Mariah Holland The Hockey Writers
Wild Getting Leadership, But Not Points, From Captain Spurgeon
The Minnesota Wild have been having quite a bit of success so far this season, with a record of 18-10-1 for 37 points in 29 games and tied for third place in the Honda West Division as of Saturday evening. Much of that success has come from forwards Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala, and of course the goaltending tandem of Kaapo Kahkonen and Cam Talbot.
A chunk of that success also goes to players who don’t get many scoring opportunities — rather they’re the ones trying to prevent them. One such player is defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon.
Being Named Captain (The Upside)
Spurgeon was the most obvious choice for the next Wild captain once it was announced that Mikko Koivu would not be returning. Of course, names like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and even Marcus Foligno came up in conversation, but none of them fit the bill as Spurgeon could.
He’s younger than both Suter and Parise, meaning he’ll hopefully be with the Wild longer and he has more experience with the team than Foligno. He’s very similar in style to Koivu, leading by example and consistently working hard.
His game really emulates that of Koivu in the fact that he’s a silent leader, letting his play do the talking. Clearly, being named captain was an upside to this season when there seemed to be so many downsides with everything going on with the pandemic. However, it hasn’t translated as well to his overall game other than his blocked shots.
One specific way he is helping direct the team is by blocking a lot of shots. He’s second on the team just behind fellow defenseman Jonas Brodin. Spurgeon has blocked a total of 51 shots so far this season with Brodin at 55. Those two have battled for the top spot in blocked shots the last couple of seasons.
Team Progress Report
Twenty-nine games in, it seems everyone has made a seamless adjustment to Spurgeon being captain and the team appears to be getting along quite well. They’ve managed to have a great amount of success with Kaprizov’s rookie season heading towards a potential Calder Trophy win. Fiala and Zuccarello have found some scoring drive and even the goaltending has picked up.
Their goalies have stepped up big after the departure of native Minnesotan Alex Stalock. Kahkonen and Talbot have made some tremendous saves and helped secure their 18 wins so far. Spurgeon has been there to see it all and lead them through each uplifting win and crushing loss. Team-wise, as a captain, Spurgeon is doing a great job. His area of struggle is getting points.
Not Like Last Season (The Downside)
This season Spurgeon has only tallied six points in the 28 games he’s played in, missing one game due to an upper-body injury he suffered prior to their two-week COVID-19 pause. Only one of those points is a goal while the other five are assists. Compare that to last season and it shows quite a dramatic difference. In the 62 games, he played last season he had 32 points; he had a point in over half of the games he played in.
He may be heading in the right direction, just at a slower rate than everyone would hope for. Four out of his six points came after their two-week pause including two in their last five games. However, he has no points on the power play, a shocking difference from last season. He scored 13 points while a man up last season, which equaled almost half of his total points.
The pressure of being captain may not be showing outright, but it may be affecting his game as he’s not a defenseman that’s known for having low-scoring seasons. In the last five seasons, including the shortened 2019-20 season, he averaged 29 or more points including a career-high 43 points in 2018-19.
This season has gone well for the team as a whole so far, but individually Spurgeon is struggling to find the back of the net. That’s not all bad being he is a defenseman and they typically are not famous for scoring a lot of points. However, he’s not a typical defenseman as stated before — he is known for scoring quite a few points.
Something is clearly going on that is affecting his game, either that or he’s just landed on a scoring drought. He’s leading the team well in his very first captain role, but the Wild could really use his scoring talents to get them back into the win column after their two disappointing losses to the Colorado Avalanche.
He’ll have his chance to get back on the scoreboard in their upcoming home series against the Anaheim Ducks, where one of his points came earlier in the season. He’ll need to help the team put these past two games behind them and focus on moving forward.
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