Anaheim Calling to the hockey world...
We don't like to brag, but . . . pretty sure we called it. And we called it in May, weeks before Beauchemin blurbed about the possibility in an interview.
TSN is reporting that Saku Koivu has signed with Anaheim, and as I learned this morning (when he screamed it into my ear), Arthur called the contract (1 yr / 3.25M), damn near exactly.
Despite the doubts I raised about Koivu in our original post, I'm extremely excited to see what Anaheim can do with two legitimate scoring lines, and what Selanne will be like when he's on a line with someone who knows how to play with him. Arthur, you said that Koivu was the marquee center on the free agent market, which means Anaheim has vastly improved their depth up the middle. Obviously, a character guy like Koivu changes a lot of things for the Ducks. So Arthur, what does Koivu change for the Ducks' offense, and where should Anaheim fans expect to be disappointed by Koivu's game?
First, I have to reiterate: Called It! Yes, it was more logic than anything else, but I still called it. And yes, as I screamed, I got the salary right:
"Ideally, Koivu comes in at a discount (3/3.75M) on a one-year deal to play with Selanne."
Shameless gloating aside, this is the first time in years that the Ducks have agreed with me. Every offseason, it seems, I pick out a free agent for them to ignore. Last year, it was Mark Streit. The year before that, it was Sheldon Souray. And this year, it was Saku Koivu. I am shocked to be getting what I want, for once.
And I think the positives of signing Koivu have increased since we traded for Joffrey Lupul. Daniel, I know you were worried about having a "shoot now, look for options later" guy like Lupul on a line with Selanne, but I think Koivu addresses a lot of your concerns there. He's going to be judicious with the puck, and ration the rubber to his two finishers, not to mention Whitney's big shot on the blueline. And Koivu's reliable on the dot, ensuring his line starts with the puck. He essentially transforms the Ducks 2nd line (which had been a human chemistry set since McDonald left) into a truly skilled scoring unit.
Koivu also brings serious heart and leadership to the table. During his captaincy in Montreal, he knew exactly when to throw a hit, when to retaliate, when to force the issue and when to skate away. He'll be a calming force on open ice plays, and a cagey vet in the trenches. That reliability will guarantee Koivu and Selanne more ice-time i.e. more time to play tape-to-tape catch all over the Western Conference defenders.
So, where are the holes in the old man's game? Defense. That's a pretty big hole. As a veteran, he knows angles that may have escaped his fellow 5'10" predecessors (Ebbett and McDonald), but he isn't a ferocious backchecker. In fact, no one on that line is. It should be called the NBC line. Not that the Ducks have asked for defense from their 2nd line in recent years, but they surely won't be getting it next year. You can also cite injuries as a possible downside, especially on a one-year contract, but I wouldn't list that as a likely disappointment.
At the end of the day, Anaheim adds a veteran playmaking center for 3.25M. He'll be great with Selanne and Lupul. He'll be great on the power play. Of course, he might occasionally get caught in his own zone, but Ebbett wasn't exactly shutting down the house defensively.
First, I think Anaheim fans should get used to seeing a happy Selanne. But more importantly, Koivu's a natural centerman who can run a line. He's organized, and he's and a genuine puck distributor, who'll be flanked by two guys that love to put the puck into the net. He's also fast enough to keep up with Selanne on the rush, and a happy Selanne is a 40-goal scorer.
But what makes me even more excited is that our power play is now possibly unstoppable. Alright, maybe not unstoppable, but between Getzlaf and Koivu, you have to expect to win most of those offensive zone faceoffs. And it doesn't matter which line we throw out. It'll be PP line 1 and 1A with Whitney and Niedermayer at the point. I'm still concerned about who will be the second D on the power play with Wisniewski, but that's not Koivu's fault.
I know you said it, but I'll say it too. Koivu is nothing but heart. There might have been a little bit of disappointment in his performance towards the end, but the man never complained. He always played hard, and Anaheim fans can expect that from him.
Unfortunately, Koivu is an injury liability. He's been hurt a lot over his career, and he isn't getting any younger. Recently, he's been more durable, but we play rough and it's something fans should anticipate. Also, let's not kid ourselves. Koivu is 5'10''. Against Joe Thornton, Anze Kopitar or any center with size in the league, it could get ugly. Koivu is a also -10 for his career. It's not that the guy is a defensive liability. It's just that he tends to find himself in bad situations where the puck ends up in the back of the net.
Finally, despite all the good things Koivu can do for us, he is not a big time scorer. Anaheim fans shouldn't expect him to post a 100-point season, after all he's never had one in his career. He's a solid puck distributor, and while the 70-80 points he'll put up this year will be more than we've had from that second line slot since we gave away McDonald, people shouldn't think he's a permanent fix. He'll solidify our scoring, but he might not put up career numbers. And the real advantage won't be his numbers. It'll be the threat that the second line now poses, which frees up space for the top line to do more damage.