So the latest talk is trading Koivu away. While this makes a modicum of sense if the return is someone along the lines of Vinny, I for one cannot see it taking place. You can question his skill set, or his physical size, but I think it’s shortsighted, even ludicrous to question the heart and passion this Finn brings to the rink. In the past 3 years I have not missed one Habs game, believe me I suffered through some real stinkers in that time, but I have rarely thrown my hands up in disgust at the play of Saks. That honor is something I did on a nightly basis with the likes of Kovalev and for that matter, Souray trying to get out of the defensive zone.
Saku plays beyond his size, one need only look at the way this team plummeted when Saks eye was nearly taken out by Williams, and conversely see how the team rallied around his return from cancer to win the last three games and make the playoffs. This team simply plays better when he is in the lineup. Beyond that, his numbers aren't bad either.
Take just this past year for example, a career year for Saks. 22 goals, 53 assists on a team that lacked offensive punch, not from lack of skill on the team, but from the one fore-checker up, defense over offense system they were playing. This from a guy who from one night to the next was never sure who his wingers would be. The past year was marred only by a -11 rating, but this represents only the 4th time in his career that he has had a negative rating, again, I feel this has more to do with the system than the player. And while this team did not make the playoffs this year, Saku has never in his career had a negative rating in the playoffs.
I have great respect for Saku for his personal battles, but I also have great respect for him on the ice. Saku is not the problem in Montreal; you need only look at the way he and Selanne tear it up internationally to know that given a good winger, Saku can elevate to a higher level. Kovalev was thought to be the solution to this by me, and by others, however this past season we rarely saw the pair on the ice together.
Trading Saku is not the solution in Montreal, getting some gritty and skilled winger to play with Saks and Higgins would do far more, given the cap room it looks like the Habs may have this season, there is no reason a push can't be made for that type of player as a UFA.
If Saks requested a trade, given that he has already publicly stated he doesn’t want to be a part of a "rebuilding" team for another year, then I wish him all the best. Any team that does land him, you are getting far more than you may think and will come to appreciate the Captain as many of us now do.