There aren't very many ceremonies like the one we saw last night at Honda Center, but the NHL hasn't seen very many players like Teemu Selanne. The Anaheim Ducks put on a great ceremony Sunday when they retired Selanne's number before playing the Winnipeg Jets. It was very emotional, but it had lots of funny moments and that's just like Teemu. He was a guy who wore his heart on his sleeve, but he has a great sense of humor at the same time. You could tell he was genuinely loved by the people and his teammates. He's one of the greatest scorers the League has ever seen. His numbers bear it out, but if you've ever seen him play he could just flat out score. There aren't many players that have been better, and I thought the Ducks did a great job in showcasing that.
SELANNE JERSEY RETIREMENT
The Anaheim Ducks retired the No. 8 of Teemu Selanne, their all-time leader in eight categories, including goals, assists and points, on Sunday.
The amazing thing about Selanne is how universally beloved he is. Most players, their team's fans love him, but he makes enemies with big goals or his play on the ice. Everyone loves Teemu and that's all because of his personality. Even if he scored a big goal to defeat you, he'd be smiling and would probably pat the opposing goalie on his pads afterward so he didn't feel bad. He's just one of those guys who doesn't have a bad bone in his body. He has no animosity in his game. He obviously plays hard, but you don't see the anger that so many players have and so many claim to have. That was never in his makeup. If the Ducks defeat your team, you might say, "I hate that Ryan Getzlaf," or "I hate that Corey Perry, but Teemu...Teemu's a good guy."
The most fun part of the night might have been the pregame warmups, when both the Ducks and Jets wore all of the different jerseys Selanne had worn throughout his career with those teams. That the Jets played their part in it too just goes to show how beloved he was. Some people forget just how good he was in Winnipeg. He was on a line with Alexei Zhamnov and a young Keith Tkachuk and they were the best line in the NHL. That was showtime when you saw it. That gave the Jets a little part of this ceremony, too, and it was just another statement on how beloved Selanne was. There will never be another like him.
The Washington Capitals were inconsistent when this season began, but with seven wins in the past 10 games, including a victory in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, its clear coach Barry Trotz has successfully put his stamp on this team. You can see it with several players, but Alex Ovechkin is as good an example as any. He's a plus player, he's still scoring and he doesn't hurt you defensively. Ovechkin was a minus-35 last season. This season he's a plus-10. That's a huge turnaround, and he's not the only player who has committed to defense.
Mike Green has accepted a totally different role on defense. He's still dynamic offensively, but he's refined his game. Ovechkin is the same way. He's still a great scorer who gets his chances on the power play, but he doesn't hurt the team defensively when he's out there. That's how Trotz's teams work. He's gotten them to buy in, but at the same time, you've got to give the offensive players credit for realizing that if they're going to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington, it's going to be with this style of play.
Trotz ran a defense-first system in Nashville, and he had world class players there, but this is the first time he's really had world class offense to work with. He's got some players that can put the puck in the net, he knows it. He's made a deal with players like Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom or Green that if they compete defensively he'll give them offensive freedom. You're seeing that all over the ice, five-on-five and on the power play. Trotz was smart enough to know how to give his offensive players freedom while staying strong on the backend and it's paying major dividends in Washington.
HOWE ABOUT THAT
I have to take a minute to talk about how amazing Gordie Howe has been the last few weeks. A few weeks ago many in hockey feared the worst, but Gordie is just showing how tough he is. He reportedly had some procedures done with stem cells, and it seems to have done amazing things for him.
A few weeks ago things reportedly looked very bleak, but now he's supposedly kicking a ball around in the front yard and pushing a shopping cart. It's just phenomenal news to hear. Howe has been a warrior for years on the ice, and it's clear that he's a fighter off it. The NHL is a better world to be in when he is a part of it, and you can't possibly work in this industry and not be happy to hear how much Howe's condition has improved. When I saw in the paper how he was doing, it put a smile on my face. I imagine it's done the same for people all around the game.