On a day that came much earlier than they would hope, the Ducks were together at Honda Center for one final time on Monday to clean out their lockers and conduct exit interviews with the coaching staff.
|"It’s one of those things where I’m going to be watching games here in the next couple of days," Ryan said. "I ran into a couple of Kings last night and said hello. They are getting ready for a whole new season and I’m not. We should be right in the hunt and fighting for the Cup right now like everybody else is. It makes it almost harder to swallow.” |
The 2011-12 Anaheim Ducks entered the season with so much promise, coming off a playoff appearance as the fourth seed in Western Conference. But it did not materialize through the first three months of this campaign. The club put together a valiant run the second half of the docket to make things interesting, but ultimately it was too much to overcome.
“We had such a good run down that stretch last year, there was almost a sense of things are just going to come for us and they didn’t,” said Bobby Ryan
, who became the second active player and 16th in league history to score 30 goals in his first four full seasons in the league. “The biggest thing I’m going to learn is nothing is free in this league. I’ll leave thinking about how I felt in November when things weren’t going well and it was tough to come to the rink. It’s a sour taste to have all summer, but you have to dwell on it for a bit.”
Slow starts are nothing new to the Ducks, who have been plagued by them in each ensuing season after winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. After a 4-1-0 start, there was optimism that this year would be different. What followed though was a 6-21-6 stretch from Oct. 21-Jan. 4 that left Anaheim a deficit far too large this time around.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Cam Fowler
, who finished his sophomore season with 29 points in 82 games. “It didn’t even feel real what we were going through in the beginning of the year. Nobody really understood what was going on. If you put yourself that far behind, it’s just an uphill climb the rest of the way. We grinded it out and played some really good hockey. It was just too little, too late.
That difficult period of the season led to a coaching change on the night of November 30, when Randy Carlyle was let go after six-plus seasons. Successor Bruce Boudreau, formerly the head coach of the Washington Capitals, seemed to invigorate the locker room almost immediately.
“Bruce has been unbelievable, so good,” said Teemu Selanne
, who led the Ducks with 66 points on the season. “I really love how this guy approaches stuff and how he has handled the whole team. It was not an easy situation when he came over. The passion and the fun he brings every day, it’s something really special. Even when you talk to him, you feel how much he loves this game.
|“It didn’t even feel real what we were going through in the beginning of the year," Fowler said. "Nobody really understood what was going on. If you put yourself that far behind, it’s just an uphill climb the rest of the way. We grinded it out and played some really good hockey. It was just too little, too late." |
“I think it’s going to be toughest for him to be out of the playoffs to be honest. He’s the guy who can spend all day here and keeps smiling. You don’t find that very often.”
Said Ryan, “Bruce just knows how to get the best out of people. I’ve had him for a very short period of time. You feel good coming to the rink and that is important. When things were going bad, it was tough. Bruce moved mountains in this room this year. It’s been a great experience.”
When the calendar flipped to 2012, the Ducks began what almost became a historic run to a playoff spot. From Jan. 6-Feb. 26, there wasn’t a hotter team in the NHL. Anaheim put together a 17-3-4 record (38 points) and got within four points of the eighth seed in the ultra-competitive West. While the club ran out of gas in the end, that push has everyone optimistic for the future.
“The second half was exactly what we were expecting in the first half,” Selanne said. “If we play even close to the first half like we did the second, it would be easy to have home-ice advantage (in the first round). That is why I really hope everybody is going to remember the feeling we had when we realized we are not going to make the playoffs, having this long summer and watching the other guys play for the Stanley Cup. That feeling is going to help you next year for sure. If that doesn’t help you, then you are in the wrong sport.”Corey Perry
, who led the club in goals (37) for the second straight season, echoed those thoughts. “It’s going to be exciting. You saw what he did for the second half of the year and you know what this team can do. The guys in this dressing room know we can go out there and beat any team in the league. That is the confidence we have to play with from the start of game 1 right thru.”
When the 2012-13 season does finally arrive, there is bound to be roster changes like there always are in the summer. The biggest question of course will be if the face of the Ducks franchise, Selanne, decides to postpone retirement yet again. He will be one of eight unrestricted free agents from the team’s closing roster. Among the others are George Parros
, Jason Blake
and Saku Koivu
|“The way we played in that second half of the season would have put us right in the middle of it," Getzlaf said. "The hole that we dug was a little too deep for us to get out of. We have to be well aware of that coming into camp next year. You have to be ready as a group right off the bat." |
“I don’t see a reason why I should go and look for something else,” said Koivu, who just completed his third season with the club. “I want to be a part of something good. I want to be with these guys to make the playoffs and make a push there. I’m confident and am hoping that things will work out here in the next little while and we can hopefully be back for next year.”
Veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky
briefly flirted thoughts of hanging up his skates, but said he will be back Anaheim when next season opens. “I was very mad during the season because I didn’t feel very comfortable,” he said. “I think it was the worst season ever for me. My confidence was very low. I thought about if I would retire. I will be coming back next season. I want to play and be here with my teammates and these fans. I’m very happy if I play hockey.”
Until the next incarnation of Ducks emerges at Honda Center for the start of training camp, everyone is left to wonder the possibilities from the 2011-12 campaign. “It’s bitter,” Ryan said. “That is probably the best way to put it. It’s one of those things where I’m going to be watching games here in the next couple of days. I ran into a couple of Kings last night and said hello. They are getting ready for a whole new season and I’m not. We should be right in the hunt and fighting for the Cup right now like everybody else is. It makes it almost harder to swallow.”
Said captain Ryan Getzlaf
, “I think we proved in the second half that we’re close. The way we played in that second half of the season would have put us right in the middle of it. The hole that we dug was a little too deep for us to get out of. We have to be well aware of that coming into camp next year. You have to be ready as a group right off the bat. Those points in October mean a lot towards the end of the season.”Injury notes:
Defensemen Francois Beauchemin
and Toni Lydman
both announced they will be going under the knife soon as a result of injuries. Beauchemin will have surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum, while Lydman will have surgery on a torn meniscus in his knee.