Last week Eric Stephens posted an update on Selanne's status for the upcoming year. The consensus seems to be that if his knee holds up, Selanne will be back for another year. I took it as the usual update, but then I read the comments because I'm a glutton for punishment. One of the comments pointed out something to which I hadn't given much thought, maybe Murray just hasn't impressed Selanne. That, in turn, got me wondering something else, I think Ducks fans have taken Teemu Selanne for granted. It seems that we all just expect he'll be there no matter what. GM Bob Murray seemed to expect it and therefore didn't establish back up plan. Everyone has ignored the holes in the forward corp that Selanne has covered, and now we're forced to face them. We all know Murray had an uneventful summer, but should he have done more to ensure the staple of the franchise, Selanne, had a winner to come back to?Here's a link to all the offseason transactions of the Ducks, as of this publication. The Ducks biggest acquisition this offseason was a forward who has scored almost the same amount of points in the same amount of games as the defenseman we got for Andy Sutton. Perhaps defenseman Kurtis Foster was a better pickup than I originally thought, considering he's been keeping pace with center Andrew Cogliano over the past 320 games or so. After Cogliano and Foster the drop is staggering, since none of the players have played at least 60 games in an NHL season. The Ducks have acquired only 2 players who have spent a full season as an NHL regular.
There's an argument to be made that a team that finished 4th in the West probably doesn't need a lot of improvement. Of course, there's also an argument to be made that a team that managed to get out-shot in a playoff series by one of the worst offensive teams in the league has serious issues. The Nashville PP converted at 15.2% for the regular season and 22.2% in their series against the Ducks. Disregard any argument about Hiller changing the outcome of the series. The goalie only stops the puck; he doesn't control how many shots go his way. Combine that with the fact that 3 of the Ducks top 5 scorers had career years and the inability to control the usually anemic scoring of the Nashville Predators, it's not a stretch to say this team is not a Stanley Cup contender. They are, at best, a team that will make the playoffs, provided that Bobby Ryan, Lubomir Visnovsky and Corey Perry can produce at the same rate.
But where does that leave Teemu? The guy is 41. Despite an epic performance last year, it's probably safe to say this will be - if he plays - his last season. In 2006, he took a home team discount when there weren't that many suitors, and there was a perennial Norris Trophy [Scott Neidermayer] on the blue line. He's been raising the rent ever since. Which is fair for a guy who's approaching the end of his major earning potential and is still producing strong numbers. Isn't it possible Selanne is charging the Ducks more, because he has to do more work? The past two offseasons, Murray's major moves have been a depth defenseman, and a depth forward who's never scored more than 45 points in a year. Granted, Lydmann had a career year last year in terms of +/-, and Cogs has been stuck in the abyss of Edmonton. For the past two summers the Ducks roster has stayed essentially the same and Selanne has been forced to decide if he wants to drag his aging body through another season that's likely to end in early May. The Ducks haven't made a major acquisition since Pronger.
This leaves me with another question: Do the Ducks owe it to Teemu Selanne to build a Cup contender for his final year? Only the most devout of homers should see this team as a Cup contender. They don't have the forward or defensive depth to survive a 7 game series with the stronger teams in the league. The only way it could happen would be if Hiller did a Giguere impersonation circa 2003. But, vertigo is unpredictable. Even if he is 100%, how long will he be fine? Murray hasn't done anything to turn this team around. The Kings picked up Mike Richards, the Sharks got Brent Burns, the Ducks got...a depth center who has a lot of trouble in the circle. If I was Teemu Selanne, I'd be doubting this organization's commitment to winning, and that might make me wonder how much pain my knee should suffer for it.
Murray needs to step up and make an epic deal for this team. If the Samueli's have checked out and refuse to give him the necessary monetary aid, he should put his job on the line and give Selanne one last chance to ride off into the sunset with the Cup. Yes, Teemu chose to come back, but I sometimes wonder if he did a little more for us than he did for himself. The Ducks are the franchise that gave Teemu a shot when his knee was reconstructed and nobody knew if he was still the Finnish Flash. He repaid our risk with loyalty. Shouldn't the organization do the same thing?
When I started this post, I wasn't sure where it was going to go. In the end, I suppose I've been frustrated having to contemplate the Flash fading away. It frustrates me that the Ducks can't knuckle up and make something amazing happen for what will probably be Selanne's last year. So few NHL legends get to end the right way. The Ducks have a little leeway to do so. They could trade a first round pick and a prospect for an impact forward or defenseman. They could spend a little extra for Scott Hannan or Chris Campoli. Because really, after all these years, isn't Teemu worth it?