This week’s match features an all-Finland battle of Valtteri Filppula vs. Mikko Koivu. Let’s find out which of these veterans is the better own for your team.


Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Koivu (who just turned 31) was the 6th overall selection in the 2001 draft, and made his NHL debut in 2005-06 after spending a few seasons playing in Finland and then one campaign in the AHL. Filppula (who just turned 30) was the 95th overall pick in 2002 and likewise played in Finland, followed by a year of AHL seasoning, before becoming an NHL regular for 2006-07.

Although Koivu began his NHL career a season earlier than Filppula, he’s only played in 42 more games due to injury issues (more on that below). To date, neither player has cracked the 75 point plateau, with Koivu having been the more consistent performer (three 60+ point seasons) while Filppula has come on stronger of late, with a 66 point season in 2011-12 and production right around that pace through 70 games this season.

As of April 1st, Filppula was owned in 63% of Yahoo leagues, compared to 54% for Koivu. And while Koivu is only eligible as a center, Filppula has center and left wing positional eligibility, which one would think he’d beneficially retain into 2014-15.

Koivu is in his third season of a seven year contract with a $6.75M yearly cap hit (18th highest among forwards this season), while Filppula is on year one of a five year deal with a cap hit of only $5M per season (not even in the top 50 for NHL forwards). This means Filppula will be a 25% bargain over Koivu in salary cap leagues through 2017-18.


Ice Time (2013-14 through March 31st)

I don’t expect a lot of variation for Koivu, who’s been a top Wild forward for many years. But for Filppula, it’ll be interesting to see how his this season compares to his past three in Detroit, and to look closely at the data for 2011-12 (when he scored ten more points in 81 games than he did in 112 combined games for Detroit in 2010-11 and 2012-13).



Total Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time (with rank among team’s forwards)


21:09 (MK) – 1st

19:59 (VF) – 3rd

3:28 (MK) – 1st

3:17 (VF) – 3rd

1:26 (MK) – 4th

1:00 (VF) – 7th


21:05 (MK) – 1st

17:46 (VF) – 4th

3:29 (MK) – 1st

2:43 (VF) – 5th

1:34 (MK) – 3rd

0:36 (VF) – 8th


21:21 (MK) – 1st

18:15 (VF) – 3rd

3:31 (MK) – 1st

2:27 (VF) – 5th

1:43 (MK) – 1st

0:54 (VF) – 7th


19:29 (MK) – 1st

16:43 (VF) – 4th

3:13 (MK) – 1st

2:01 (VF) – 7th

1:49 (MK) – 4th

0:39 (VF) – 7th


Sure enough Koivu was the leader in overall and PP Ice Time among Minnesota forwards for all four seasons, even including this year, which has seen the well-publicized emergence of Mikael Granlund, the Wild’s first rounder (ninth overall) in 2010. But closer examination of 2013-14 trends suggests that things might be poised to change, as Koivu had averaged 22:00+ in November/December, but finished at only 19:54 for March, while Granlund averaged above 18:00 over December, January, and March, and saw his Ice Time rise to 19:55 when Koivu was injured in February. On the plus side, Koivu’s SH Ice Time has decreased each year and his PP Ice Time has held steady.

All things considered I think that Koivu will still command significant Ice Time in the coming seasons (his large cap hit and captaincy will see to that), but I also wouldn’t be surprised if his overall and PP Ice Time might not ever reach 2013-14 levels again.

There are no big surprises in Filppula’s past numbers, as sure enough his overall Ice Time in 2011-12 was higher than his other two most recent seasons in Detroit. And his Ice Time numbers are up considerably in Tampa, especially on the PP. In fact, his Ice Time for March (21:04) was the highest he received in any month this season, suggesting he’s been a beneficiary of Martin St. Louis having left town and wasn’t adversely affected by the return of Steven Stamkos.


Secondary Categories (2013-14 through March 30th)




PIMs (per game)


(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)


(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

Face-off % and FOW per game


0.37 (MK)

0.26 (VF)

0.49 (MK)

0.46 (VF)

0.49 (MK)

0.44 (VF)

2.24 (MK)

1.75 (VF)

0.27 (MK)

0.27 (VF)

55.2%/11.17 (MK)

52.0%/9.10 (VF)


0.54 (MK)

0.14 (VF)

0.98 (MK)

0.39 (VF)

0.37 (MK)

0.29 (VF)

2.64 (MK)

1.90 (VF)

0.27 (MK)

0.07 (VF)

54.0%/10.91 (MK)

55.4%/4.36 (VF)


0.51 (MK)

0.17 (VF)

1.13 (MK)

0.52 (VF)

0.38 (MK)

0.28 (VF)

2.34 (MK)

1.78 (VF)

0.27 (MK)

0.13 (VF)

52.3%/10.67 (MK)

51.7% /2.38 (VF)


0.70 (MK)

0.31 (VF)

0.89 (MK)

0.42 (VF)

0.41 (MK)

0.35 (VF)

2.69 (MK)

1.62 (VF)

0.31 (MK)

0.11 (VF)

52.8%/9.62 (MK)

51.5%/6.73 (VF)


There are trouble spots here for Koivu, including his Shots average for this season being lower than any of the previous three and his Hits average being down by 50% over his average from the past three seasons. His PIMs rate is down as well, though not by as much. On the plus side, his PP points average is holding steady, and his Blocked Shots and Faceoff stats are both up slightly.

For Filppula this season, Hits, Shots, PIMs, Faceoff %, and Blocked Shots are generally comparable to past seasons, but PP points and FOW are way up. It’s somewhat odd that he’s scoring at a similar overall points per game pace this season as in 2011-12 despite the fact that he’s more than doubled his PP points per game versus 2011-12 and is receiving nearly 45 seconds more PP Ice Time per game. It makes you wonder if luck has factored into his (and Koivu’s) stats? Let’s find out…..


Luck-Based Metrics

One way to help predict future performance is to see how lucky players have been in recent seasons, since of course the luckier they were the less likely they are to end up with comparable (let alone better) production in the future. And of course the flip side is if they’ve been particularly unlucky, then it’s all the more likely that they’ll fare better in coming seasons.

Most of these metrics - measured at 5x5 - have appeared in this column before; but now I’m adding IPP, which stands for “Individual Points Percentage” and measures how often the player earned a point when a goal was scored while he was on the ice during 5x5. For example, if 100 goals were scored at 5X5 while a particular player was on the ice and he has 22 goals and 45 assists for the season at 5X5, then his 5x5 IPP would be 67%. The higher the percentage – especially compared to his teammates – the luckier he is/was.



Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting Percentage




7.6% (MK)

20.3% (VF)

7.67% (MK)

8.95% (VF)

970 (MK)

1003 (VF)

77.4% (MK)

73.8% (VF)


8.7% (MK)

11.5% (VF)

6.65% (MK)

5.94% (VF)

975 (MK)

979 (VF)

75.0% (MK)

72.2% (VF)


9.3% (MK)

16.0% (VF)

8.53% (MK)

11.50% (VF)

1020 (MK)

1035 (VF)

68.0% (MK)

77.3% (VF)


8.9% (MK)

13.9% (VF)

9.30% (MK)

9.41% (VF)

1013 (MK)

1010 (VF)

88.6% (MK)

72.5% (VF)


There’s no bad news for Koivu here, other than perhaps the jaw dropping 88.6% IPP figure for 2010-11. But that was three years ago, and it’s especially encouraging to see that he’s still managed to score at a 68 point pace this season despite very low shooting percentage (personal and team) numbers and a PDO that’s at the very lowest end of the “normal” PDO range (i.e., 970-1030). This suggests Koivu likely is not in line for a points dip in the near future…..provided he can indeed maintain top Ice Time.

For Filppula, this year’s metrics are somewhat reassuring in that his PDO is in the middle of the normal range, as opposed to 2011-12 when it was 1035, which helps explain some of the unanswered questions I had above about scoring pace.

But here’s the big problem for Filppula – his lifetime personal shooting % is 13.9%, and his only 60+ point pace seasons saw him put up a number above that. This season in particular is troubling, as his current 25 goal tally would be only 17 if he was shooting at 13.9! And if you subtract those eight goals, then he’s no longer scoring at a 60+ point pace for this season. It’s also notable to see that his IPP was highest for his two most productive seasons, which is not ideal. Maybe it’s premature to consider him a proven producer?



Filppula has been a far cry from injury free, as only twice has he played 80+ games in a season. That being said, he also had only one season where he missed more than 11 games. Things clearly have not gone as well for Koivu, as this will be the fourth time he’s missed 15+ games. That’s enough of an injury track record for Koivu to have rightfully earned his place on the DobberHockey list of Band-Aid Boys.


Who Wins?

When I started researching and writing this column, I was pretty sure the outcome would be that the “writing is on the wall” for Koivu, and that Filppula’s had turned a corner which would allow him to be counted upon for 60+ point production in the coming years. But to my surprise, it turned out that neither of those presumptions was confirmed.

Sure enough, it looks like Koivu is poised for at least a few more seasons of reliable production (If he manages to stay healthy). He’s remained consistent in many important areas, and clearly hasn’t lucked his way into his production (if anything, he’s been unlucky this season). Plus, as we’ve seen with a number of teams (Boston, St. Louis, San Jose, Colorado, and of course Pittsburgh), there is room in today’s NHL for a team to have two productive centers who both receive significant Ice Time. So even if Mikael Granlund was to continue to improve in the coming seasons, there still should be room for Koivu to produce, especially given the minutes he’s bound to receive in view of his cap hit and captaincy.

Meanwhile, there are trouble signs with Filppula, in terms of especially high personal shooting percentage this season, a very high PDO and a somewhat elevated personal shooting percentage in his other most productive season, a somewhat elevated IPP in both of these seasons. Plus, just as Koivu sees Granlund when he looks over his shoulders, let’s not forget that Filppula will have to contend with phenom in waiting Jonathan Drouin sooner rather than later.

Plus, when it comes to the offseason and next year’s fantasy league drafts, I’m concerned that Filppula’s value will artificially jump. I see people dwelling on his likely unsustainable 2013-14 output and even penciling him in for increased production, especially since they might talk themselves into the possibility of him possibly playing with Stamkos in 2014-15 despite the two of them barely having skated together during at even strength this season (less than 5% according to Frozen Pool).

With Koivu, the opposite might occur in that he could be unfairly and prematurely devalued in the eyes of your league-mates due to Granlund’s emergence. In the end, although it was pretty close – especially given Filppula’s dual position eligibility - Koivu narrowly wins this Cage Match battle.




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