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Season Review: The Finnished Flash (and Koivu, too!)

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Another summer, another non-retirement by Selanne -- probably his last, I'd wager, and I know I'll miss the annual drama.  But of all Teemu's recent non-retirements, this one could be the most welcome of them all.  Not only does it represent a closing chapter to the franchise's greatest player career, but Teemu brought along a valuable countryman-friend this time, longtime Canadiens captain Saku Koivu. 

Nickname credit goes to commenter Bleys -- nicely done. 

Teemu and Saku are legends on international ice -- over four Olympics, Selanne has 20 goals and 15 assists in 25 GP; over three Olympics, Koivu has 9 goals and 19 assists in 22 GP -- and even though that co-production is dated, roster-wise they seem a perfect fit for Anaheim's second line behind Getzlaf & Co.  Frankly, I can't wait to see what these two legends pull off this year -- the opportunity to see them play together I think is worth the price of admission alone, and the Wonder Finns more than anything have me salivating for training camp (and heck, one more Olympics, too -- go Finland!).

Selanne's season last year was a strange one, segmented by a 17-game missed stretch when Teemu managed to cut himself with his own skateblade (actually, it's sort of 18 games missed; Teemu only played 14 seconds before the injury in Edmonton).  Before the injury, Teemu was near the top of the league in goal-scoring, but 13 of his first 14 goals were scored with the man-advantage.  Second line chemistry was a weird mess -- Selanne scored an even-strength goal on October 14th in Los Angeles but wouldn't pot another until January 31 in Colorado.  After the injury, Teemu's production evened out as he worked better with Andrew Ebbett -- of the 17 goals Teemu potted after his injury (including playoffs), 12 of them came at even strength.  He's certainly not the player that he once was -- it's getting rarer and rarer to see Teemu battle through checks -- but Selanne has tremendous offensive instincts and a sniper's set of hands. 

2008 - Teemu Selanne 65 27 27 54 -3 36 16 0 5 2 186 14.5
2008 - Saku Koivu 65 16 34 50 4 44 5 0 5 0 123 13.0

To tell the truth, I'm not terribly concerned about Teemu's final-year production, though -- my main wish is that Selanne has a boatload of fun this season.  As a Ducks fan, I feel I owe Teemu a lot more than he owes me at this point in his career.  It's a question of salary cap loyalty, which I'll expand upon after the jump.

Teemu Selanne's NHL Career -- goals and points per game
A look at Selanne's declining production leading into the lockout, and the resurgence since.

Selanne's knee resurrection is a fantastic story of career recovery, as graphically represented above -- basically every season that Teemu has worn a Ducks jersey he's been a star.  But to me, what's even more awesome than the physical recovery has been Teemu's financial reaction -- even when re-promoted to top-line status, Teemu never got contract-greedy, never leveraged his UFA status against the team, and in fact never really toyed with the notion of playing anywhere but Anaheim.  The guy became loyal to a fault -- always signing for whatever meager money was left in the spending budget, sticking to one- or two-year deals for flexibility (plus another opportunity to consider retirement), and consistently ending up as one of Anaheim's best contract bargains in a salary-capped league.

When hockey people use the term "franchise player", they're often referring to long-term contracts -- ones which GMs build around for a strech of many years.  But as this salary cap universe gets better understood, it's important to recognize the importance of another type of "franchise player" -- the loyal Selanne-type, near the end of his career, who repeatedly signs under-market short-term deals with one team only.  He's not the centerpiece of a team's spending budget like the Niedermayer/Prongers or Getzlaf/Perrys, but on the ice he contributes just as effectively.  I realize that not every franchise has such a devoted-and-skilled player willing to play for leftover money, but having one in a cap universe is definitely awesome.

So thanks a million, Teemu -- you're a class act, a fan favorite, and quite deservedly the greatest Duck ever.  Theoretically, I'm even going to name my daughter after you.  Have a blast this year, and if you get the chance, make sure to impress upon Koivu how much fun you had signing short-term Teemu deals in Anaheim -- if that tradition got passed on to the classy ex-Hab, it'd be a fantastic boon for Anaheim.

Go Ducks.