Is it always wrong to stereotype human beings?
Are we allowed to call Finns stoic, if only because their national identity was borne of gritting teeth while enduring harsh winters and Russian sieges?
Would it be offensive to note that Finns are like Gophers fans because they battle frostbite and red threats to the East?
On Wednesday, one of Minnesota’s favorite Finns, Mikael Granlund, joined a conference call to discuss his new three-year, $17.25 million contract with the Wild. He related this hilarious exchange between himself and countryman Mikko Koivu.
Koivu called to say congratulations and, “You’re paying for the next dinner.”
Granlund chuckled. Wait until he hears Koivu’s new knock-knock joke at training camp.
Granlund and Koivu rarely have much to say. They’re gentlemen who don’t believe in locker room talk, even in the locker room.
So Granlund didn’t reveal much on the conference call. He did say he hopes the Wild can “do some damage” in future playoffs.
Most of the people on the call were Minnesotans so, if stereotyping is allowed, we can note that they were too polite to say, “It’s up to you now.”
After a flurry of midseason and off-season moves, the Wild recently signed Nino Niederreiter and Granlund to long-term deals
The Wild looks like a weaker team today than it was entering the playoffs, and that team wasn’t good enough to win two games against the St. Louis Blues.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher traded for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, then lost both in free agency. He traded Jason Pominville, who was overpaid but useful, and Marco Scandella, one of the team’s better defensemen during the postseason, for Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis.
Hockey is mysterious and the playoffs are enigmatic so there exists the chance that Fletcher could fail to improve the team and it could succeed anyway. Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last year was a surprise.
But if the next Wild team is to be anywhere near as successful as last year’s during the regular season, Granlund and Niederreiter will have to stop being promising and start being stars.
Koivu is 34. Zach Parise is 33. Ryan Suter is 32. Eric Staal is 32. Koivu and Staal have birthdays during the season.
Sometime in the near future, Granlund, Niederreiter and Jared Spurgeon will be this team’s best players. That status doesn’t just mean more money. It means more responsibility.
“I think we have a really good core of guys and some really good young guys coming in,” Granlund said. “I’m really excited about the season, and hopefully we can make a deeper playoff run next season.”
Fletcher has desperately tried to build a championship team. From giving Parise and Suter 13-year contracts with built-in obsolescence to trading draft picks to making deadline deals, Fletcher has banked on his young “core” players being good enough to make the Wild winners while Suter, Parise and Koivu are effective, and good enough to make up for a shallow pool of organizational talent.
That plan could work, if Devan Dubnyk plays his best during the playoffs and Nino and Granny — which is what Granlund called himself during the conference call — start carrying more weight.
Granlund led the team with 69 points last year, but his skill should produce more than the 26 goals he scored last year.
Niederreiter produced 25 goals and 57 points last year. Not bad for a promising player, not good enough for a franchise leader.
You may be able to count on Granlund and Niederreiter to produce to a certain level, but they have yet to attain the status of players who can carry a team.
It’s time for them to take over. One look at the Wild’s roster, or their new contracts, tells you that.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org