It's the rare offseason point-counterpoint here at Anaheim Calling. I wanted to get a couple of angles on Teemu Selanne's recent comments published in the International Edition of Helsingin Sanomat. In an interview, Selanne said his return to a Ducks uniform is likely if the team shows it still wants to win and if the team stays "more or less the same," adding that "Saku, too, is in a situation where he wants to continue to play in a winning team" and likening the situation to Formula One driver Kimi Räikkönen, who the Flash said would not come back to play for a "second-rate" team.
After a disappointing campaign last season, it's hard to say what "more or less the same" would garner the Ducks, and while Selanne has based his decision on the team's 'commitment to winning' before, he seemed to use the return of Scott Niedermayer as the most accurate gauge. Unfortunately, Niedermayer's return (and perhaps his ability to deliver with a revolving door of pairing partners) remains in doubt.
But boiling Selanne's words down to their simplest meanings, he's asking to keep the kids out of the locker room and to build a roster of established NHL players without giving away superstars. So, Daniel, should the Ducks resist rejuvenating the roster to keep Selanne and Koivu or should they go younger, even if it means losing Selanne and Koivu?
I think it's pretty clear where I stand on this, since I've already said the Ducks need to re-sign Saku Koivu. I'm a big fan of Bonino and Deschamps, and I've argued on various threads that they might be able to step in and play well. Still, it's a question mark with rookies like that, and Randy Carlyle didn't exactly give Bonino a vote of confidence when he said it would take "a lot of hard work...to get that body a lot bigger than what it is now." Bonino was listed at 190 pounds to start last year in BU. That won't be enough to compete against the bigger centers in the Western Conference on a day to day basis. Deschamps is in a similar situation at 6'2" and 195, according to the Moncton website. Both could probably benefit from a year in the AHL.
Honestly, it might be the better hockey decision to go young. Letting Selanne and Koivu go would let Murray throw money at D and lean on Getzlaf and Perry to be competitive. But there's something about it that doesn't feel right. We've had to watch Selanne go once, and we weren't really the same for a few years. A similar thing happened when Kariya left. I honestly believe that Selanne only has 1-2 years left in those legs and he wants to spend them playing with Koivu and probably Kariya. It would be a phenomenal thrill for everyone who remembers the Dynamic Duo. I also think it would put the rest of the NHL on its heels. The hometown discount we might get from all 3 players (so they could play together) would make it well worth it to explore postponing the youth movement. I'd guess 8-9 million for a line of Kariya-Koivu-Selanne. Mix in the the other talent and the Ducks will be able to meet almost any defensive challenge. They'd also have a little bit of money to spend on D.
I know we try hard to make as many hockey related arguments as possible here, but this is pretty much based on sentimentality. Yeah, there's an argument that we don't have the forwards in the system who are ready for an NHL role. You can also say that No Selanne means No Koivu, and No Koivu means a drop off at second line center...again. But Selanne deserves to play for a winner, and he deserves to have that winner be in Anaheim. The Ducks are still very close to being a Cup contender. A little fortitude and blueline upgrades can go a long way. The Ducks should keep Selanne, sign Koivu, get Kariya and let the nostalgia run through the Ponda Center all through the playoffs.
I think, in your sentimental argument, you're letting one thing pass you by, which is that the Ducks are not a cap team, not even close. Anaheim reported the second worst attendance drop in the NHL last year, and while fans are showing up in front of their televisions instead, the team budget will have to drop.
Looking around the NHL, even the perennial contenders that undertake the sort of 'commitment to winning' that Selanne is talking about have had a rough go of it lately. The Sharks are feeling the pinch of trying to keep the band together too long, the Red Wings had to part with Ville Leino just to make the numbers work last year, and the seventh circle of Cap hell is reserved for whatever it is the Blackhawks are trying to do for next year. You don't think there's a danger, not just a hockey decision danger, but a fiscal feasibility danger in spending to the gills to prove our 'commitment to winning?'
I think this is a one or two year thing. If they can keep the years low on the contracts, then the Ducks are making a fairly credible spending spree push for the Cup, and they will still have major pieces in place after it's over. Moreover, even if they don't make it to the Cup, this is a last hurrah for Selanne and the Anaheim fans that watched him play. He's answered the One More Year call for us; maybe it's time we did it for him.
I won't debate the feasibility of making that one-year team a reality, of moving around the pieces and contracts (namely Blake's or Lupul's), of finding the right seasoned defenseman to sign a short term contract, and generally just organizing a high school reunion in the Finnish Flash's honor. But I will say that it's probably a lot of work, a lot of guile and a lot more than this team can manage, even assuming Samueli plays it fast and loose with the checkbook after his team missed the playoffs.
There are certainly things this team can do to ease Selanne's mind. Sure, bringing back Kariya is something I'd like to see, and I'm sure keeping Selanne on a line with people he trusts is a big part of displaying the 'commitment to winning' for him. But when Selanne was out, Sexton played well in his place. At times, Beleskey looked better than Ryan on the top line. So, if this team looks "more or less the same" as it did last year, then it will be a team where rookies come up big.
I completely support adding one or two affordable elder skatesmen to convince Selanne we're not rebuilding, but I won't play the 'GP' game we played last year, where we keep (and can't use) Boynton and send down Sbisa because the veterans are supposedly better equipped to handle the tough season. A good team is one that finds a way to incorporate its rookies. It keeps you in the black fiscally, but it also protects you from the complacency and habit that can contribute to the losing streaks that plagued the Ducks' 09-10 campaign.