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Cup win raises the bar for Ducks

by Evan Grossman / NHL.com

 

NHL.com's 2007-08 Ducks Season Preview Package:
Intro | Goalies | Defense | Forwards | Feature | Numbers | Sked | Roster

When they give out the Stanley Cup every year, when they have all those pretty rings made up, they should also pass out targets for the winning team to thread on their jerseys.

Because from the drop of the puck in their first game, to the final buzzer of their last, the defending champions will be marked men. Everyone wants to knock off the champs and the Stanley Cup winners are no different.

The Anaheim Ducks, therefore, might want to include a crosshair on their new uniform systems for the 2007-08 season.

“When you’re the champion, there’s a target on your back,” Anaheim General Manager Brian Burke says. “And your front. And your head. And your leg. Everyone wants to beat you. So you have to bring your A-game with much more consistency and frequency.”

Yashin
Ducks' GM Brian Burke does not want his team to get fat on confidence after winning the Stanley Cup.

There is no greater challenge in the NHL than repeating a championship run. That’s why nobody has done it since the Detroit Red Wings won two in a row in 1997 and 1998. How hard it is to repeat?

Well, the 2006 champion Carolina Hurricanes failed to make the next season’s playoff tournament. Some teams get too fat with confidence after winning, others may take their foot off the gas too quickly, while others simply cannot withstand the punishment defending champions are guaranteed to face the season after winning a Cup.

Since the New York Islanders won four in a row in the early 1980’s, only Edmonton (twice), Pittsburgh, and Detroit have successfully defended their titles. The Ducks will have the Cup on hand for their home opener Oct. 10, and after that, Burke says it’s up for grabs again.

“When it’s here for our home opener, guys will see it with their names on it for the first time,” Burke said. “That’s part of the lore and the rhythm of the thing. It’ll be here for the home opener. We have three banners going up -- a divisional title, our first ever; a conference championship; and the Stanley Cup. And I told the Stanley Cup guys, after the 10th, which is our home opener, I don’t want to see it again.

“I don’t want it anywhere near our team again because it’s no longer ours.”

Navigating the new season as defending champions will be a novelty for the first-time winners, but the Ducks just may benefit from opponents taking them a bit more seriously than the other teams on the schedule. The Ducks might just benefit from opponents coming at them with everything they have.

Nobody hit harder and nobody was tougher than the Ducks last season. That’s the way they’re built. So it just may play to their advantage going into the season as a hunted team. Their personality screams; “Bring it on!”

“There are several ways to beat a hockey team, including physically, which we’ve been able to control for the better part of two years now,” Burke says. “I still think with the physical composition of our team, that’s one way we can respond. If a team says we’re going to beat you physically, I think that’s going to be hard to do.

"When you’re the champion, there’s a target on your back. And your front. And your head. And your leg. Everyone wants to beat you."
-- Brian Burke

“But as far as being prepared to play and being ready to play, I think when you’re defending champion, you have to be more ready to play,” he said. “That’s maybe poor grammar, but you’ve got to be more prepared -- that’s a better term -- and you have to be prepared more consistently. You have to expect that every night, the other team is coming out and this is a bigger game for them than it is for you, maybe.”

In the end, winning a championship raises the bar. It raises the level of competition you face on a nightly basis, it raises the level of what you expect from yourself. And as the Ducks are also finding out, winning it all raises the expectations of the fans that support you.

“The pressure of winning is omnipresent in our business and nobody, I don’t think, has said congratulations to me since about Aug. 1,” Burke said. “The emails and the phone calls and bumping into people, but I sat with some season ticket holders last night and no one said, ‘Congratulations on winning the Cup.’ They were like, ‘What are our chances of repeating?’ So you get to bask in the limelight for a very short time and then the expectations get back to repeating.”

And repeating a championship in the NHL is no small task.

NHL.com's 2007-08 Ducks Season Preview Package:
Intro | Goalies | Defense | Forwards | Feature | Numbers | Sked | Roster

 

 

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