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  • What Marcus Foligno Means To the Wild

    Casey Flesch

    Without a doubt, Marcus Foligno is the heart and soul of the Minnesota Wild. The fans serenade him by yelling his nickname, “Moooooose” after he scores, fights, or does anything noteworthy. The coaching staff rewarded his leadership by making him an alternate captain a few seasons ago. His opponents respect him. And his teammates know he will do whatever it takes to make the Wild successful, even if that’s facing one of his biggest fears for a TV commercial.


    Early this year, the Wild released another “Not weird, Wild.” commercial in which Foligno emerges from a pond in full uniform, with weeds hanging from his hockey stick antlers. A few weeks later, Foligno was a guest on the Wild on 7th podcast hosted by former Wild player Ryan Carter. In the episode, he

    his seaweed phobia and how he felt he was being pulled underwater by the weeds.


    Then the two went on to talk about their

    almost a decade ago when a baby-faced Foligno beat up Carter during the first period. Foligno connected with a right hand that had Carter seeing stars, then Foligno cradled Carter’s head, preventing him from further injury. He is a kind-hearted man with a competitive edge who is willing to do anything to help the team, on or off the ice. Unfortunately, this year, Foligno has missed eight games due to injury. So, how does the Wild play when he isn't in the lineup?


    Not great, to the point where they wanted him back in the lineup as soon as possible. In those eight missing games, the team went 4-4 without him (17-9-2 with him). More importantly, it throws his linemates out of flux. Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek's offensive production dwindles without Foligno, a puzzling but consistent phenomenon.


    Maybe no other game showed how much Foligno brings to the table than the one on December 22nd. Foligno briefly skated in warmups before deciding he needed to be scratched from the game against the San Jose Sharks. The Wild kept things competitive but struggled once things got chippy in the second period. Matt Dumba caught San Jose forward Matt Nieto with a clean open ice hit, then two other Sharks players jumped him immediately, pressing Dumba into a fight. The Wild missed Foligno’s presence during the 5-2 loss to San Jose.


    So when Foligno returned on New Year's Eve, there was more to celebrate than just a 5-2 win over the hated St. Louis Blues. Foligno immediately showed his worth. Just over a minute into the second period, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington attempted to play the puck behind the net, but Foligno stole it and passed to Freddy Gaudreau, who fired a shot on goal. Binnington made the initial save, but the rebound slid directly to Ryan Hartman, and he buried his first of two goals that night to put Minnesota up 2-1.


    He eased back into his role with only 13:47 of ice time, but still threw his body around with three hits. It's good news because the Wild need Foligno’s physical play. This season, he leads the team in hits (90) and fights (4). Enforcer Ryan Reaves is arguably more physical than Foligno. But despite being a pleasant surprise early on, he doesn't carry the scoring upside and defensive chops Foligno brings.


    To elaborate, Foligno has 145 points in 365 games wearing a Wild sweater. Reaves has 118 points in 783 career games. There's no replacing all Foligno does with one player, so the Wild will need multiple guys to step up.


    Injuries are never good for a team, but they are inevitable. Luckily for the Wild, players like Hartman and Foligno's injuries happened early. The Wild haven’t even reached the halfway point of the season. There is time to rest, recover, and pace themselves to stay healthy down the stretch. They need Foligno to be healthy when they need him most. He has a knack for scoring with a unique combination of grit and skill, and the Wild have to make sure he stays healthy as they push into the playoffs.

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