Hockey season has been here for nearly two weeks, but the NHL Premier games in Helsinki and Stockholm created a little bit of a void for us Ducks fans. For me, last week felt a little bit like waking up on Christmas morning at two or three AM as a young child. You know that the greatest time of year has arrived, but at the same time you have to wait for a reasonable hour until you can fully enjoy it.
To make matters worse, other games were going on all week which felt like watching the neighbor kids open their bounty of presents through the window while we were waiting for our turn.Then we had three games in four nights (three wins no less) which sufficiently satisfied our urge for Ducks hockey, but it has made way for another three day break.
So, while we wait for the schedule to settle into some sort of rhythm I figured there is time for at least one more offbeat, summer-ish post.
During the long week of de-jetlag-ifying, some former Ducks made the news for better or for worse. Chris Kunitz signed a two-year contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, while unfortunately Andy McDonald was sidelined with another concussion. Naturally, I took note that they were both former Ducks but not only that, they were also two of my favorite former Ducks, which got me thinking. Who are my favorite former Ducks? And thus a blog post is born.
I decided to narrow it down to active players for two reasons. First, to limit my options so that I could actually post within the week and second to eliminate some of the obvious choices, namely Paul Kariya and Scott Niedermayer. Warning: There is a heavy 2003/2007 bias in these choices. What else would you expect?
This was by far the most difficult category to choose. We don't hear too much about Sammy these days, partially because we don't hear much about Columbus in general and partially due to his style of play. McDonald and Cullen, both rank in the top ten in franchise scoring, and have each had much more success away from the Ducks than Pahlsson. In the end, however it came down to the fact that my other choices were mostly influenced by their time in Anaheim, and while he was a Duck there were few players that I loved more than Sammy. He is and was everything a defensive forward should be. He could have and should have been in the conversation for the 2007 Conn Smythe and I will defend to my dying day Sammy's rightful claim to the '07 Selke Trophy.
Also my wife would want me to mention that one of her favorites (due to a chance in person meeting) is Ryan Carter. He's apparently playing in Florida now.
Left Wing: Chris Kunitz (Runners Up: Travis Moen, Dustin Penner, Vinny Prospal)
I love everything about Chris Kunitz' game, speed, grit, scoring touch; he has it all. I could watch him play all day long. It certainly doesn't hurt that he has gotten to play on lines with Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Sidney Crosby throughout his nine year (!?) career. The fact that he consistently plays with great players is a testament to his own skill and versatility.
On a weirder note, if we could somehow merge Brandon McMillan and Dan Sexton through some miracle of modern science (fiction) we would have a reasonable facsimile of Chris Kunitz that I may be happy with.
Right Wing: Petr Sykora (Runners Up: Joffrey Lupul, Todd Bertuzzi?)
Man, if he didn't get picked up at the last second by New Jersey this year, the Right Wing slot on this line would have been pretty difficult to fill. The dude is a playoff overtime god. No Ducks fan will forget his goal in the fifth overtime of Game One versus Dallas in '03. Then in '08 he called his shot to send the Cup Final to a sixth game while with Pittsburgh.
Plus I met him once and he complimented my Steve Rucchin jersey. How can you not like him?
Fun Fact: 6 of the Ducks' 12 currently active forwards are listed as Right Wings by NHL.com (Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Selanne, Andrew Gordon, Devante Smith-Pelly & George Parros)
Defense: Chris Pronger, Sean O'Donnell (Runner Up: James Wisniewski)
Pronger is an easy choice. Considering he is clearly the best active former Duck D-man (player?) and was the final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle for the Ducks, I can't foresee any argument there. Although he is quite a bit less charming when not wearing a Ducks sweater.
The second D spot was tougher. While Wiz is the next best qualifying defenseman, in terms of skill at the present time, his seemingly annual summer contract disputes wore on me. He always did enough to warrant a contract, but seemed to overvalue his contribution to the team. Until this summer, when Columbus was finally willing to give him the overpayment he thought he deserved.
Also, if I hear one more person use his suspension as an example of Brendan Shannahan going overboard with suspensions I'm going to loose it. He launched himself at the head of an opponent AFTER THE BUZZER of a PRESEASON GAME!!!!!!! He needs some time to think about that.
There weren't too many other names to consider, Kent Huskins, Steve Montador, Andreas Lilja; all appreciated, but don't necessarily rank. Ryan Whitney and AndySutton go on a separate list that I doubt I'll ever actually put together.
Therefore, I give the nod to O'Donnell for being a genuinely likeable guy, a solid stay at home defender and of course the '07 bump.
Goalie: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Runner Up: Ilya Bryzgalov)
Without a doubt, Jiggy is the best goalie in franchise history. The team's greatest triumphs were built on his back.
I'm still bitter about some of the comments I heard upon his trade to Toronto. Sure he was overpaid in his latter years in Anaheim (and all of his time in Toronto) but the "what have you done for me lately" attitude that I picked up from some of the fans irks me to this day.
Retire Number 35! (after #8)
Bryz is obviously the best former Duck goalie playing today, but I can't in good conscience put him above Jiggy. He'll understand. It's only hockey, why you heff to be mad?
So there you have it. When you look at it together, it's a strange looking forward line and an old back end, but it is what it is.
Who are your favorites?