Tribute to Teemu Week: The Wilderness Years

There are 187,888 lakes in Finland. And when Teemu Selanne was traded to the San Jose Sharks on March 5, 2001, I'm sure that many Mighty Ducks fans would have taken the first opportunity to jump into one.

86% of Finland is covered in forest. And when Teemu was traded to the Sharks, it seemed as though he had entered a giant wilderness. And the players that we acquired in return - Jeff Friesen and Steve Shields, along with a second round draft pick (later used to draft defenseman Mark Popovic) - were definitely not worth the trade. We knew that Teemu wanted a Cup - he deserved one - but we didn't know when (or if) he would return.

But how did Teemu fare in San Jose? Teemu only played 12 games with San Jose during the 2000-01 season (remember, he was traded in March), but was still a point per game player, scoring 7 goals and 6 assists for a total of 13 points. Teemu played in all six of the Sharks playoff games, registering two assists, but the Sharks were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the St. Louis Blues (captained by future Duck Chris Pronger). In his first full season with the club, he played all 82 games, scoring 29 goals and adding 25 assists for a total of 54 points. The Sharks made an even deeper playoff run, reaching the semifinals before being eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche. Teemu played in 12 games and tallied 8 points. His final season with the Sharks, the 2002-03 season, was his best statistically - he played all 82 games and scored 64 points. Despite this, Teemu's play slumped early in the season, and his eventual heroics were not enough to propel the Sharks into a playoff berth.

Yet, his last season with the Sharks was memorable for a controversy surrounding Teemu and then-New Jersey Devil Scott Gomez. Gomez didn't get along with Devils coach Pat Burns, and a multi-player trade involving Teemu was on the horizon. But at the last minute, Teemu refused to be sent to New Jersey. Ironically, had he allowed the trade to go through, he would have won the Cup in New Jersey that season alongside future Duck Scott Niedermayer. And - don't forget - he would have had to beat us to get that Cup. There is no way to know this for sure, of course, but had Teemu been traded to New Jersey, a part of me thinks that he would have never returned to Anaheim.

But - we haven't returned to Anaheim yet. And after his second full season with the Sharks, Teemu signed with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent on July 3, 2003. At this point, Teemu was already an NHL veteran, and he signed the contract on his 33rd birthday. In Colorado, he was reunited with Paul Kariya, who left Anaheim after the 2003 season. Selanne and Kariya were expected to recapture the chemistry that they had on the Mighty Ducks teams of the late 90s, but the 2003-04 season was arguably Teemu's worst professional season ever. He played in 78 games, but only tallied 32 points. The 2004-05 lockout allowed Teemu to rest and recuperate. Even though he signed a contract with his former club Jokerit, he had major knee surgery and did not play any games that season.

The lockout eventually ended, and Teemu signed a contract with the Mighty Ducks on August 22, 2005. Finally, he left the wilderness.

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