All right Arthur, the regular season is over. The Ducks are not going to the playoffs for the first time in four years, and Anaheim fans are not happy. Changes are coming, but one thing will not change: Anaheim's love of Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer. There were signs all over Ponda Center, and the usual "one more year" chant filled the arena. To be fair, Koivu was also included in the pleas for more time in a Ducks sweater, but retirement isn't really the alternative on his radar. He might not be playing here next year, but he will be playing.
So Arthur, if you could only talk ONE man into playing another season who do you choose, Selanne or Niedermayer?
My first instinct was to say Selanne because, in theory, Selanne gets you Koivu. In Dodgeball terms, that's a two player swing. Theoretically, we're deep in the Top 6, but we've run into plenty of chemistry issues, and I think keeping a 50 point second line center along with Selanne is huge in ACTUALLY making three scoring lines next year, not just making three scoring lines on paper. And when you talk about the success of a Dan Sexton, Evgeny Artyukhin, Jason Blake, it seems like a rush to get some playing time with Saku Koivu.
My main problem with Niedermayer is that if he's paired with Wisniewski, he can't be as effective. He can't jump into plays because no one will be there to cover, and he can't take the puck because no one will be there to take the body. When you handcuff Scott Niedermayer like that, he isn't Scott Niedermayer, and when he's not Scott Niedermayer, that 5M or 6M is better spent on the open market. Maybe Wiz learns to play with someone else, maybe there's no Wiz, but as long as Wiz is a likely returning player, I don't see the point in saddling Niedermayer with a year of hockey that is potentially as statistically dismal as this one.
I have to go Selanne. It's close, really close, and Wisniewski is the deciding factor for me, but if we're going to keep moving toward being a fast and offensive team, I'd rather have too many forwards than pay one of the greatest defensemen of all time to babysit Wisniewski.
Between the two of us, I think it's safe to say that I have the biggest man crush on Teemu Selanne. I'm not lying when I say I got a little teary eyed when he scored point 1,000 against the Kings a couple years ago. Still, my biggest concerns for the Ducks next year all reside on the blueline. I think when this team buckles down and plays well, it has guys on every line that can find the back of the net.
But on the blueline, there are too many question marks. Visnovsky has been great since he got here; but as we've recently seen, he can be a little injury prone. Visnovsky cannot be the stabilizing force of the blueline. Scotty has a presence about him that makes people around him better. Homeboy is so clutch he makes G.I. Joe kung fu grip look like a baby holding a rattle. Niedermayer's biggest problem this year was that he didn't trust his teammates. Let's be real, though, they didn't give him a lot of reason to trust them, but at some point you have to let Wisniewski make his mistake instead of creating extra mistakes by trying to compensate for his ineptitude. Sound complicated? It was, and painful to watch.
I don't think it's a given that he'll be with Wisniewski next year, and I think if the Ducks get Niedermayer a defensive partner who wouldn't have been better off as a forward, we'll see a return to some seriously good numbers. We'll also see a return to the sound defensive play that helped us to so much success. The fact is, we need to improve our blueline more than anything right now. Whether that comes through free agents or the development of rookies, we'll need someone of Scott Niedermayer's quality to stabilize us during that transition. Otherwise the organization might endure more years like this where we only get teased by the playoffs.
As a fan, losing Selanne to retirement will definitely hurt my heart the most. The man is literally the reason why I fell in love with the sport. However, losing Scott Niedermayer would probably be more detrimental to the team in the long run.