|Scott Niedermayer headed out to his car at Honda Center for the final time this season, and Ducks fans hope it's not for the last time in his career. |
Still stinging from the shock of their first-round playoff elimination in Dallas, the Ducks gathered at Honda Center on Tuesday to clear out their lockers at a much earlier point in the year than they had imagined.
On a day when the team would have played Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Dallas in the arena, the Ducks were addressed by both head coach Randy Carlyle and Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke before grabbing their belongings. Several reminisced about the 2007-08 campaign and what the future may hold for a team that just 10 months ago was hoisting its first Stanley Cup.
“It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get past Dallas and show everybody how special this team was and how good we could have been,” Corey Perry said. “It was kind of the same team here as the year before, just a few changes here and there. It could have been a different outcome. It’s a disappointing end to the season.”
Riding the best winning percentage in the league (.708) over the last 48 games of the regular season, the Ducks tied with Pittsburgh for the fourth-most points in the NHL (102) and seemed poised to rekindle the postseason success that had seen the team play seven rounds in the two previous seasons. Unable to come back from an early two-game deficit to the Stars, the team was still trying to grip the fact that their playoff stay this year lasted only six games.
“It was an empty feeling,” Carlyle said after the Game 6 loss. “We were numb. To some degree, we still are of what’s just transpired. It takes time for that to pass.”
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who started every game in goal during the series, said the Ducks just could not “come up with the right answer” against the Stars. “If you compare our team to the Dallas Stars, I think we compare very well. I think on paper we might have a better team, but they wanted it more,” Giguere said. “They were more focused on their task at hand. They had more energy than we did for some reason.”
|Rob Niedermayer gathered some equipment and headed out the door. |
With the loss, the Ducks were thrust prematurely into an offseason sure to see some changes, but as Burke said today, “I believe in the core group of this team.” Along with decisions on free agents including top-goal scorer Perry, the Ducks once again have the possible retirements of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne to worry about.
“I try not to expect anything,” Ducks captain Chris Pronger said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what changes will be made. I’m sure there will be some. There always is when you’re not as successful as you would have liked.”
It’s not only the players with an uncertain future, as Burke continues to be the source of countless speculation regarding Toronto’s possible interest in hiring him as their GM, despite one year remaining on his contract with the Ducks.
“I think we’ve all heard those rumors for a long time now,” Pronger said. “Some I’m sure are made up and some may have some validity to them. He’s obviously meant a great deal. He’s molded this team into the way that he wanted on the ice and off the ice. He’s been an excellent steward of the game and an excellent GM to work for.”
Only two days into the offseason nobody wanted to come so soon, all the unanswered questions will take some time to be resolved. For now, the team will begin to heal from the rigors of a grueling season (both mentally and physically) with an eye on getting back to the heights of their previous success.
“It’s disappointing,” Giguere said. “It’s definitely short of what our goals were. We played a lot of hockey in the last three years. You have to move on. Life continues. Now, it’s a good time to rest and come out next year and be energized."