Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 12:22 PM PT
It was the news we thought we'd be getting all summer, but when it finally came, it came as sweet relief:
Teemu Selanne is returning to the Ducks for one more season.
We've been through this before -- each of the last five years in fact -- but this time it was different. Before, it was whether Teemu wanted to play. This time, that never seemed in doubt. Instead, it was whether he could play. Any signs that Selanne was bothered by the same right knee that nearly cost him his career before the 2004-05 lockout were impossible to indicate by the way he flew up and down the ice like a 25-year-old. It's been hard to find a time when Teemu Selanne wasn't the fastest guy on the ice. So when he required surgery in early July to fix the knee again, we feared the worst, while at the same time hoping for the best. And Selanne admitted today that he felt the same way.
"The whole month of July it wasn’t looking good," he told reporters today via conference call. "After the surgery I couldn’t do much for a couple of weeks. It was so much work to strengthen the muscles again and get support around the knee. There were a lot of days where I felt, 'I don’t know if it’s going to work anymore.' But it got better every day, and I’ve done a lot of work to get the muscles around the knee strong. The hard work has paid off and now I’m very excited about it."
Both Selanne and Bob Murray revealed that they didn't even start having contract talks until a couple of days ago, with Teemu wanting to wait until he felt confident in his health before talking numbers. "I wanted to make sure when I started skating in early August that I was making progress every day and the knee was getting better," he said. "I was very happy in the last month or so that I was skating with no pain. That was a good sign. I tried to use the 16th, the day when training camp starts, as the deadline for myself. I’m very happy that the knee has been holding up well and I’m very optimistic that it’s going to last."
And so one of the glaring question marks about the 2011-12 Anaheim Ducks has been erased. Whether 41-year-old Teemu can do what 40-year-old Teemu did (a ridiculous 80 points in 73 games) remains to be seen. If he did, would it really surprise any of us? But more than the goals and points, more than what he means to the power play, it's the stuff most of us don't see that means so much to the Ducks. Said Murray today, "It's Teemu in the dressing room. It's Teemu walking into the rink every morning. It just..." and then he trailed off. In other words, it's hard to find the words. It's just Teemu.
As he's always done, Selanne is saying this year will be his last. Of course, that's the part we're not focusing on yet, so happy are we to have him back for more. "I know I’ve said that the last five years," he said. "But you’ve got to stop somewhere, and I’ve always approached this whole thing by saying it’s my last year. I think that’s really worked well for me. Again, I look at this as my last year and hopefully it’s going to be a good one."
So once again we'll all hopefully be cherishing every moment of it, trying to burn every pretty goal, every blaze down the right wing, every last moment of late-game heroics into our already-crowded collection of Teemu Selanne memories.
Here's one thing I'll remember: As Teemu came in today to sign the contract, he was the picture of California cool and casual in flip-flops, plaid shorts and light blue t-shirt. On the front of the shirt was a cartoon drawing of a golfer, underneath which were the words: Life is good.
On this day especially, it certainly is.