One of the teams that made the biggest headlines in the NHL off-season has to be our very own Anaheim Ducks. From the NHL-headline flashing Ryan Kesler trade, to the stick tapping nostalgia for 2007 Stanley Cup hero Jiggy and our retired Finnish duo, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, to the most recent shock and murmurs surrounding latter's comments--the Ducks management stayed pretty busy this 2014 off-season. The Ducks had to make a quite a few acquisitions and resigning because of who they were losing to trades, free agency and retirement. So here's a quick overview of the key losses made during this past summer.
Assistant Coach Bob Woods (now Head Coach and GM of Saskatoon Blades)
While he was not an Anaheim Duck player per say, he unarguably a large part of the Anaheim Ducks roster. Bob Woods joined the Anaheim Ducks organization in 2011, making the move from DC to California with Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. He spent three seasons behind the bench of the Ducks, helping lead Anaheim to two consecutive Pacific Division titles. This summer, he was hired as WHL Saskatoon Blades' Head Coach and GM. The Ducks filled in the position with former Norfolk Admiral Head Coach Trent Yawney.
Stephane Robidas (signed with Toronto Maple Leafs as a FA)
The Anaheim Ducks front office stayed busy up until a few days before the trade deadline back in March. Knowing that the Ducks would see post-season action, GM Bob Murray made a series of moves to ensure that the blue line would receive the boost it sorely needed to make the club true contenders. Dealing Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals and Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers allowed the Ducks to acquire Stephane Robidas from the Dallas Stars for a fourth round pick in the 2014 Draft.. Sitting out a good part of the 2013-14 season with a broken right leg, the trade was seen as somewhat of a risk on the part of the Ducks. But he soon proved his worth as his defensive presence was undoubtedly what the Ducks needed to compete along with the other powerhouses in the post-season. He who was once hated and detested by Anaheim players and fans alike, soon became an appreciated and highly praised Ducks.
But in a mother of ALL ironies, he re-fractured his right leg just above the area of his previous fracture in the first game back in Dallas as a member of the Ducks. The Dallas Stars management willingly gave up Robidas to Anaheim quoting, "You take that into consideration, but the move was designed to give Stephane a chance to get on a good team, and this was the best option....I could have traded him to the East, but more to a fringe team and not a top contender." But in a cruel twist of fate, it would be against his former team that Robidas would take an early exit back in the same place, injured and Cup-less.
Robidas signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs for $9 million on the first day of free agency.
Mathieu Perreault (signed with the Winnipeg Jets as a FA)
In order to free up cap space, the Washington Capitals traded Center Mathieu Perreault to the Anaheim Ducks for John Mitchell and a fourth round pick in the 2014 Draft. It didn't take too long for Perreault to make his presence known on the roster as he scored the game winning goal on the road against the Minnesota Wild in the Ducks' second game.
He was a dangerous and key component on the rollercoaster of a powerplay. He ended his season with the Ducks with 18 goals (5th), 25 assists (4th), 4 PPG (4th), and 43 points (4th). He also led the team in face-offs with a 52.65% at the dot. When news broke of the Ryan Kesler trade to Anaheim, we at AC drooled at the thought of Ryan Getzlaf at 1C, Kesler at 2C, Perreault at 3C, and potentially Rickard Rakell breaking into the 4C. But apparently Perreault could not come to terms on the contract extension so the Ducks let him walk. On the first day of free agency, Perreault signed with the Winnipeg Jets for a three-year contract worth $9 million.
Jonas Hiller (signed with the Calgary Flames as a FA)
Anaheim was well known for having a bounty of wealth in net. It's strange thinking back on how the 2013-14 season began and how it evolved in net. GM Bob Murray knew the time to make decisions was coming quickly seeing as Hiller was up for free agency at the end of the season, and there were still two younger goaltenders that awaited real NHL time. Trading away gingerbread-injury-prone Viktor Fasth to the Oilers, there were still three netminders trying to vie for time in the crease.
Jonas Hiller had arguably one of his best seasons in 2013-14, when he helped backstop the Anaheim Ducks on their way to a 20-0-2 win streak to begin the new season. He also recorded a club-record of 14 straight victories (14-0-0) from December 6th-January 12th, matching the all-time second-longest streak in an NHL season. He also was THE main reason that Team Switzerland had a chance against the world's hockey greats during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Oh, did I mention he posted a 3-0 shutout against the Los Angeles Kings in the California's first ever outdoor game held at Dodgers Stadium in front of a sold out(ish) crowd. Hiller was an unbeatable large candy corn wall that night. Hiller was a huge part of last season's success for the Ducks. There were many of first/second periods where he single-handedly saved the team and gave his teammates a chance to get their s*** together for the final period.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. And to an end it did. In fact, the last part of the season avalanched down on Hiller. By the time the first round of playoffs arrived, Hiller was no longer the hero Ducks fans sung about. He sat out in favor of the younger Frederik Andersen and highly touted prospect and American hero John Gibson. He only saw post-season action when he was called in to replace Andersen late in the Dallas series, only to be supplanted again by Andersen and Gibson during series against the Kings.
After the disappointing second-round exit, GM Bob Murray announced that the Ducks would not be offering an extension to Hiller. Though Hiller exited Anaheim on a frustrated note, he signed a two year contract with the Calgary Flames worth $9 million on Day One of free agency.
Daniel Winnik (signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a FA)
Along with Saku Koivu and Jonas Hiller, GM Bob Murray announced that the Ducks would not be offering a contract to Daniel Winnik, who first signed on with Anaheim as a free agent during Summer 2012.
I want to take a brief moment and gripe about this decision to let go of Winnik. I personally did not like this decision to not extend an offer to Winnik because of the value I saw in him on the ice. Obviously the Ducks have many younger players with more offensive capabilities waiting to move up the pipeline and slot into what would have been Winnik's position. At the same time, there were few that can immediately fill his role on the penalty kill and on the backcheck. His 2013-14 numbers decreased considerably mostly because his role changed on the team as he worked in and out of the third checking line alongside Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano. While he was not a numbers monster by any means, he was definitely one of the Ducks that I appreciated game in and game out. Whether he was a winger on that third line or a center for the fourth line, he was a flat-out workhorse. His puck possession numbers were not impressive but he provided a relentless forecheck that often resulted in a tired opposition.
But as I acknowledged before, with so many younger, more physical, and more offensive (and cheaper) ducklings waiting for their chance, the Ducks bid Winnik adieu. So on July 28th, free agent Winnik signed a one-year contract with his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $1.3 million.
Saku Koivu (retired)
On September 10th, one of most beloved Finns to enter the NHL (not named Teemu) officially announced his retirement. This past season was a rough one at that for the aged veteran, as he suffered from concussion as well as the affects of time. Though his point production declined and his minutes on the ice were spent on the backcheck as a part of the checking line, Saku Koivu never failed to be a fan favorite. He spent his last years as an Anaheim Duck, but will be remembered most well as the relentless warrior and leader on the Montreal Canadiens (1996-2009). He fought back from his battle against cancer and made his return to ice. He led the Finnish Hockey team, winning three bronze and one silver. The time he enjoyed on Teemu Selanne's line for Team Finland convinced him to sign with the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, with the high hopes of lifting the Cup together with his fellow Finn. This past season, Koivu declined his spot on the Finnish Olympic Hockey team for 2014 Sochi, bearing in mind the larger picture and goal of staying healthy for the post-season. That move alone spoke volumes in Ducks fans' hearts. Sadly, that scene of Koivu lifting the Cup never came to fruition (nor even making the third round), but he sure has earned the love of Anaheim and the entire hockey world.
And so when GM Bob Murray painfully announced that the Ducks would not be resigning Koivu, my heart broke a bit out of nostalgia. Sure--Koivu is not the hockey player he once was seeing as he is now 39. But boy do we love him.
Luca Sbisa and Nick Bonino (traded to the Vancouver Canucks)
Everyone was holding their breaths and waiting for the pin to drop before making club 2014 off-season moves--the value of certain players and transactions would be largely dependent on the decision made on ex-Canuck Ryan Kelser. And after the anti-climactic results of the trade deadline rumors and drama, Canucks GM Jim Benning finally made the move.
While losing Nick Bonino in the Ryan Kesler trade was worth it, he was by far the best piece they were able to pick up onto their team. Nick Bonino's combination of perfect timing offense in combination of his powerplay time and face-off percentage (48.8%). His performance in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars in the 2014 playoffs will be one that resonates for a long time, especially in the hearts of many Dallas fans. He scored twice that night--the second goal coming in 2:47 of a do-or-die overtime period. He came off a career season with 22 goals (3rd), 27 assists (4th), 49 points (3rd) and finished the post season with 4 goals and 4 assists with 8 points.
He was pivotal in the powerplay and heavily depended upon when it came winning those key face-offs. Not to mention he was known to be quite a character in the locker room. He will be sorely missed in Anaheim.
So I'll leave you with to remember Bones with this beauty:
Teemu Selanne (retired)
As much there was some buzz surrounding his recent comments regarding Bruce Boudreau, let us just be honest...there is nothing the man can do that can sour his image and our memories of him. He is by far the best thing that ever happened to the Anaheim Ducks. He will always remain as the most revered Anaheim Ducks, much less one of the most revered hockey players in history. Words just don't do him justice, so I'll leave you with the key Selanne moments from this past season....
I don't give a s*** that he's become older and has lost some of the Finnish Flash....He will remain my and many others' heroes forever and will probably skate faster and play hockey better than any of us ever will!
So I'll see you all at the raising of Teemu's number to the rafters and the night celebrating the most historic Duck of all-time. Sunday, January 11th--mark your calendars folks!