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How should the Habs honour Saku?


kinot-1

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His accomplishments are well known. My suggestion would be in the Ring Of Honour.



He played 14 years here, with ten of those as captain.

He tied the great Jean Belivieu for longest tenure as captain.

He created the Saku Koivu Foundation in collaboration with the MGH Foundation as his way to “give back” to the community in appreciation for the excellent medical and nursing care he received during his battle with cancer.

He was the first European captain of the Habs.

He never put up great numbers, the most being 75, but he never took a day or shift off either.

In my view, he was one of the top three classiest captains in Habs history

I remember the press saying when he was drafted, that he was the best player in the world not playing in the NHL.

If anyone has any doubts as how much Saku was loved in Montreal, you need only to watch this clip, as he was named 3rd star of his last game in Montreal.


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Old enough here to have seen many of Montreal's best, and although he's never taken us to the holy grail he will certainly be remembered as one of the most loved players in Hab history along with the greats. Ring of honour for sure. I'd like to see us retire the number, but i have strong doubts that will ever happen, so ROH is the next best option.

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We've had this discussion before, but I'll reiterate what I've said in the past: I believe Saku should have his number retired by the Habs, although I don't believe he's good enough to be in the HHOF. To me, the former is an honor bestowed upon players who showed great value or significance to their respective clubs, whereas the latter requires a player to have been productive, either as a point producer or a key contributor to Cup wins.

In Saku's case, he was IMO the best player of his generation in a Habs uniform. He had longevity here in an era where very few players stay with their teams for that long, never mind being a captain for that long. He was well loved by his teammates and by fans as both a player and as a person off the ice, and to me, that counts for something. Those who argue Saku shouldn't have his number retired argue that Saku never won a Cup and that his numbers weren't as good as the players we had in the 50's, 60's, or 70's. But frankly, many of the Habs' cups were won in an era where there were many fewer teams in the league and even fewer who were actually competitive to win. It doesn't mean winning a championship wasn't an accomplishment, but winning a Cup in the past two decades is much harder than it was 50 years ago. Saku also played in the trap era, where scoring was low and where one really can't compare productivity to what it was even 5-10 years before he started playing. Before his major knee injury, Saku was leading the league in points, and he's a player who battled through a major knee injury, serious eye injury, and of course cancer. He was the heart of the team, and as was noted, he was pretty clutch in the playoffs and in games down the stretch that mattered.

So basically to me, it's moot to compare his career to that of Richard or Lafleur or even Gainey. Saku was as valuable to this team as Sundin was to the Leafs or Alfredsson to the Sens or Linden to the Canucks, and you won't find much argument in Toronto or Ottawa or Vancouver about whether their numbers should be retired. I'm fine with the Habs starting with the ROH, but I think in 5-10 years, this team needs to be pulling Koivu's jersey into the rafters.

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We've had this discussion before, but I'll reiterate what I've said in the past: I believe Saku should have his number retired by the Habs, although I don't believe he's good enough to be in the HHOF. To me, the former is an honor bestowed upon players who showed great value or significance to their respective clubs, whereas the latter requires a player to have been productive, either as a point producer or a key contributor to Cup wins.

In Saku's case, he was IMO the best player of his generation in a Habs uniform. He had longevity here in an era where very few players stay with their teams for that long, never mind being a captain for that long. He was well loved by his teammates and by fans as both a player and as a person off the ice, and to me, that counts for something. Those who argue Saku shouldn't have his number retired argue that Saku never won a Cup and that his numbers weren't as good as the players we had in the 50's, 60's, or 70's. But frankly, many of the Habs' cups were won in an era where there were many fewer teams in the league and even fewer who were actually competitive to win. It doesn't mean winning a championship wasn't an accomplishment, but winning a Cup in the past two decades is much harder than it was 50 years ago. Saku also played in the trap era, where scoring was low and where one really can't compare productivity to what it was even 5-10 years before he started playing. Before his major knee injury, Saku was leading the league in points, and he's a player who battled through a major knee injury, serious eye injury, and of course cancer. He was the heart of the team, and as was noted, he was pretty clutch in the playoffs and in games down the stretch that mattered.

So basically to me, it's moot to compare his career to that of Richard or Lafleur or even Gainey. Saku was as valuable to this team as Sundin was to the Leafs or Alfredsson to the Sens or Linden to the Canucks, and you won't find much argument in Toronto or Ottawa or Vancouver about whether their numbers should be retired. I'm fine with the Habs starting with the ROH, but I think in 5-10 years, this team needs to be pulling Koivu's jersey into the rafters.

Linden is a really good comparison: good, but not superstar, player who in all likelihood will never make the hall of fame but was a great leader and productive player for a long time and beloved by the city and fans. Neither led their team to a cup or won any of the major awards. Linden even spent a few years with other teams. Were the Canucks wrong to put Linden's jersey in the rafters next to Bure and Naslund? In my opinion: no.

The question is if Montreal's willing to use a similar criteria. Montreal's current retired numbers are a subset of their HHOF inductees (the best-of-the-best). With that said, I don't think that's the right criteria to be using. HHOF should be based solely on on-ice performance, but retired numbers should be based on a what a player meant to the team, all things considered . Koivu wasn't even the best player in Montreal over the past 20 years - that would be Markov; and he didn't have an amazing season the way Theodore did, but retiring numbers should be about the fans, and without a doubt he meant more to the fans than anyone since Roy.

But ... to play devil's advocate I don't think the "different era" argument holds much weight when it comes to scoring and productivity (the cup argument is valid though): in terms of pure numbers, sure, but the fact remains that relative to his peers, Koivu was only an average number one center, he wasn't elite. Had he been able to stay healthier early in his career and had better linemates he may have put up elite numbers, we'll never know, but the fact remains that he only had one PPG season where he only played 50 games. Our other retired numbers were all elite players. Even in his rough era, IMO Markov was closer to an elite dman than Koivu was to an elite center. But with all that said, I don't think it matters because in retiring numbers should be about more than just raw on-ice productivity.

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I love Saku but there are no retired numbers that haven't BOTH won a cup and made the HHOF.

The Ring of Honor is also only meant for people who have made the HHOF (in this case all of them, as oppose to just some of the ones whose numbers we've retired).

That's the problem. I think the organization screwed up by using the Ring of Honor this way. It should have been made specifically for guys like Saku. I also think every single player who has made the HHOF and won a cup in Montreal should have their number retired but that may not leave many numbers left!

All I know is that Saku deserves something and I think we all agree on that

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I love Saku but there are no retired numbers that haven't BOTH won a cup and made the HHOF.

The Ring of Honor is also only meant for people who have made the HHOF (in this case all of them, as oppose to just some of the ones whose numbers we've retired).

That's the problem. I think the organization screwed up by using the Ring of Honor this way. It should have been made specifically for guys like Saku. I also think every single player who has made the HHOF and won a cup in Montreal should have their number retired but that may not leave many numbers left!

All I know is that Saku deserves something and I think we all agree on that

The cup argument is mostly irrelevant today IMO given not one one of the current retired numbers won it in a 30 team league (Roy was the closest).

The HHOF argument is more interesting. My belief is that it shouldn't be pre-condition for retiring numbers. A player should make it to the HHOF when they had an unbelievable career on the ice. A team should retire a jersey when they feel it's necessary to really honor a player: what they did on the ice should is part of that, but not all of it.

I think the debate comes down to there not being strong criteria for retiring a number so everyone just kind of makes up their own criteria. In my opinion, it's a mistake to focus only on points / cups. It should be part of the discussion certainly, but not all of it. If the Ring of Honor has a specific criteria (HHOF inductees), then that's fine, but retiring numbers doesn't have any official criteria we're away of.

The Canadiens may be the most storied franchise in the game, but we shouldn't let the past cloud the present and punish present fans and players by holding Montreal players to a higher standard than other Canadian teams. Had Koivu's career happened the same way in any other Canadian city, IMO there would be hardly any debate.

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I love Saku but there are no retired numbers that haven't BOTH won a cup and made the HHOF.

The Ring of Honor is also only meant for people who have made the HHOF (in this case all of them, as oppose to just some of the ones whose numbers we've retired).

That's the problem. I think the organization screwed up by using the Ring of Honor this way. It should have been made specifically for guys like Saku. I also think every single player who has made the HHOF and won a cup in Montreal should have their number retired but that may not leave many numbers left!

All I know is that Saku deserves something and I think we all agree on that

The part I highlighted is exactly the problem with the thinking on how to evaluate Saku. No one in his era has had their number retired yet, so it's not like we're saying these are the criteria as applied to players of his generation. The fact is that some of those guys who have their numbers in the rafters won Cups when there were 6-12 teams in the league. The Habs back in those days had free run at any Quebec-born player, and the competition just wasn't as hard as it is now to win, with 30 teams in the league. As an analogy, is someone who qualifies for the Olympics but only finishes third in his event inferior to someone who won Gold at the Pan-Am Games? I just don't think you can use "number of Cup wins" as a comparative when you're putting Koivu up against Geoffrion or Cournoyer or Gainey. I could argue none of those guys was Captain as long as Koivu was. I could argue none of them battled back from cancer. Who's to say the criteria used in the past are valid any more or that they're more important than other things that seem to have more relevancy today. Dan Marino was one of the best QB's to play in the NFL but he never won a championship; it doesn't mean the Dolphins shouldn't honor him. in Saku's case, I think if you look at the body of work as a whole, when you put in team success as one variable but also look at personal success, value to the team, value to the community, circumstances under which those things were achieved, etc. Koivu trumps any other player he played with.

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Its true that it was much harder for Koivu to win a cup but given that every single player with a retired number BOTH won a cup and made it to the HHOF (we have many players that also did both that still haven't had their number retired) I just think that AT LEAST ONE of those two should happen for you to get your number retired here.

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As for retiring his number, I don't really care. I mean, I kind of liked the idea of being really exclusive with jersey retirements but we've been much more inclusive the last decade anyway. Retiring numbers that weren't deemed worthy for about 50 years and such. The fact that Koivu was the best player on bad teams for a lot his time isn't really compelling to me, I actually think his popularity gets overstated a bit too in hindsight, there was a lot of criticism towards him for large portions of the fan base (definitely stupid and misguided but if we're going to use popularity and fan love as justification, it's relevant). For very long stretches of his era here Theodore was more popular, Kovalev too. Moderating here during the last 5 years of Koivu's tenure, he was quite a bit of a lightening rod. Definitely well loved, but not as universally as we like to remember. What's more impressive, being the heart of a bad team or a very good cog on a very strong team? I mean, the fact that Saku was the face of the franchise and heart of the organization spoke to how weak those teams where in general. He likely was overplayed, overexposed and would have made an exceptional complimentary piece. But I mean, it's a decision based on fan emotion, if it's what the fans want, the organization will and should do it. In general, I'm fine with a lot of the arguments both ways. The 2 that kind of bother me are he never won a Cup (team accomplishment) and that he was the best player of his stretch. I mean, he was likely the best player on the team in less than half of his years in Montreal but even if we take that at face value, do we have to retire a number from every era, no matter how bad it is? I don't know that either holds a lot of weight.

If they don't retire his number relatively soon, it becomes much less likely they ever do. It's a completely emotional decision. Most of the arguments are related to beating cancer, being here a long time and being a generally great guy. Those types of emotional arguments hold less weight the more time goes on, right?

Just a side note and general comment. I've always been intrigued by the concept of a player "giving it his all every shift" and yet raising his level of play in the playoffs. I mean, I know no player actually gives it his all every shift and it's just fan noise but aren't those somewhat contradictory, if a player like Saku had another level he could hit in big games, doesn't it right away sort of debunk the fact that he was literally giving it 100% every game/shift?

As for whether or not it should be retired, people take it too seriously. It's an arbitrary decision, there's no rules or qualifications. Different organizations do it for different reasons but it's mostly done because it's what the fans want. It holds no real significance to anyone other than the fans. I loved Saku, still think he's a great guy (definitely wasn't a great player but a very good one) but I won't be the least bit upset if they don't retire it. In fact I think they've already gone too far with the retirements. Everyone has opinions on how to do it but it's just gotten way out of hand. I'd probably prefer a system similar to the Leafs. Honor players with their jersey in the rafters, keep those numbers in circulation and have a very, very select few numbers you permanently retire (4,7,9 and 10 for example).

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As for retiring his number, I don't really care. I mean, I kind of liked the idea of being really exclusive with jersey retirements but we've been much more inclusive the last decade anyway. Retiring numbers that weren't deemed worthy for about 50 years and such. The fact that Koivu was the best player on bad teams for a lot his time isn't really compelling to me, I actually think his popularity gets overstated a bit too in hindsight, there was a lot of criticism towards him for large portions of the fan base (definitely stupid and misguided but if we're going to use popularity and fan love as justification, it's relevant). For very long stretches of his era here Theodore was more popular, Kovalev too. Moderating here during the last 5 years of Koivu's tenure, he was quite a bit of a lightening rod. Definitely well loved, but not as universally as we like to remember. What's more impressive, being the heart of a bad team or a very good cog on a very strong team? I mean, the fact that Saku was the face of the franchise and heart of the organization spoke to how weak those teams where in general. He likely was overplayed, overexposed and would have made an exceptional complimentary piece. But I mean, it's a decision based on fan emotion, if it's what the fans want, the organization will and should do it. In general, I'm fine with a lot of the arguments both ways. The 2 that kind of bother me are he never won a Cup (team accomplishment) and that he was the best player of his stretch. I mean, he was likely the best player on the team in less than half of his years in Montreal but even if we take that at face value, do we have to retire a number from every era, no matter how bad it is? I don't know that either holds a lot of weight.

If they don't retire his number relatively soon, it becomes much less likely they ever do. It's a completely emotional decision. Most of the arguments are related to beating cancer, being here a long time and being a generally great guy. Those types of emotional arguments hold less weight the more time goes on, right?

Just a side note and general comment. I've always been intrigued by the concept of a player "giving it his all every shift" and yet raising his level of play in the playoffs. I mean, I know no player actually gives it his all every shift and it's just fan noise but aren't those somewhat contradictory, if a player like Saku had another level he could hit in big games, doesn't it right away sort of debunk the fact that he was literally giving it 100% every game/shift?

As for whether or not it should be retired, people take it too seriously. It's an arbitrary decision, there's no rules or qualifications. Different organizations do it for different reasons but it's mostly done because it's what the fans want. It holds no real significance to anyone other than the fans. I loved Saku, still think he's a great guy (definitely wasn't a great player but a very good one) but I won't be the least bit upset if they don't retire it. In fact I think they've already gone too far with the retirements. Everyone has opinions on how to do it but it's just gotten way out of hand. I'd probably prefer a system similar to the Leafs. Honor players with their jersey in the rafters, keep those numbers in circulation and have a very, very select few numbers you permanently retire (4,7,9 and 10 for example).

I agree but I still think they should do SOMETHING just not retire the number... I don't know what that is but something.

Pretty sure the ROH is very specifically for hall of famers. Like that's the whole criteria, to honor the organization's hall of famers.

I'm pretty sure too, which makes it so difficult to find a way to honor Saku but they have to find a way

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Pretty sure the ROH is very specifically for hall of famers. Like that's the whole criteria, to honor the organization's hall of famers.

Criteria can easily be changed though. I don't see any reason they can't make exceptions to that requirement. I doubt it's written in stone. Personally i would like to see them include Saku, and probably Markov down the road when he hangs them up.

Retiring their numbers would definitely be a stretch, and i highly doubt either expects it,,, or the majority of fans for that matter.

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A few key things I think have been raised here:

1. Pretty sure not just every Canadian team but every other team in the league would be set to retire Koivu's jersey: face of the franchise and captain for over a decade, that's just a rare thing to not honor that type of player these days.

2. Yes, part of the reason for retiring Koivu's number is sentimental, but I just don't see that as being a problem. It shouldn't be the only reason, but that's why we don't see people clamoring to retire the jerseys of players like Keane and Halak and so on who were fan favorites but not necessarily as good or as good for so long.

3. Most players are better appreciated once they're retired... Brisebois was vilified the first time he was here and then applauded greatly upon his return. Bouillon was an after-thought until he came back and got a huge ovation returning. Fans remember most players more fondly in retrospect, and the same can be said for the likes of guys who have had their jerseys retired.

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A few key things I think have been raised here:

1. Pretty sure not just every Canadian team but every other team in the league would be set to retire Koivu's jersey: face of the franchise and captain for over a decade, that's just a rare thing to not honor that type of player these days.

2. Yes, part of the reason for retiring Koivu's number is sentimental, but I just don't see that as being a problem. It shouldn't be the only reason, but that's why we don't see people clamoring to retire the jerseys of players like Keane and Halak and so on who were fan favorites but not necessarily as good or as good for so long.

3. Most players are better appreciated once they're retired... Brisebois was vilified the first time he was here and then applauded greatly upon his return. Bouillon was an after-thought until he came back and got a huge ovation returning. Fans remember most players more fondly in retrospect, and the same can be said for the likes of guys who have had their jerseys retired.

I never meant to imply it being sentimental was problematic or I had an issue with it, just that sentimental arguments tend to fade in time. I don't mean to say if he doesn't get retired this year it will never happen but he's likely not the kind of player future generations are looking at in terms of stats or anything and clamoring that the organization retire the number.

The fact that they've given out his number twice in the 5 years since he left is probably an indication that they aren't overly close to retiring the number, but it's not impossible. It's been quite a run of retiring jerseys.

As for number one, the counter would be that the Montreal Canadiens have a higher standard than other teams so that's not the bar. I'm not necessarily sure I buy that but using the Leafs as an example because they're the closest comparison in terms of history and fan base, the fact that they don't full out retire most jerseys makes it a lot easier to honor guys. Would there be an appetite to start mixing that in? For example, we don't unretire any jerseys because how can you do that? But we say from now on we're mostly going to be honoring jerseys in the rafters not full out retiring the number, Gallagher you can continue to wear number 11 but we're having a Saku Koivu night this year and raising his banner to the rafters and maybe down the road we see 79, 31 and 76 there for example without the jerseys actually being out circulation.

Anyway, either way I'm kind of hoping if they do that worn out torch relay to start the season, Saku is the guy passing it to this year's captain. Would be so cool to see him there and hear the crowd react to him

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As for number one, the counter would be that the Montreal Canadiens have a higher standard than other teams so that's not the bar.

That's probably true, but in my opinion it's also a mistake. The Habs may have a rich history, but the majority of today's fans have no real connection to most of the retired jerseys. I think it's a disservice to modern fans to make it harder to honor their NHL heroes just because 50 years ago the Habs played in a 6-team league and had preferential access to French Canadian players so had a large majority of "star" players.

'm not necessarily sure I buy that but using the Leafs as an example because they're the closest comparison in terms of history and fan base, the fact that they don't full out retire most jerseys makes it a lot easier to honor guys. Would there be an appetite to start mixing that in? For example, we don't unretire any jerseys because how can you do that? But we say from now on we're mostly going to be honoring jerseys in the rafters not full out retiring the number, Gallagher you can continue to wear number 11 but we're having a Saku Koivu night this year and raising his banner to the rafters and maybe down the road we see 79, 31 and 76 there for example without the jerseys actually being out circulation.

I think the Leaf's approach is a perfectly reasonable one. Unfortunately, we probably should have started before retiring the current batch, but what's done is done. It makes it easier for a player like Sundin - who granted was statistically a better player than Koivu, but not eggregiously so - to be honored while keeping number retirement only for true NHL legends.

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That's probably true, but in my opinion it's also a mistake. The Habs may have a rich history, but the majority of today's fans have no real connection to most of the retired jerseys. I think it's a disservice to modern fans to make it harder to honor their NHL heroes just because 50 years ago the Habs played in a 6-team league and had preferential access to French Canadian players so had a large majority of "star" players.

I don't buy it either but since these things are largely about fan base appeasement, if enough of the fan base does it sort of becomes a factor. I mean, either way I don't care what other teams do, each situation is unique to the market. Koivu very likely wouldn't have been in consideration in Toronto because he'd have spent his whole career in the 2nd line C role he was probably more destined to fill but he's a unique player in Montreal, in what he meant to the city off the ice and the fact that his time coincided in an era where there was no real star level player so he stood out as a very good one.

Koivu was my favorite player so I won't get bent out of shape no matter what they do.

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I completely agree with the premise that the Habs have retired too many jerseys as is. I would have been fine if all we had retired in the rafters were 4, 7, 9, 10, and 16. Outside of that, I think a lot of the guys are players whose jerseys could easily have been retired by other teams, but where you can make an argument for or against either way. But as has been said before, I don't think you should be penalizing a player like Koivu or Subban or Markov or whoever else you're considering just because "there are too many jerseys already retired." In my opinion, it was more of a feat for Patrick Roy to win two Cups (as a Hab) in his era than it was for Jacques Plante to have back-stopped six winners here, playing in a six-team league with the likes of Richard, Geoffrion, etc. playing in front of him. While I mean no disrespect to Plante, he played 12 seasons in a six-team league, so the mean number of Cups a guy should have won during that time is two. To provide another analogy for it, are you more impressed by a guy who has quarterbacked a team to 6 CFL championships or a guy who has won 2 Super Bowl rings? While both are feats, it's a given that it is much harder to win a Super Bowl with four times as many teams in the NFL as there are in the CFL.

Again, all this to say that I don't think we can fairly judge Koivu by what we've done with other players from different eras. It was easier to win Cups back then. I am reasonably certain that a higher percentage of players from earlier eras are in the HHOF. And the players didn't have to go through 82 game seasons and two months of playoffs to win. I wouldn't say the Habs have higher standards than other teams, just that we had more outstanding performers in an era when the league was weaker as a whole; as such, one could argue we actually set the bar lower because we've included players like Bouchard, Plante, etc who benefited from playing in an era where dominance was easier to achieve. If Koivu had played in a 6-team league for his entire career, chances are he'd have 3-4 Cups as well. There's definitely the emotional and inspirational side to wanting to see Koivu's jersey retired, but in his own right, this was also a player who is 10th all time in points with the franchise and 7th all time in game-winning goals scored here, in addition to the fact that he was the captain here as long as anyone else in history. To me, you just can't write those things off simply because he failed to lead a team to a Cup in a 25-30 team league when you're using others' winning a cup in a 6-team league as a reason to exclude him.

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don't buy it either but since these things are largely about fan base appeasement, if enough of the fan base does it sort of becomes a factor. I mean, either way I don't care what other teams do, each situation is unique to the market. Koivu very likely wouldn't have been in consideration in Toronto because he'd have spent his whole career in the 2nd line C role he was probably more destined to fill but he's a unique player in Montreal, in what he meant to the city off the ice and the fact that his time coincided in an era where there was no real star level player so he stood out as a very good one.

This is a player who was named captain after 3 years in the NHL, I'm not sure even if we had a superstar that Koivu simply would have been in his shadow. To use another example, Linden's time in Vancouver largely overlapped with Bure and Naslund. For Toronto, I was thinking more so if you "flipped" him and Sundin, but if he was actually behind Sundin, then he may not have been the player he was here, but it's still possible he was loved by the fanbase in a similar way.

I've also never really believed he was a #2 center (except on a very deep team): to me he was a mid-range #1 center. For most of time I've watch the Habs (mostly starting in the 2000s) he probably would have been a #1 center on 4 of 6 Canadian teams. His stats were hurt by a complete inability to stay healthy and at times embaressingly poor-offensively linemates. Watching the Olympics, there was no doubt he was a #1 center when he actually had a star sniper on his wing instead of Jan Bulis and Chris Higgins.

I am reasonably certain that a higher percentage of players from earlier eras are in the HHOF.

As much as people like to talk about the league "watering down" with more teams, the other point is 50 years ago you had one country providing effectively the entire NHL with players; there is now a far larger talent pool to draw from. Players also didn't have to deal with the defense and goaltending of today. I'm fairly sure some HHOF players from the original six would look ordinary today.

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From John Lu tweet:

"G. Molson on honouring Koivu, time TBD: "At the right moment we would look forward to hosting Saku & giving him a good Montreal show."

Acknowledging the fans. Good PR move by Molson.

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