The Ducks will send seven players to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and nearly had an eighth if not for Saku Koivu’s desire to be at his best for probably his final shot at a Stanley Cup.
Koivu declined an invitation to return to Finland’s Olympic men’s hockey team after captaining the team to a bronze medal in 2010 -- his fourth Olympic Games, with medals in each.
“It would be a different scenario if our team wasn’t doing well and were out of the playoffs,” Koivu said Tuesday following the Ducks' morning skate at Honda Center. “The way things have gone for us, we’re hoping and we’re confident we can make a push in the playoffs.
“That’s where everyone wants to be at their top level. That also had an effect on my decision. I’ll stay here and get the proper rest and off-ice training and get back when the guys get back together.”
Defenseman Cam Fowler (U.S.) and goalie Jonas Hiller (Switzerland), center Ryan Getzlaf and forward Corey Perry were named to the defending-champion Canadian team Tuesday, forward Teemu Selanne will play in his record-tying sixth Olympics for Finland along with defenseman teammate Sami Vatanen, and forward Jakob Silfverberg was picked by Sweden.
Koivu, 39, has five goals and five assists in the last 10 games as the Ducks (31-8-5) have ridden a 13-1 streak to an NHL co-leading 67 points before Tuesday’s game against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins.
He said transitioning to the toll of the Olympics and increased minutes after playing less than 15 minutes per game in five of the Ducks’ last eight games, along with the fact he missed 15 games with concussion effects after getting hurt Oct. 27 in Columbus, also contributed to his decision.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s “humbled a guy can do that.”
Boudreau said he did not consult with Koivu.
“He thinks so much of the possibilities of us, I just hope I don’t screw up for him making a sacrifice … a huge sacrifice,” Boudreau said. “It just makes you appreciate him and understand him a little bit more. You know why he was the captain of the Canadiens for so many years.”
Boudreau called it “an exciting day” for the other Sochi-bound players and said concerns about the tax of rugged competition with national pride at play is washed away by the honor of inclusion.
Getzlaf said he’s looking forward seeing so many of his teammates in Russia.
“I remember last time,” Getzlaf said of Canada's victory over the U.S. in the gold-medal game in Vancouver, Canada. “Being fortunate enough to medal in that tournament, it’s great coming back, being able to experience that with all those guys.”
With a team-high 23 goals this season, Perry said, “Everyone knows what Canadians expect. Anything but gold is unacceptable.
“That’s the way we look at it. We want to go out and prove that we’re still the best country in the world. We’re defending champions, so there’s that little bull's-eye on your back that everyone’s going to be out, gunning for you. But the team looks strong.”
Silfverberg, 23, won a silver with Sweden in the 2011 World Championship and bronze in the 2010 World Junior Championship. He’s missed games because of a broken hand, but he has played alongside Getzlaf and Perry on the first line recently and has five goals and six assists in 20 games.
“You've always got to believe in yourself, but I wasn’t on the summer roster so I knew it’d be
tough, that I’d have to prove to the coaches and myself that I really wanted to make the team,” Silfverberg said. “I’m really happy.”
Vatanen, 22, said he noticed the Fins lacked defensemen, and his 33 games with the Ducks --
he has four goals and five assists -- swayed leadership to select him.
“It was in my plans to make the Olympics, now I get my chance,” Vatanen said.
To play alongside Selanne, who tied Finland’s Raimo Helminen (1984-2002) for most Olympic
appearances, is “a big honor.”
Selanne, 43, is the all-time leading scorer in Olympic men’s hockey with 20 goals and 17
assists in 31 games. He’s said he’ll retire following this season, when he has contributed
four goals and seven assists in 34 games with the Ducks.
“We play for him,” Vatanen said. “It might be his last Olympics. You never know.”
Selanne called his selection “a big honor, again.
“We all know how important it is,” Selanne said. “It’s going to be exciting to play against
teammates. It’s a great experience.”
Selanne said he spoke to Koivu about his situation last year and respects his decision.
“He’s a very honest person and he felt he doesn’t have enough energy now to go play at the
top level, so you’ve got to respect that … obviously, it was a big surprise to everyone,” Selanne said.
Koivu explained, “Physically, I won’t be where I want to be to compete against the best players in the world. It was a dream, but the older you get, you have to stay honest with yourself. If I’m going to go, I have to feel I’m at my best.
“Emotions have been high. But when you talk about getting up to 17, 18 minutes, with the bigger ice surface, it’s another step.”
Koivu said his choice became more difficult recently as his production increased. He said Finland's team leadership was disappointed but understanding.
“Wasn’t easy at all, toughest decision of my career.... I’m hoping I made the right decision,” said Koivu, whose younger brother, Mikko, of the Minnesota Wild is on the Finland roster but is questionable to play following ankle surgery Monday.
Still, Finland is a medal contender, Selanne said.
“We are not the favorites, but the gap between the best team and the sixth team is not very
big,” Selanne said. “Anybody can beat anybody.
“You’re talking about 10 days. Who’s going to be hottest in that time and who’s going to find the right chemistry and lineups, and have all the right things working? That’s why it’s going to be so exciting. You never know. And if somebody has a tough day, they’re going to be in trouble. That’s why this hockey tournament is so special.”