Habs History: Remembering Koivu’s Final Season


Oh, the 2008-09 NHL regular season. It was the season of the increased salary cap by $6,400,000 per team, the season which had number of rule changes including the face-off of a power play taking place in the defensive zone, and it was the last season that Saku Koivu spent with the Montreal Canadiens.

Koivu was already with the Habs for 13 seasons, 10 of which he was named captain and ended up with the longest captaincy tenure in team history. He tied with Habs legend, Jean Béliveau.

More from Editorials

However, the next year he would part ways with the team after celebrating their 100 years of play and move on to a 1 year, $3.25 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks. He stayed with Anaheim up until his retirement in 2014. That’s not to say that he didn’t have a great last season with the Habs though. In fact, it was a good season for Montreal that year with Koivu.

The Habs went on the road October 10th and played 3 consecutive road games, their first game being their season opener against the Buffalo Sabres. While they lost to Buffalo in the shootout, they made it up when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 on October 10th and 5-3 against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 13th. After 4 days on the road and picking up a 2–0–1 record, the Habs faced the Boston Bruins on their 100th home opening where they won 4-3 in the shootout.

It was a good start to the season but it got even better for Koivu, who picked up his 422nd assist on October 18th against the Phoenix Coyotes. The assist helped him surpass Maurice Richard at number 7 for all-time assists in franchise history. Just 2 days later, he grabbed his 600th NHL career point when the Habs beat the Florida Panthers 3-1.

Live Feed

2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Montreal Canadiens
2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Montreal Canadiens /

The Rat Trick

  • Is the NHL making a mistake with the Hawks opening road trip?Blackhawk Up
  • NHL 24: Predicting the highest rated players at every positionApp Trigger
  • Penguins: Grading how each team did in the Erik Karlsson tradePuck Prose
  • Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings make a decent tradePuck Prose
  • Montreal Canadiens: Is New Acquisition DeSmith the Answer in Goal?Puck Prose
  • As November strolled along, the Habs made positive progress. Andrei Markov became the 2nd defenseman in the franchise history to get 5 points in his 1st 5 road games of the season on November 1st, Christopher Higgins got his 1st hat-trick in the NHL in a 4-0 win against the Ottawa Senators on the 11th, and Roman Hamrlik  got his 400th NHL career assist on the 29th in a 3–2 win over the Sabres.

    Of course, Koivu would strike again in December. On the 2nd, he tied Mats Naslund at 11th for all-time points in Habs’ history after he achieved his 612th point in a 5–4 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. He surpassed Naslund again on December 6th after picking up an assist in a 2–1 OT loss over the New Jersey Devils. Koivu, however, was placed on the injured reserve list after leaving in the third period of December 11th’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning with a high ankle sprain.

    The great captain made history again 2 months later in February, scoring his 624th point with an assist on the 27th against the Philadelphia Flyers. He became the 10th all-time leading scorer in Habs’ history, surpassing Elmer Lach, during the 4-3 OT win.

    Mandatory Credit: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

    Despite 41 losses, Montreal finished 2nd in the Northeast with a home record of 21-10-27, a road record of 17-20-4, and tied the Carolina Hurricanes for the most power play opportunities at 374. Koivu ended the season with 16 goals and 34 assists, finishing 3rd in points.

    The Habs sat at number 8 in the Eastern Conference, finishing with 93 points, but with key players like Markov, Mathieu Schneider, Alex Tanguay, and Carey Price missing from the playoffs, the Habs were swept in four games by the Boston Bruins.

    It wasn’t the best ending for Montreal either as Koivu become a Unrestricted Free Agent and parted ways with the Habs, heading to California where he’d play in the NHL for 5 more seasons.

    Koivu’s last season wasn’t really a bust. In fact, his whole career with Montreal had been anything but a blunder. Even becoming sick with Burkitt’s lymphoma during the 2001-02 season, Koivu fought hard like he did on the ice and came back to play only 3 regular season games, and the Habs still made it to the playoffs.

    The only long-standing issue was his injuries. Koivu suffered from knee problems throughout his time with the Habs along with a dislocated shoulder, a detached retina due to being struck in the eye with a stick, and cataracts. Injuring your knee is overly common in hockey as well as the chronic pain that comes with it, but the last 4 seasons with the Ducks showed that Koivu’s play was slowly coming to a halt. If the Habs had kept him for 5 more seasons, he wouldn’t have ended his career in Montreal like he did.

    Overall, Saku Koivu’s last season still gave us the best of the best and while it was sad to see him go, we were left with all of the achievements he made and great memories of a captain who was true to his name.

    What is your favorite Saku Koivu moment of all time? How did you feel about his move to Anaheim? Do you think the Habs are in need another Koivu? Do you think the Habs will ever retire the number 11? Give us all of your thoughts and more in the comments below!

    More from A Winning Habit