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Niedermayer, Selanne Returns Fuel Ducks

Tuesday, 04.8.2008 / 1:32 PM PT / Features
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Niedermayer, Selanne Returns Fuel Ducks

The Ducks received a shot in the arm when Teemu Selanne realized retirement wasn’t for him and returned to the lineup. Anaheim went 20-5-1 following Selanne's return.
For a while there, it appeared the Anaheim Ducks’ road to a repeat was going be much longer than the route they took in 2007.

No more Scott Niedermayer. No more Teemu Selanne. Both players decided after climbing to the top of the hockey mountain last June that enough was enough.

“The first thing that happened is two Hall of Famers retired on us,” Ducks General Manager Brian Burke said, “and no one has ever had that happen.”

So Burke built the 2007-08 Ducks with the mindset that Niedermayer and Selanne had indeed played their last games. He quickly signed defenseman Mathieu Schneider as a free agent to ease the pain of losing Niedermayer before signing power forward Todd Bertuzzi a day later.

“If both players came back, we’d have to look at what we could do,” Burke said of Niedermayer and Selanne after the signings of Schneider and Bertuzzi. “You don’t have to be an MIT grad to do the math here. You’d have to be pretty creative. That’s Plan C and I’m only on Plan B. If they’d want to come back, we’d love to have them. That hasn’t changed.”

Anaheim’s roster did suffer a major change just three weeks later, when promising young forward Dustin Penner – who was coming off a 29-goal season – was signed to an offer sheet by the Edmonton Oilers. On Aug. 2, 2007 the Ducks announced that the price of five years and $21.25 million was simply too high. Penner was headed North.

“We signed Schneids and Bert, and then we lose Pens and had to deal with all the things that go on with that,” defenseman Chris Pronger said. “You’re excited about what happened before, but all anyone wants to talk about is how are you going to be able to handle it without these guys back. We were constantly answering questions.”

The new-look Ducks began their championship defense far away from Orange County. Heck, they didn’t even start the campaign in North America.

With the NHL reaching out to new audiences worldwide, the Ducks found themselves facing the Los Angeles Kings at the 02 Arena in London at the end of September. The teams split the first two games of the season, playing meaningful games again just over three months after raising Lord Stanley.

“You want to tell yourself it’s no big deal and it’s all mental, but that London trip was a tough thing to do,” defenseman Sean O’Donnell said.

Less than three months later, Burke made another big change to his club. Feeling he needed a veteran center who could create more offensive chances for Bertuzzi, the Ducks acquired Doug Weight from the St. Louis Blues in a deal that sent Andy McDonald to the Midwest.

“McDonald and Todd Bertuzzi were not successful in developing any chemistry together,” Burke said after pulling the trigger. “We’re hoping that Bertuzzi can find a little bit more chemistry with Doug Weight, so we’re very pleased to have him. We think this might be a better fit.”

Twenty-four hours after the deal was announced, Niedermayer’s retirement was officially over. He was placed on Anaheim’s active roster on Dec. 15 and played the following night. The Ducks were 15-15-4.

“I think the big thing was just realizing that I felt I still wanted to get out there and compete and help my teammates, support my teammates and be part of a team,” Niedermayer said. “That’s something that is pretty special about team sports. Whether it’s 10- or 12-year-olds or professionals, there’s a special bond7 that you have in the room.”

The room received another shot in the arm when Selanne realized retirement wasn’t for him, either. The fantastic Finn skated with the team for the first time on Jan. 28 and returned to the lineup on Feb. 5. The Ducks earned a 3-0 victory that night at Nassau Coliseum.

“That night on Long Island was our turning point, a stepping stone,” Ducks forward Corey Perry said. “Everybody got focused and knew this is our team and this is who we have to run with.”

Since then, the Ducks have been one of the hottest teams in the League. They’ve been nearly unbeatable on home ice, losing only three times at the Honda Center since the calendar turned to 2008.

When it’s all said and done, Anaheim might be better off in the long run after all the adversity is has faced over the past 10 months.

“We haven’t used anything for a crutch,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We’ve faced all the adversity that we’ve been dealt. All of the challenges, we felt we’d meet them head on. We’ve met them head on, but have we been as good or consistent as we’d like to be? No, we haven’t, but we’ve shown flashes and we think we have the ability with this group to elevate our execution level.

“These things are all an attack on the mental preparation that you have to go through to have success.”


Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer




1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


R. Getzlaf 77 13 50 14 63
C. Perry 82 34 28 2 62
R. Kesler 79 21 32 5 53
R. Rakell 72 20 23 -1 43
J. Silfverberg 82 20 19 8 39
S. Vatanen 71 9 29 8 38
A. Cogliano 82 9 23 2 32
H. Lindholm 80 10 18 7 28
C. Fowler 69 5 23 -8 28
C. Stewart 56 8 12 2 20
F. Andersen 22 9 7 .919 2.30
J. Gibson 21 13 4 .920 2.07

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