The Ducks recent success had seemed to be spurred a little further by the return of Teemu Selanne. All that came to a crashing halt Thursday night as Kings dismantled the again Selanne-less Ducks, who won't see the Finnish Flash return for the next two to six weeks.
There's been a huge question mark about whether or not Selanne will retire at the end of the year. He's within striking distance of 600 goals, and it would be a nice milestone to round out a hall of fame career. Arthur, do you think this string of injuries will inspire Selanne to come back for a final FULL season, or do you think he'll take it as a sign that it's time to hang up the skates?
I think he'll take it as a sign to hang them up.
You know, his last three major injuries have all been freak injuries: skate cut, broken hand on a blocked shot and broken jaw on a deflection. Those aren't really the kinds of injuries you can prepare for, and they're not the kinds of injuries you want to be taking as you get older, because the recovery time is so much longer as you approach 40. And Teemu noted that in his recent "My Thoughts" piece. He already has to stretch more, rest more and generally take better care of himself just to stay in game condition. Recovering from these serious but fluke injuries is like the offseason conditioning process all over again.
And then I think there's also the question of what these injuries mean for an older player, and the worry of how it will affect your life after hockey. Selanne has to consider if he CAN come all the way back from another injury like this. I remember when Roenick took a puck off the jaw with the Flyers and he was facedown in his own blood. All I could think of was how I'd seen that jaw broken three times in three different uniforms. And at 35, could it still heal, was it another concussion, would he ever talk right again (not that he ever has)? Selanne has to wonder if the next injury, freak or not, is something he can still overcome at this age.
And I think if Selanne balances the risk and the hardship of another season against the slim prospect of a Ducks playoff team next year, he'll hang them up. I doubt the record for most goals by a Fininsh born player matters to him at this point. I think he was drawn to the prospect of Olympic gold more than anything else this year. As he said himself in that "My Thoughts" piece -- "When you're young, you have so many individual goals and standards. When you get older, you just want to win . . ."
I think that the fact that these are fluke injuries might be what makes him come back for one more year. Selanne has 16 goals in 30 games this season. That puts him on pace for something in the low forties over the course of a full season. I'm not saying he can still play 82, but he can still play at a productive NHL level.
I know that a lot of work goes into getting prepared the older you get, but I think the ultimate question is whether or not he still enjoys playing. Selanne has been rejuvenated since he came back to Anaheim, and he's still deadly quick. He can still fake a goalie and knock down the water bottle. He's still exciting to watch on the ice. And I think he always wanted to leave on his own terms and not be forced out of the game, so maybe he could use next season to simply end his career in his own way, and on a positive note.