention. And, he might be. But, there have also been rumors that the Wild are continually looking at a trade with the New York Islanders that could see Parise leave the team and Andrew Ladd come back in his place. If there’s any truth to that rumor, why consider him for the captaincy?
The answer is that perhaps he’s too valuable to overlook, even if he’s ultimately not with the team next season. He’s been an alternate captain with the Wild, he is a homegrown NHL star (even if his production has dipped a bit) and there’s a legacy within the organization, as his father, J.P. Parise, spent a significant amount of time playing for the Minnesota North Stars.
He’s been to the Olympics, been an All-Star and a previous team MVP on three occasions.
If you’re looking for someone a little younger but still a veteran of the game, perhaps Mats Zuccarello should get a look. He’s newer to the team but just signed an extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2023-24 season.
He’s a productive forward and sometimes captains are selected for what they bring on the ice. That said, he’s probably too new to get the nod. He may be an alternate captain in 2020-21.
If you’re looking for a captain who isn’t going anywhere but also has the experience a player like Parise does, Ryan Suter is your guy. He’s not the defenseman he once was but he still eats up minutes in their top two, he’s got a full no-move clause and he too chose Minnesota in free agency over a number of other teams.
He’s also a former Olympian, three-time All-Star and he’s now one of the highest producing defensemen in Wild history. Since joining the team in free agency, Suter has been in the top three in ice time per game every season.
Because of his leadership off the ice in terms of racial equality, it would be hard to ignore Matt Dumba in this conversation. He’s not as tenured a player as Parise or Suter, but he’s an example of the kind of change players around the NHL are looking to make.
The one potential downside to Dumba in consideration for the captaincy as is that there’s a good chance he’s not with the team this time next season. He could be snagged in the expansion draft or traded so the Wild don’t lose him for nothing if the team can’t find a way to protect him.
And the Winner Is…
Ultimately, the captaincy will likely go to Ryan Suter. He’s still a useful player, he’ll likely retire as a Wild defenseman and his voice carries a lot of weight within the organization, even if his production will slow down over the next couple of seasons.
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