Is Saku Koivu Finished as a Montreal Canadien?

Charles L. GareCorrespondent IApril 24, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 02:  Saku Koivu #11 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the New York Islanders on April 2, 2009 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens' Saku Koivu has played every game of his NHL career with the Canadiens, and even at 5'10" has proved to be a wonderful centre.

Saku was born November 23, 1974, in Turku Finland. He shoots left and was a first-round pick (21st overall) by the Canadiens in 1993.

Saku has played 11 seasons for the Habs.

In October, Koivu led the Canadiens with a plus-nine rating, and in March he scored two game-winning goals. During this season, Koivu played in 65 games, had 16 goals and 34 assists with a total of 50 points with a plus-four rating.

In the four playoff games against the Bruins, Saku had no goals and three assists, for a total of three points and a minus-one rating. His goals for the season overall tie him at 149th, his assists tie him at 79th, and his point ties him at 103rd.

Saku is now 34 years old.

On September 30, 1999, Saku was named the 27th Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, and was the first European-born captain in the history of the Canadiens.

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After six seasons in the NHL, Koivu was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in September 2001, and missed practically the entire 2001-02 season. He made an amazing recovery and was able to return for the playoffs, leading the Canadiens to an unlikely first-round upset of the number one-ranked Boston Bruins.

For his courage and off-ice team leadership while undergoing cancer treatment, he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy following the 2002 playoffs. He followed up in the 2002-03 season by scoring his career best single-season point total to date with 71 (21 goals, 50 assists).

In the 2004-05 lockout year, Saku returned to Finland.  He played under his father as head coach in the Finnish professional ice hockey league, along with his friend Craig Rivet.

The 2006-07 season was Koivu's personal best he had a total 22 goals and 53 assists in 81 games, totaling 75 points, scoring his 500th point as a NHL player that season. He also received the King Clancy award that year, as his Saku Koivu foundation was set up for its role in fighting cancer.

In October 2007 Saku was criticized by a nationalist lawyer Guy Bertrand for not being able to speak French. Koivu, who is fluent in English, Finnish, and Swedish, spoke limited French and was shy about using it in public. He responded to the remarks with the comment, "I'm not perfect."

Saku has proven over his years with the Canadiens that he is a battler.  He beat cancer and came back to join the Habs in beating Boston. He  received a serious eye injury in April 2006 playoff game against the Carolina Hurricanes, following up the next year with eye surgery, and and has remained as a player to this day.

I feel that Saku Koivu has been a great addition to the Montreal Canadiens with his ability to fight through much bigger forwards and defence-man and lead the Habs effectively.

It has been said that Saku would like to finish his career playing with his brother Mikko in Minnesota with the Wild. I believe as a centreman he would be a better fit perhaps as a third liner for the Canadiens, taking a lot of the pressure off of him.

Saku, as far as I'm concerned, has more than shown his value to the NHL hockey and Montreal, and it is my hope as one of his biggest's fan's that he will return to the Canadiens. If Bob Gainey could get some bigger forwards to replace Koivu on the first line, Saku would be able to continue in his capacity as leader of this team.

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