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A Time to Reflect

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Matt Vevoda

AnaheimDucks.com


“I haven’t thought a lot about it," said Niedermayer of his future. "But the sooner, the better for everybody. I’ll try to do it as quickly as I can. I’ve enjoyed the last few years playing, probably as much as I ever have. That will definitely go into my thought process in the next few weeks.”
At approximately 7:24 p.m. last night, an awkward sense of finality rushed through the door of Honda Center as the 2009-10 season concluded for the Ducks.

There will not be any Stanley Cup playoffs games in Orange County for the first time since 2004, as Anaheim saw its franchise-best string of four straight postseason berths come to an end this season.

As the team filed into the arena one last time Monday morning for meetings and to collect their personal belongings, the word heard most-often in the halls was “disappointment.” None of the players had foreseen the season ending this early back when training camp opened in mid-September.

Watch video of Ducks end-of-season interviews

“I don’t think we would have predicted sitting where we are now and looking at the playoffs starting rather than suiting up for a run,” said Bobby Ryan, who finished the year with a team-high 35 goals. “We were good down the stretch and made some strides in the right direction. Hopefully, we have a lot of the same guys because I think the character, the leadership and everything we need is in there. We just found it a little too late.”

A 16-18-7 record in the first half of the season proved too much for the Ducks to overcome down the stretch. But oh did they try, posting the eighth-best mark in the NHL over the second half (23-14-4) to finish within six points of Colorado and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“We came out of the gate slow,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “When you put yourself in a hole, with the three-point system, it’s tough to gain points on teams. This is the first year that I’ve missed the playoffs and it is not a good feeling when you’re done this early and not competing.”

Hampered by a left ankle injury, originally hurt on Feb. 8 against the Kings, Getzlaf was unable to return to the lineup after aggravating it for a third time on March 24 at Vancouver. He shed some light on full extent of the problem.

“This is my home," said Ryan, who is due to be a restricted free agent. "I spend my summers here. I love being here and don’t want to be anywhere else. There will be some time still before we get to negotiations and talking. The dust will settle here and we’ll go from there. Anaheim is without a doubt a unanimous No. 1 for me.”
“I partially tore a ligament in between my tibia and fibula,” said Getzlaf, who returned to the lineup twice along the way. “It got better and things were moving the right way throughout the Olympics and even in the few games I returned. I aggravated it the one night here (March 14 vs. San Jose) and then I aggravated it big time in Vancouver.

“Unfortunately, it did keep me out the rest of the year. I plan to get back to 100 percent in about a month or so. I just met with the doctors. We’re going to let it sit and I’ll rehab it. As far as I know right now, there is no surgery in sight.”

Another key injury in the latter stages of the season was the back spasms hampering goaltender Jonas Hiller. They flared up again last night, as he had to depart the season finale midway through the second period. He was able to register his career-high 30th win of the season between the pipes before that.

“I made a reaction move and suddenly my back tightened up again,” said Hiller, who initially was hurt during the warm-up prior to the March 29 home game against the Stars.  “It’s definitely not the way you want to end the season. At least it’s not as bad as the first time. I’m happy that I have some time now to recover and get things in place again.”

Going forward, the biggest question for the Ducks will be the same one asked each offseason since 2007, following the team’s Stanley Cup championship that season – will Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer decide to hang up their skates and retire? Neither is tipping his hand yet, but fans boisterously let the duo know how they felt with chants of “one more year!” throughout the game last night.

“It's both sides,” Selanne said. “I would like to be more with the family and do things you don't get to do. Same hand, you only have one career. So far I've been thinking I'll keep playing as long as I'm enjoying this game.”

“From January on, we were one of the best teams in the league,” Marchant said. “But unfortunately, it’s an 82-game season. We didn’t play our best hockey in the first 40. The lesson that we have to learn is that every game, no matter if it’s in October or April, is worth two points. We can’t let those points go to waste early on in the season.”
Added Niedermayer this morning, “I haven’t thought a lot about it. But the sooner, the better for everybody. I’ll try to do it as quickly as I can. I’ve enjoyed the last few years playing, probably as much as I ever have. It’s been good and I’m thankful that I have played. That will definitely go into my thought process in the next few weeks.”

Along with those two, the team has several players whose contracts are up, including Ryan and James Wisniewski, who are both due to be restricted free agents. Each was hopeful to get something worked out in the coming months in order to remain Ducks.

“If you look at all the young guys, Getzy, Perry and Bobby and with the veteran guys that we have, it doesn’t get much better than that,” Wisniewski said. “They’ve shown confidence in me and as a player that is something you cherish. Coming to the rink every day, expecting to play a lot of minutes and be put in all situations, that is something you look forward to doing.”

Said Ryan, “This is my home. I spend my summers here. I love being here and don’t want to be anywhere else. There will be some time still before we get to negotiations and talking. The dust will settle here and we’ll go from there. Anaheim is without a doubt a unanimous No. 1 for me.”

Until many of those open-ended questions start to get resolved in the long offseason, the Ducks can only look back at what might have been in 2009-10 and how they can change it moving forward.

“From January on, we were one of the best teams in the league,” Todd Marchant said. “But unfortunately, it’s an 82-game season. We didn’t play our best hockey in the first 40. The lesson that we have to learn is that every game, no matter if it’s in October or April, is worth two points. We can’t let those points go to waste early on in the season.”
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