Saku Koivu is going to get a lot of easy faceoff wins this season.
With all the festivities surrounding the Montreal Canadiens’ 100th season, the Habs captain will be taking his fair share of ceremonial draws. Regardless of his mood before a game, there will be lots of smiling and handshaking as Koivu guides his team through this very unique year.
And don’t underestimate his role as the rudder of this team as it navigates through a distraction-filled season. To be honest, I think too much is made about how the Canadiens could wilt under the pressure of sky-high expectations this year. Standards are always high in Montreal, often unrealistically so, and I don’t see this season as being that much of a departure from others.
But there certainly will be more demands on players’ time and more things happening around them to take their minds off the task at hand. Koivu, who’s a great captain, will be responsible for shouldering much of the load when it comes to extra-curricular activities related to the anniversary celebrations. He’s also duty-bound to draw his teammates’ focus back to where it should be any time one of them is wavering.
This season is a special one for the Habs, but it’s also a unique time in Koivu’s career itself. He’s in his 10th season as Canadiens’ captain, tying him with the legendary Jean Beliveau for the longest tenure with the ‘C.’ But he’s never played beyond the second round of the playoffs. He’ll be 34 in November and, like many of his teammates, can become a free agent at season’s end.
Koivu’s profile has shrunk somewhat in recent years as the likes of Alex Kovalev, Andrei Markov and Carey Price nab their share of the spotlight. But he’s still a very important part of this team and after a year in which he never really found consistency with any of his linemates, there’s hope he and Alex Tanguay can combine to form a deadly 1A line for the Habs.
The Canadiens are looking to scale a demanding mountain this year and they’ll need their captain at his best every step of the way to reach the top.
This article also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blognormally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.
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