After re-signing with the Ducks this past offseason, Saku Koivu finally went home and got his moment in front of the Montreal crowd. When he first came to Anaheim as a free agent, and on a one-year contract, many assumed that one of Koivu's goals was to prove that he still had it and that, by extension, the Canadiens were wrong to leave him out of their new plans and their new direction.
Daniel, measuring the man upon his return home, did Saku Koivu prove the Montreal management wrong about him?
I don't know what Koivu has done since he got here except, provide key secondary scoring, be a rock on the Penalty Kill, be a leader to young guys like Sexton, provide class and credibility for an organization that has struggled to do that over the years, work hard in the corners, be tenacious in front of the net...*breathe*...provide consistent efforts for an inconsistent team, take key face offs, and play well in key late game situations. That list isn't even complete.
Sarcasm aside, Koivu has plenty left in the tank and Anaheim fans have loved every minute he's played for us. I think we've been blessed to have him here, and the Ducks' ability to gather some all time greats has been great for hockey in Orange County. I don't like to think of it as proving the Canadiens wrong. It just doesn't seem to suit Koivu's personality. Then again, I'm sentimental. Having Koivu has been great, he's ended the second-line-center merry-go-round that has cursed this team since it shipped Andy McDonald to St. Louis for Doug Weight. Koivu can still play at a high level; he doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, and that's why we all love him.
Well, I think a player is looking to prove it to himself as much as anyone else when the organization with which he spent his entire professional career declines to extend him a contract.
Based purely on results, you could argue Montreal was right. Koivu was a Top Six player on a team that watched the playoffs from home, and the Canadiens went to the Conference Finals. But based on the totality of circumstances, we all know Koivu was the most consistent player in a comatose Ducks lineup last year and that the Canadiens snuck into the postseason dance and Halak'd a few people.
Of all the things you listed, I have to say that the value of Koivu as a leader and maybe a teacher has been immensely important. Any team going in a "new direction" can use a locker room presence like Koivu, whether it's to gel the new players or bring the younger players along. Add that to the compete level he shows on the ice, and you have a player any coach would love to have. That's not to say Montreal could have kept him on the books, but seeing what he still has to offer, you have to believe there's some regret that they didn't work something out.