Now that Mikko Koivu, the only permanent captain the Minnesota Wild ever had, has moved on to the Columbus Bluejackets, there is a leadership void that general manager Bill Guerin and head coach Dean Evason will be looking to fill coming into the 2020-21 season. In this series, we’re going to look at the primary candidates to be the next to wear the “C” for the Wild, in the form of a hypothetical resume sitting on a front office desk.
Last time, we put Marcus Foligno’s CV through a captaincy test. Today, Jared Spurgeon is next in the waiting room.
For Your Consideration: Jared Spurgeon
Spurgeon ticks a few of the boxes that you’d find on a typical NHL captain’s resume.
* Spurgeon has played every one of his 653 NHL games in a Wild sweater. Of the 26 teams that had a captain during the 2019-20 season, 20 of them had played their entire career with the same team.
* Spurgeon is not only the longest tenured Wild player, he’s also tied with Jonas Brodin for the most remaining years on his contract, ensuring that he’d be able to wear the C until at least 2027.
* He’s arguably one of the most reliable players on the team, and in the 2019-20 season, finished second amongst skaters in average time on ice, second to only Ryan Suter.
But more than just fitting the demographics of an NHL captain, Spurgeon has many of the intangibles that you’d look for when naming a team captain.
First, if you’re looking for a player with better hockey smarts on the Wild, you’re going to have a tough time. His understanding of the game is elite level. He frequently finds himself in just the right position, a tribute to how well he reads the play and his ability to get there.
That kind of level of hockey IQ plays well when it comes to being the captain of an NHL team, not only from the team leadership perspective (which we’ll touch on more later), but also when it comes to dealing with referees. While it’s the head coach who gets fired up and in the face of the men in stripes more frequently...
...it’s still the captain who can often be the cool, calm barrier between an angry bench and the ones making the decisions. Add to that role a player who can articulate the team’s concerns with a good amount of “knowing what he’s talking about,” and you’ve got a strong candidate for the captaincy. Spurgeon has all of the skills he needs to fill that role well.
Speaking of cool, calm leadership, Spurgeon is a player who is respected in the locker room, not by being the loudest or the most forceful, but by using his voice and veteran leadership at the most critical moments. Spurgeon said it best in an article with the Star Tribune.
“I feel that if you talk too much, sometimes people stop listening,” he said. If there’s been a problem with the locker room leadership with the Wild over the past 10 years, it’s that there have been a lot of things said with not a lot of response. Choosing your moment and picking your battles might be just the kind of captain this team needs.
And while at 30 years old Spurgeon is becoming one of the veteran leaders of the Wild, he still knows how to embrace the rookies and bring them into the fold. Spurgeon even took it upon himself to be one of the first players to reach out to Kirill Kaprizov while the Wild were actively trying to get the Russian star on a plane to Minnesota, reaching out on Instagram and making the hockey equivalent of first contact. The gesture is exactly what you’d expect from a captain, except that kind of thing just comes naturally to Spurgeon.
It’s that kind of strong leadership that has earned Spurgeon quite a few votes for the Lady Byng trophy, an award given to the player that exemplifies a balance between sportsmanship and on-ice ability. The Wild defenseman finished as high as fifth in Lady Byng voting in 2018.
In Spurgeon, the Wild would have an amazing character guy with natural leadership, superior hockey smarts, a willingness to work hard and sacrifice.
Not to mention, a nickname that seems tailor made to wear the C: the Spurgeon General.
Bill Guerin: “These are the type of people we want to play for the Minnesota Wild,” Guerin said about Spurgeon in an interview with The Athletic. “Character is huge to me, and this guy epitomizes that and you just don’t let guys like that go.”
Marcus Foligno: “The thing about Spurge is that he just says things at the right time and the right moment. Definitely a guy when he does speak up, everyone listens.”
Hockey Wilderness’ own Happy Rivard: