Ryan Whitney Q&A
By Matt Vevoda
"We’re going to have a real good chance at being a great team in the league this year. I think that if you look at contenders for the Stanley Cup, if you pick five or six teams, I think that we’re one of them. We have everything it takes to have a really good team in the NHL. I think that it’s just up to us to buy into the system. It can propel us into one of the elite teams in the league."
The final few months of the 2008-09 season were a whirlwind, to say the least, for Ryan Whitney. The 26-year-old defenseman was traded for the first time in his career from Pittsburgh to the Ducks on Feb. 26. After getting into the lineup that very night in his hometown of Boston, he played a big role in Anaheim’s late season surge into the playoffs, where the Ducks knocked off the President’s Trophy-winning Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals and took the Red Wings to a Game 7 in the semifinals.
The offseason has seen the Ducks make several alterations to its roster, specifically on the blue line. With the departures of Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin, Whitney will undoubtedly take on an even bigger role with the team in his first full season with the club in 2009-10. From his offseason home in Boston, where he was born and attended college, Whitney spent a few moments discussing several topics regarding himself and the Ducks.
How has the offseason been for you thus far?
The weather here in Boston hasn’t been good at all, so I’m looking forward to that when I get back there. It’s been good to see some family and friends. It’s pretty relaxing in the summer here.
|On losing Pronger: "I think every defenseman is going to have to step up. Losing a guy that plays that many minutes, I’m sure they will be distributed around. Personally, I hope to step into a bigger role. It’s tough to replace a guy like that. You’re going to need a group effort."|
Have you been able to keep in contact with any teammates?
Yeah, I talked with Wiz a little bit. Getzlaf, Perry and Brookbank. I’ve texted a couple of times with Marchant and George Parros. I’ve been talking to guys here and there. Usually, I think everyone has their own family and friends back home in the offseason, but at the same time it’s nice to talk your buddies from the team once in awhile.
Has this offseason been any easier than the last when you had to have realignment surgery on your left foot?
It’s nice to know that it is healed and it continues to heal. It feels really good. It’s good to know there won’t be any surgery coming up this summer. That is always nice. I’ve just been working out and playing some golf this offseason. I don’t have the anxiety like I did last summer with not knowing what was wrong and not knowing when it was going to be fixed.
What were your thoughts when you heard Scott Niedermayer would be returning to the Ducks in 2009-10?
I was thrilled. I think anyone can say he’s one of the best defensemen in the league, if not to ever play. He’s a Hall-of-Famer, a great guy and our captain. That was nothing but fantastic news when he came back. I was a little nervous he might retire or might go somewhere else, so that was a great day when I saw he was coming back.
How about the re-signing of another fellow defenseman and friend James Wisniewski?
We got traded around the same time and we knew each other coming in a little bit from World Juniors. I figured he’d definitely be back. They took awhile to get the contract done. It’s good to know that he’ll be there next year. He played great after he was traded last season.
We have the chance to be a really good team and be good for a bunch of years in a row. I think that was the question when Bob Murray took over. He had to re-tool. We had a lot of free agents this summer. There were trades made at the deadline, Pronger was traded this summer and new signings.
Do you have any familiarity with two of the newest additions to Anaheim’s blue line, Luca Sbisa and Nick Boynton?
Not too much. I don’t know either guy personally. I played against Sbisa a little bit when he was in Philly last year and I’ve played against Boynton before. A good friend of mine, Keith Yandle from the Coyotes, played with Nick in Phoenix and said he was a great guy and a really good teammate. I’ve heard nothing but good things about both guys and I think they will both really help.
With the departure of Chris Pronger, do you anticipate taking a larger role on the Ducks both on and off the ice?
I hope so. I think every defenseman is going to have to step up. Losing a guy that plays that many minutes, I’m sure they will be distributed around. Personally, I hope to step into a bigger role. It’s tough to replace a guy like that. You’re going to need a group effort. He is a great player and a great guy in the room. People are going to have to step it up, myself included.
In return for Pronger, the Ducks re-acquired Joffrey Lupul, a guy you’re familiar with from the Penguins/Flyers rivalry. With him and Saku Koivu also coming on board, are you excited for the increased scoring options?
I am. I have played against both players. Lupul is a really skilled player and can score. It’s huge for us to get someone like that and to give ourselves more power up front. You obviously have that Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan line and now with Koivu, Selanne and Lupul, it’s two of the best lines in the league, I think anyone could say. It’s two huge pickups, Lupul and Koivu, and it’s exciting.
How much have you been able to stay up with what other teams have done in the busy offseason?
I think everyone notices around July 1 where the top free agents are signing and what teams are preparing to have a big year. You see what teams are active and not active. You see teams improve, but I think as a team we’ve improved a lot. It’s an interesting time every summer to see what goes on around the league.
Now looking back at your last three months of the 2008-09 season, from getting traded to the Ducks to the team making a strong playoff run, what do you remember most of that time?
I was a little nervous coming in. I didn’t know anyone on the team. I wanted to play well. To be part of a team that made a little run, made the playoffs to start and then won a series, I think everything went great. Losing in the second round isn’t your goal when the year starts and when you get traded to a team. The turnaround we had, it seemed like we started buying in. That is what we’re going to have to do this year, buy into our system and play that way. We won a lot of games and took the Stanley Cup finalist to a Game 7. I became good friends with a lot of guys. I really enjoyed living in Anaheim. The whole lifestyle out there was great. I enjoyed everything that happened when I got there. A little nervous in the beginning, but in the end and as of right now, I’m so excited to come back and play the full year there.
I became good friends with a lot of guys. I really enjoyed living in
Do you think last season’s playoff run will help propel the team to further heights in 2009-10?
I think so. We lost one of the best defensemen in the league. That is never easy to overcome. But we have a lot of good players here. We have a great team and great goaltending. I think we’re going to have a real good chance at being a great team in the league this year. I think that if you look at contenders for the Stanley Cup, if you pick five or six teams, I think that we’re one of them. Our defense is going to have to step up losing Pronger, like I said. We have two great goalies – Hiller, who was a star in the playoffs last year and Giguere, who has won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe. We have two great lines, a checking line. We have everything it takes to have a really good team in the NHL. I think that it’s just up to us to buy into the system. It can propel us into one of the elite teams in the league.
Can you talk about the importance of starting the season in Anaheim and getting a full year with the team under your belt?
It will be nice to not come in the middle of the year. When you’re a part of it the whole year, you’re there for all the lows, all the highs and everything in between. I think anyone would say that if they won a Stanley Cup with a team, they’d like to be there from the beginning of the year on. That is what is special about being on a team that plays so many games together and has such a long season. This is like your second family in a way. You’re with these guys every day. To be able to be there the whole year and know that we have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup is a great feeling.
How did you feel about getting an invitation to participate in the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Orientation Camp, being held Aug. 17-19 at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, IL?
I was excited. Along with winning a Stanley Cup, another goal of mine has always been to win an Olympic gold medal. I think it’s that way for every player. Any player would die to play for their country in the Olympics. It would be a dream come true. I’m going to do the best that I can to play well in the first half of the season and make the team. That is what I’m expecting of myself. Being in Vancouver in February with the best hockey players in the world would be pretty special, especially in Canada which is hockey-mad as everyone knows. Just to think about the chance of being there is exciting.
You, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Joffrey Lupul are each 26 years old or younger and signed for the next four years (the longest on the Ducks). What do you hope to accomplish in Anaheim with that group of players in the future?
I think we have the chance to be a really good team and be good for a bunch of years in a row. I think that was the question when Bob Murray took over. He had to re-tool. We had a lot of free agents this summer. There were trades made at the deadline, Pronger was traded this summer and new signings. Murray set us up to have success for not just this year, but in the future. That is a good feeling.