Monday, September 20, 2010

Just Ducky

March 1, 1993.

That was the day NHL beat writers questioned the sanity of the announcement: the Mighty Ducks are coming to Anaheim. Even with the Mickey Mouse empire behind them, as one headline attested, "NHL expansion on hold till next goofy rich guy."

Fast forward to playoffs 2003. With only two playoff seasons to their name (1997, 1999), the Ducks looked ever so mighty, mowing through Detroit, Dallas, and Minnesota before forcing the New Jersey Devils to a game seven in the Stanley Cup final. Mike Babcock had just taken over head coaching duties for the season. The team finished as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. G Jean-Sebastien Giguere tied a league record for most consecutive shutouts (3) and earned himself the Conn Smythe Trophy, even though the Devils won the Cup

Mike Babcock addresses the Ducks in December 2006

As November neared a close in 2006, the Ducks had their best start ever and sat first overall. They out shot their opponents by roughly 15 shots, averaging the third highest in the league. The Ducks defense had the most points by a league defense. The team ranked second in power play percentage and earned a standings point in each of their first 16 gamesthe longest streak to start a season.

RW Teemu Selanne banked his 500th career goal on November 22, 2006 at Colorado, scored points in nine of ten games, and led his club in points. He also tied a franchise record for both assists and points (5) when he chalked up five assists on November 19, 2006 versus Phoenix (tied D Dmitri Mironov12/12/97 versus Washington).

Captain Scott Niedermayer ranked fourth on the points scale for defensemen and was second on the club and sixth overall in the league for ice time. He was also the fan favorite in the All Star vote, leading the Western Conference balloting—well over 18,000 votes ahead of Detroit D Nicklas Lidstrom. Ducks D Chris Pronger was third in the ballot, first for points for defensemen, second in the league's plus/minus, and fourth in overall league assists.

Meanwhile, Giguere topped the league in wins and was tied for first in shutouts, while RW Dustin Penner was second in rookie scoring.

Then came the 2007 playoffs.

After winning the Pacific Division title, the Ducks eliminated Minnesota, Vancouver, and Detroit before heading to the Stanley Cup final to face the Ottawa, and beat the Senators in five games.

Yes, the team has struggled to make the playoffs since then, but the Ducks have certainly had the last laugh over the 1993 headlines. It's not a stretch to think that another future headline might read "Stanley Cup contender."

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