Posts Tagged ‘Mikael Granlund’


I’m going to answer this in the first sentence: No!

Not that I have anything against either of the players, but I believe that the best thing for the two would be is to have a long summer off. Koivu, the perennial captain of Minnesota Wild, didn’t have the easiest run in the playoffs and was shut down by the Blackhawks. It wouldn’t surprise me if there would be an announcement to say that Koivu has to undergo surgery in the post season. Urheilu-Lehti did a good piece on why Koivu should decline the opportunity to play for Finland at the World Championships, so and to be honest, I can’t say it any better. So I suggest you go to their pages and read the story (For the non-Finnish speakers through the power of Google Translate).

Mikael Granlund however, I think should be left alone for this year. Since that golden spring of 2011, he has been torn from one place to the next and last years’ world championships were not his sharpest, which I think in some respect hindered his rookie season in the NHL. For the past three years, Granlund has been under a magnifying glass and this is the first time that he can go into the summer with little or no media pressure. There are no stories of him being linked to this, that and the other Miss Finland candidate, there’s no stories about his airhook goal and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association has not had the chance to whore the World Championships with Granlund’s face plastered everywhere.

My advice to MG would be to stay in Minnesota/Houston until the world championships are done. Stay there and start training for next season. I have a feeling that the less Granlund is bothered by tabloids this summer, the better he will be, as he will have more time to prepare for the season, both physically and mentally. The last three years have been a whirlwind for the 20 year old and he surely needs his batteries fully charged.

I know there will be fans clamouring after Koivu and Granlund to come and play for Finland and be the saviours, but seriously, I don’t think that in the current mind frame of Koivu or Granlund they could act as the saviours everyone seems to perceive them as.

 

Edit @10:18 GMT: According to MTV3 in Finland, Finland will ask Mikko Koivu if he would like to join the team. I think it was inevitable that he was going to be asked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he declined. MTV3 also reported that Mikael Granlund will not be asked at this stage as Finland only has one roster spot available and want to offer it to Koivu. If Koivu says no, it would open up a door to Granlund.

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Following the Finland vs Kazakhstan game from last night, I didn’t do my own take on the game, simply because there was something that was bothering me about it. It wasn’t the game itself or the performance of the team, but one player in the roster. The player just so happens to be one of the most hotly talked about Finnish youngsters, Mikael Granlund.

 

Granlund’s year has been manic to say the least. From winning the SM-Liiga championship in 2011, accompanied by World Championship 2011 to Finnish national service, to his every move being followed, to Veikkaus using Granlund on his only real day off for 15 hours to shoot a commercial, to being the carrying force for HIFK to carrying the Finnish U-20 team. He has been asked about his airhook goal more than any one cares to remember.  However, last night, almost a year after he was put on a stamp and when he became every mom’s favourite son-in-law candidate, Mikael Granlund was benched. And I’m sad to say, it was the right call.

 

Prior to the World Championships, Granlund was out with a nasty bug but came back to the roster and was not at his own level. After the SM-Liiga season was done, Granlund was put on rest, which seemed to bring him back, but come the World Championships, he has been not at his own level.

 

Let me iterate that Granlund’s attitude is there. He wants to compete, he wants to win and he wants to play the game, but the sad fact is that it’s impossible to compete or play with your attitude alone and be at the top of your game, while your batteries are completely and utterly empty. Everything that Granlund has achieved, those achievements do take A LOT out of a player mentally and physically. On March 27th I wrote on http://pushforpros.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/mikael-granlund-and-that-damn-airhook-goal/  about some of the concerns that I had for Granlund. I still stand by the fact that people should’ve had alarm bells about the kid after the U-20 world championships. He looked tired and the media scrutiny at home over the missed penalty shot was shocking.

 

Going back, look at the year the kid has had! Do you think that with all the activities that he has had to endure, that he has had time to train properly. The sad fact is that Granlund has been driven to the ground and he is tired, despite what he says to the media. And speaking of which, no one gets asked such dumb questions as Granlund.

 

Looking at the Canada and USA games, it was the first time that Granlund played against his future opponents and he was invisible. Granlund wanted to show that he can play against the players on the NHL stage, but he was not able to, because he has nothing in his tank left to give. It has gotten to a point that a TSN commentator has now said “It looks like Granlund will play for IFK.”

Yes Granlund will be an NHL player, but in hindsight what would’ve been THE best thing for him this year, was to leave him out of the team and give him time to train properly and prepare for Minnesota Wild training camp. Granlund needs the hard training and good quality rest. After these performances, if it is the first time you’ve watched Granlund, you might ask yourself “This kid was drafted 9th overall?” The fact is that Granlund IS better than what we have seen from him this year.

 

I think that another part of the problem is the expectations that he carries on his shoulders. He was spectacular last year, in every competition he played in and that has set the bar for some that it is how he should play. Believe me, Granlund can play like that when he is fresh and when he is 100%. Because of the expectations, I think part of Granlund’s problem is psychological. I bet that somewhere in the back of his head he is thinking what kind of hype will the next play/goal/pass create. Another part of (a rather complex problem) is that he is trying too much. Last night we saw him try a pass to Jarkko Immonen twice on the power play. Immonen was on the side of the goal and could’ve done nothing but go behind the net. Why try the same move twice?

 

I think Granlund will still dress for Finland in this tournament, because he can play and I think he has the capability to bounce back, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he is the 13th forward for the Finnish team and is used sparingly.

 

For Granlund’s sake, I hope that after the World Championships are eventually done, that he is left alone to focus on what for what is best for his future and what is beckoning. Let the kid re-charge his batteries, let him spend time with family and friends and let him train and prepare and don’t bother him with moronic questions and ask him to do give 15 hours of his time to do a freaking TV advert.


The World Championships draw closer and obviously the team that I am most interested in following is the Finnish team. The team was published last night after the final Euro Hockey Tour game against Sweden, which Finland won 4-1.

 

The roster is as follows:

Goalies:

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

Karri Rämö, Avangard Omsk

Petri Vehanen, Ak Bars Kazan

Defence:

Juuso Hietanen, Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod

Topi Jaakola, Luulaja

Joonas Järvinen, Pelicans

Lasse Kukkonen, Metallurg Magnitogorsk

Mikko Mäenpää, Amur Habarovsk

Janne Niskala, Atlant Mytishi

Anssi Salmela, Avangard Omsk

Ossi Väänänen, Jokerit

Forwards:

Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings

Mikael Granlund, HIFK

Jarkko Immonen, Ak Bars Kazan

Jesse Joensuu, HV 71

Jussi Jokinen, Carolina Hurricanes

Niko Kapanen, Ak Bars Kazan

Tuomas Kiiskinen, KalPa

Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

Leo Komarov, Dinamo Moskova

Petri Kontiola, Traktor Tsheljabinsk

Janne Pesonen, HIFK

Antti Pihlström, Salavat Julajev Ufa

Mika Pyörälä, Frölunda

Jani Tuppurainen, JYP

 

Players that were cut from the roster include Petteri Nokelainen (Montreal Canadiens), Lennart Petrell (Edmonton Oilers), Pasi Puistola (HV71) and Ville Peltonen (HIFK). From the cut players I am surprised that Petteri Nokelainen, a member of last years championship winning team, was cut from the roster. Nokelainen could’ve easily filled the fourth line centre role. Nokelainen has carved himself a niche in faceoff and is an excellent two way player. His role in the Habs wasn’t a big one, but he did play to his role. Nokelainen was bugged by injury towards the end of the season so it could be that he has not fully recovered, leading to him not being at his peak, which is something that head coach Jukka Jalonen wants from all of his players.

 

Lennart Petrell is another surprise. When it was announced that he was to join the camp, I thought he was a shoe in and that the Finnish fourth line would consist of Leo Komarov – Petteri Nokelainen and Petrell. Petrell played his first season in the NHL this season just gone and provided the Oilers with some energy and also hit home a few goals. Petrell was never going to be a high scoring player in the NHL, but he possesses a great work ethic and is willing to put his body on the line for the team. Petrell was supposed to play in last years’ World Championships, but an ankle injury prevented him from taking part.

 

As for Ville Peltonen, I’m not surprised that he was left out. Peltonen is an icon in Finnish hockey, but in my opinion it was the right call to not include him in the roster. There is a crop of younger and equally good and hungrier players out there. I know Peltonen is hungry for success, but as the saying goes, it is time to let the kids play the game. Peltonen could’ve added leadership to the team, but to be honest, the roster as it stands has plenty of it.

 

I have confidence in Jalonen’s choices and ultimately it is responsibility how the team performs. However, being a couch coach, I probably would’ve not included Janne Pesonen and Antti Philstrom in the roster and would’ve brought in the afore mentioned NHL players (Nokelainen, Petrell). With Pesonen, he’s a decent player on all fronts, but something is missing. He had a good stint in the AHL with Wilkes Barre Scranton, but since then it sort of seems like his game has been a bit lost. He failed to make the Winnipeg Jets’ roster from the training camp and returned to HIFK and in light of statistics wasn’t anything spectacular.

 

With Philstrom, I’ve got two fold feelings of him. He is a great energy player and has probably the best set of wheels I’ve seen on any hockey player in years. Sometimes, however, I think his speed gets ahead of his thought. I was on the fence with him last year as well and I’ll continue to sit on it this year as well.

 

Goalies:

The goalie situation is something that Finnish fans shouldn’t have to worry about. There is an abundance of world class talent in the native SM-Liiga. If there isn’t a goalie there that is available, there’s always the KHL and a couple of nifty NHL goalies. Kari Lehtonen has been stellar the last two years and is starting to show the promise and skill we all knew he had. He has now had two injury free seasons and has been able to give Stars a chance night in, night out.

 

Vehanen is familiar from last year and was amazingly solid throughout the games last year. Last year I questioned his ability but he convinced me of his skill and ability. It will be an interesting fight between the two.

 

Ramo will likely be the third goalie in the games. He has been solid in the KHL and played OK behind a weak Tampa Bay defence a few years ago. He was one win away from the KHL championship. Should be able to challenge for a spot on the team should Vehanen or Lehtonen tank during the games.

 

Defence:

Rather unsurprisingly, not a single NHL defenceman in the roster. Then again the Finnish NHL defence man is a dying breed. Sami Lepisto declined to play this year, as did Sami Salo. Last year I thought our defence was weak on paper, but on the ice it executed relatively well, though there were one or two too many scary “holy c**p!” moments on the ice.

 

There are experienced players on the blue line and key pieces from last years’ team, which should ease things a little bit as majority of the defence is familiar with Jalonen’s playing style.

 

 I’ll probably get into trouble for saying this, but in my opinion, on paper the Finnish defensive roster is the weak point of the team again. It will mean that all the goalies have to bring their A-game night in, night out.

 

Forwards:

The forwards of the team consist of the core of last years’ champions and culminate in the leader of the team Mikko Koivu. In many people’s opinion (including mine) Koivu is the best Finnish forward. He is able to play both ends of the ice and like his brother, he is a natural leader who has such a passion for the game and most importantly, winning.

 

The forward crops has some familiar names, ensuring that the system is easier to implement this year. Names that are back from last years team include: Mikael Granlund, Jarkko Immonen, Jesse Joensuu, Niko Kapanen, Mikko Koivu, Leo Komarov, Janne Pesonen, Antti Philstrom.

 

The NHL additions of Valtteri Filppula and Jussi Jokinen, should bring more offence and puck control, specially in Filppula’s case to the roster. Let’s not forget that Jalonen prefers a puck control style of play.

 

One of the interesting (and at the same time sad cases) is how Mikael Granlund will perform. The youngster became an overnight sensation after last year and has been used for so many promotional activities and extras off the ice that it has bound to have taken its toll on the guy. I wrote earlier that the nation has unrealistic expectations for the kid and as much as it pains me, they will be waiting for something to top the airhook goal, which will not happen. I believe Granlund will be on top form, and play in a style that is borderline erotic (seriously, the things that the kid does with the puck and how he reads the game are unbelievable.)

 

Surprise names to me include Tuomas Kiiskinen and Jani Tuppurainen. Both have had strong seasons in the SM-Liiga and it will be interesting to see how the guys will respond to being chosen. I can’t say that much about their individual skill sets, but I’ll be following these two rather closely.

 

Overall? I think Finland will do OK. We have a tough group to start the games from, with the likes of USA and Canada in the same group, but you know what, I think we are within a shot of a medal. I doubt we will be able to get the gold, but I have a feeling that this will be the year that Finland will finish high in its home games. Hopefully there isn’t anything extra in the works that would distract the players from the job at hand.


Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Granlund’s and this article is not to criticise him, but rather look at how he has coped since rising to stardom in his native Finland.

 

Mikael Granlund, the supremely talented Finnish forward, has seen more column inches than any Finnish hockey player not playing in the NHL in recent years, or dare I say it decades. Granlund was known as a promising player and had garnered some international attention prior to his 9th overall draft pick by the Minnesota Wild.

 

It wasn’t until the 2011 World Championships that Mikael Granlund played himself to the knowledge of the entire hockey world and at the same time cursed himself with the amazing air-hook goal he scored against Russia in the semi-finals. I write cursed himself, only because it seems to be the only thing the Finnish media has been asking him for the past year and every time someone somewhere scores a similar goal and it goes viral, the press and in particular the tabloid press, pick up on it and say “Better airhook goal than Granlund’s.”

 

Yes Mikael Granlund is a super talent, and one like Finland has not had in a long while. He is a legitimate player that can bring something to the table at Minnesota right off the bat. Where he is not (yet) physically the size of some of the other players he will be playing against, he showed his fearlessness and determination in the Russia game in the World Championships when he finished hits against players such as Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuck. The only downside I can see with Granlud’s stature is that whether he will be able to take the hits in the NHL.

 

I’m not taking anything away from the professionals in the Finnish league, but I’m going to stick my neck out there and say that the NHL is far more physical and the hits far harder than they are in the SM-Liiga and how Granlund will cope with that remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that he has a history of concussion and missed significant amount of time last year when he mistimed a hit and crashed into the boards head first.

 

The latest topic of discussion around Granlund around the SM-Liiga playoffs has been whether or not he is tired. The young man has been used for PR duties and he has also played the world juniors, where he got a lot of criticism of his missed penalty shot at the crucial time. Hero one minute, villain the next. As a captain of the team, Granlund shouldered the responsibility of the loss, but it looked like it was all becoming too much for him.

 

Granlund has also missed a lot of time with the flu and as a result missed almost the latter part of the regular season and has only returned for the playoffs. After such a long time off with a persistent disease, Granlund has not been at his optimal level as has been pointed out by many hockey journalists in Finland.

 

After the playoffs eventually come to an end for HIFK, Granlund who was second in the point scoring race in the league, will likely be chosen to play for Team Finland in the World Championships. There’s nothing wrong with being chosen for the team, its just that the games are in Finland. After last years’ triumph I can expect that the media will be on the players like piranhas and every move will be scrutinised on the ice by respectable journalists and those who are only looking for stories on how drunk the players got and what Miss Finland contestant they are dating. My advice to the latter would be not to bother. You’ll do a bigger favour to the team by staying at home and let the team do what they are there to do; play hockey.

 

In nearly every video interview I’ve seen of Granlund of late, he is visibly agitated by the interviews as he has to answer same questions over and over again “Something something about airhook goal?” “How tired are you?” “How much fun is it to play hockey”. I can only expect that the media interest will get higher as the games get closer and Granlund is already losing some amount of sleep over it. The kid is under huge pressure, specially if he is chosen for the World Championships team. The coach Jukka Jalonen has been good on the front that he hasn’t overloaded Granlund with the (in my view) insignificant Euro Hockey Tour games.

 

Which actually leaves Jalonen with a tricky call. Name Granlund to the team even if he is tired and still recovering from the flu bug and not at peak condition, or leave him out and give him time to rest. If the latter, Jalonen might be crucified by the fans and if MG is not at 100% shape, will the fans and so on crucify him for playing sub par?

Granlund has always been a level headed player and is so much fun to watch on the ice. In fact, looking at pictures or videos of him on the ice, show that he is truly happy to be out there. There are no outside distractions and its just pure enjoyment for hockey. To me there are more brilliant plays than the airhook goal. Granted some of the moves/plays have not lead to a goal, but the kid is not afraid to try something new. He is super creative on the ice.

 

As and when he does make the move to the NHL, and if the Minnesota Wild website is anything to go by, he will be in the show next season. There will be media interest from the local press as well as that on a national scale, but Granlund, to a greater extent is an unknown in the league. Sure people have seen what he is capable of, but he is still a rookie in the league.

 

For some reason, I have a feeling that Granlund will actually relish the move across the pond, if for nothing else, he wouldn’t have to answer any more inane questions about the damn airhook goal.