Holy crap did this season fly by. I can't believe it's the final home game of the season. For some of the players hitting the ice tonight, it will be the last time we see them in a Ducks home jersey. Of the many possible free agents leaving the club, there are a few we should take a closer look at:
Sheldon Brookbank: If you would have told me last season that I'd be concerned about re-signing Brookbank, I would have punched you in the baby maker. Sheldon has had a remarkable turnaround of a season. He played in only 40 games for the Ducks last year, and came up flat in goals and assists and was a minus-8. Currently, he is tied with Saku Koivu for the team high in plus/minus with plus-11 through 76 games played. He's overcome his offensive block and has 3 goals and 11 assists. Brookbank's game has blossomed under Bruce Boudreau. He has the confidence in himself back that he admittedly said he lost last season and beginning of this one. At a current cap hit of $875K, he's a good bargain for a steady defensman. Plus if the Ducks decide to dump Parros (more on that in a bit), he can play enforcer when necessary.
Jason Blake: Ooooh Blakey. While I refuse to believe that Blake's absence earlier in the season sent the Ducks into their epic end of 2011 tailspin, I can't help but thank him for getting hurt. Why, you ask? With his absence, and subsequent downward spiral, came the change of coaches. Once Blake made it back in the lineup, he was shuffled across all four lines, healthy scratched once, and then found a home (and limited ice time) on the fourth line. I don't foresee him in the Ducks future. The youth movement has already begun to take hold, and Boudreau has stated that he wants to be able to roll four solid lines every night - not just three and some spare change for the fourth line guys. Blake is a scrappy player that probably has another year or two left in him, but it won't be with the Ducks.
George Parros: I'm going to be brief with him because I'm working on a full post for later this week. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Parros is one of the most popular Ducks in team history. For all that he lacks in ability on the ice, he makes up for in personality and charm. Parros told Eric Stephens that he wants to stay in Anaheim but his agent has yet to hear from the Ducks. Personally, I would love for him to stick around another season, but I have to be logical about next year's team. He's a lot like Blake, he can easily fill fourth line minutes (slowly dwindles throughout the game), but does he contribute to making the team better as a whole?
Saku Koivu: Anyone that has read me for a while knows that I love Saku Koivu and would deeply depressed if he didn't re-sign with the Ducks. I'd rather have him retire than go to another team. Koivu seemed to echo my sediments in his comments to the Register. Koivu is like the safety blanket you had as a kid - you just feel better when he's around. He has no problem being the second center behind Ryan Getzlaf, even though Boudreau tends to lean towards Koivu in pressure situations. At some point, the Ducks will need to cut the cord and trust their youth; however, until Nick Bonino and Peter Holland fully mature into their positions at the NHL level, Koivu will need to be there to bridge the gap between them and Getzlaf. Bobby Ryan and Andrew Cogliano at center do not offer the same skill set at Koivu, even as he gets up there in years.
Teemu Selanne: Of course I had to end with this one. I just can't imagine him going out on a season like this. He leads the team in scoring, is third in goals, and is one of six Ducks to have played in every single game this season. Earlier in the season, I knew this season would be his last, but now I'm not so sure. His skills are obviously not deteriorating and he still enjoys what he does. Knowing the competitor in Selanne, he's not going to want to quit when he knows he's still got it. My gut feeling is that he's going to be back, but I don't want to get my hopes up. I feel like the Ducks owe him one more honest-to-God shot at a Cup before he hangs 'em up for good. Yet, I can't be sure. I'll be at the game with my dad, cheering loudly for 'One More Year', and just like I did last year when the Ducks skated off in Nashville, I'll probably cry because it's Teemu. (I am a sucker for emotional moments, even if the Ducks have three games left after this. I'll cry during the last game, too!)
(Other expiring contracts currently on the NHL roster: Dan Ellis, Nick Bonino (RFA), Niklas Hagman, and Rod Pelley)