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Return to Anaheim allows Colorado's Giguere closure

Friday, 12.30.2011 / 6:44 PM / NHL Insider

By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

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Return to Anaheim allows Colorado's Giguere closure
The end of the Jean-Sebastien Giguere era in Anaheim probably could not have ended more awkwardly.
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The end of the Jean-Sebastien Giguere era in Anaheim probably could not have ended more awkwardly.

No trade unfolds neatly, but Giguere can't help but stifle a laugh when he remembers getting the news while preparing for practice in a Tampa rink on Jan.31, 2010.

Most of his then-Ducks teammates were already on the ice, and Giguere was about to join them.

"It was funny," Giguere said. "I was all dressed up … guys were already skating during practice."

When news of the trade spread, teammates quickly hugged it out – in full uniform.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Goalie - COL
RECORD: 8-5-0
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: 0.928
"Quickly," Bobby Ryan said. "We went on the ice as we were skating by and said goodbye. I think that's the way he wanted it."

Just like that, one of Anaheim's franchise icons was gone.

"I never really got the chance to thank the people that meant a lot to me," Giguere said. "Just kind of a quick exit."

Now he gets that chance.

Nearly two years after the exit, Giguere will see his former team and city again when he returns to Anaheim for the first time Saturday night as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

Giguere, Anaheim's all-time winning goaltender, will be recognized during the first television timeout Saturday night.

"The game's been on my mind all year," Giguere said. "I've been looking at the calendar. The first game I looked (for) was when we would play Anaheim. I've been looking forward to it. I'm hoping the reaction will be good. I've always tried to represent myself professionally. I'm looking for a good reaction and hopefully it will be a good night."

After two seasons in Toronto serving as mentor to Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer, Giguere has re-invented himself with the Avalanche.

He takes a 1.95 goals-against average across 15 games into Saturday to spark a bit of competition with No. 1 Semyon Varlamov.

It's not surprising to his former teammates.

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"The way he battles, the way he competes, even when things don't go well," Ryan said. "He carries that professionalism. He knows how to win and he knows how to compete and hang on to a job. I don't think when he left here he was satisfied with the way things went. He felt like he could have made a better run at it. But I don't think you're ever going to be surprised with a guy like that."

Giguere, 34, was seemingly forgotten when he left Toronto as a free agent in the summer. His two seasons there were interrupted by injuries, and Giguere says he's renewed after sports hernia surgery.

"I feel good again," Giguere said.

That wasn't the case when Giguere's glorious career in Anaheim ended glumly. A streaky goalie, Giguere struggled to find consistency and couldn't get regular playing time to get on a streak under former coach Randy Carlyle.

Before a November 2009 road game at New Jersey, Giguere told the Los Angeles Daily News that he would "rather retire" than be a backup goalie when it was clear that Jonas Hiller had supplanted him as No.1.

Asked if he questioned whether he could get back to form, Giguere said, "You probably could put me in the list of people that questioned it. You get older, you start questioning yourself, too. I had a great summer. My body hasn't felt like it has in years. I still have the desire to win and to play."

Giguere said Colorado was the first team to call when free agency began, and it seemed like the right fit.

He embraces fighting for playing time with Varlamov.

"Competition is good for me," Giguere said. "It's something I don't have a problem with. To me, it's a great scenario. It's good for my family. Denver is a great city to raise kids. That's part of the decision, too."

Awkward exit aside, Giguere has nothing but good memories of Anaheim. Almost all of his pro hockey life is tied to the team and city, where his children were born.

His most trying time as a parent came in 2007 when his oldest son, Maxime, was born with a malformed eye that required surgery. Later, in December of 2008, Giguere's father, Claude, died weeks before Giguere started the All-Star game in Montreal, his home city.

On and off the ice, Anaheim defines Giguere to a huge degree.

"It's going to be nice to go to my second home, it's where my kids were born and it's a special place for me," he said.

In what was regarded as a minor move, Anaheim acquired Giguere from Calgary in 2000 for a second-round draft pick. Giguere was coming off a 17-loss season with the Saint John Flames.

"My career wasn't going anywhere,"  he said. (Former Anaheim general manager) Pierre Gauthier took a gamble on me."

"The game's been on my mind all year. I've been looking at the calendar. The first game I looked (for) was when we would play Anaheim. I've been looking forward to it. I'm hoping the reaction will be good. I've always tried to represent myself professionally. I'm looking for a good reaction and hopefully it will be a good night." -- Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Giguere began working with noted goaltending coach Francois Allaire, and "right away I felt more confident. … I got a good chance there to play. With an organization that believed in me, it was a good start to my career."

Giguere would compile a 206-163-59 record for the Ducks from 2000 to 2010. His 2.47 goals-against average and 32 shutouts as a Duck are franchise records, and his 33 postseason victories are by far the most in club history.

Giguere practically carried the Ducks on his shoulders during their remarkable run to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, which ended in a Game 7 loss to New Jersey.

That season, Giguere ran off an NHL-record scoreless overtime streak of 168:27, surpassing Patrick Roy, and extended it to 197:52 in 2007. He became the third goalie in NHL history to record three straight playoff shutouts when he shut out Minnesota in the conference finals.

Giguere, who had a 1.92 GAA and .945 save percentage in the 2003 postseason, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy and became the first player from the losing team to win the award since Ron Hextall in 1987.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere's time in Anaheim included a Stanley Cup in 2007. (Photo: Getty Images)
"To be honest, there's no way anybody could imagine the Mighty Ducks going to the Finals," Teemu Selanne said. "But the way that Giguere plays in those playoffs, you don't see that very often."

Giguere is probably behind only Paul Kariya and Selanne in terms of icons in the franchise's short history.

His teammates mainly remember a legacy of fierce competitiveness, at all times.

"If you beat him in practice, he snapped," Selanne said. "He was so able to push himself every day. I think sometimes that's why he got (so many) injuries. He let everything out every day. I haven't seen another goalie like that. Ever."

Giguere's legacy is ultimately defined by the 2007 Stanley Cup and his consummate professionalism. He is often the player that talks to the media after particularly tough losses, and is known as a valued member of any locker room.

That's part of what made the trade from Anaheim difficult.

"I always try to be a good teammate, a guy that's positive around the room, just a good guy," Giguere said. "At the end of the day just be a nice person. It's sad. You know those guys, and they become your friends."

Before Saturday's game, Giguere will grab a meal with Francois Beauchemin at their usual spot in nearby Tustin.

Maybe at some point during the game Giguere will glimpse the 2007 Cup banner .

"I think winning the Cup and going to the Finals in 2003 – these are things that don't happen all the time," he said.

"Obviously I didn't do that by myself. These are things we did as a team, as a group. No one can take that away from us."

Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp