ANAHEIM -- Chants of "One more year" rained down on Scott Niedermayer
and Teemu Selanne
as they led the Anaheim Ducks
in a season-ending salute to the home crowd after a 7-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers
Sunday night at Honda Center.
"(My kids) all want me to keep on playing, but then, they want me to be home all the time," Selanne said. "They tell me, 'Dad, you'd be crazy to retire, you're doing so well.' I look at my 14-year-old and I realize in a couple of years that he'll be going away, and that's really scary to me."
"We thought we were better," Niedermayer said. "(We were) coming up a bit short, other teams were winning and you find yourself falling in the standings. We hung in there and eventually figured out a way to play better, but it was a bit too late."
Their respective tenures in Southern California are lined with both Stanley silver and uncertainty, but the sting of a non-playoff season will pale in comparison to their contributions to hockey in California.
For one, Selanne, Anaheim represented a chance to return to what became his NHL home earlier in his career. For the other, Niedermayer, a return to family smoothed his signing.
"(My kids) all want me to keep on playing, but then, they want me to be home all the time. They tell me, 'Dad, you'd be crazy to retire, you're doing so well.' I look at my 14-year-old and I realize in a couple of years that he'll be going away, and that's really scary to me." -- Teemu Selanne
Selanne returned to Anaheim at 35 years of age, after disappointing seasons in San Jose and Colorado. Niedermayer joined just prior to his 32nd birthday. The two led the charge as the Ducks became the first California team to win a Stanley Cup.
From there, uncertainty followed as the next fall the club started the season without both. Niedermayer played just 48 games, Selanne, 26, as both toyed with retirement in 2007-08.
Like a soap opera, the saga of Selanne and Niedermayer moves slowly as they turn 40 and 37, respectively, this offseason. Summer is re-run season, to which Southern California hockey fans have grown accustomed.
With the Ducks going 9-3-3 over their last 15 contests, Selanne scoring 6 goals in his last five games, Niedermayer 4 goals and 7 assists in his last 18 contests, the decision over whether to return is a tough one.
"If we were playing badly, it would be a lot easier," Selanne said. "A very, very easy decision. Let's see what happens."
The subtractions of defensemen Chris Pronger
and Francois Beauchemin
didn't help, but Niedermayer says that the solution to the Ducks' defensive woes had more to do with who was in the room than who had departed.
"I don't feel that it impacted my game much," Niedermayer told NHL.com. "I had played with (Beauchemin) pretty much the whole time I'd been here. Going to a new partner is obviously a change. All parts of hockey are team-oriented. We lost some pretty important players, but we could have done our jobs better with the guys in this room."
"Obviously, when you lose players the caliber of (Chris) Pronger and (Francois) Beauchemin off your back end, it's going to have some form of an effect," coach Randy Carlyle
"I'm pretty sure (Neidermayer's) coming back," guessed Ducks' TV Analyst Brian Hayward
. "He seems to be enjoying the game a lot more, his family is entrenched in Orange County, and he has actually really elevated his play since the Olympic break."
The Ducks added defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky
and Aaron Ward
at the trade deadline just days after Niedermayer won gold in Vancouver. Niedermayer finished the final 18 contests a plus-8.
"I know how disappointing it's been for (Niedermayer) that this team is not in the postseason," Hayward continued. "He takes a lot of personal responsibility for that. He doesn't want to end it this way. If he decides not to come back, there is an enormous void on the blue line, the team will have more dollars to spend but I don't think you can replace a guy like that."
Niedermayer says that unlike his fall 2007 hiatus, he'll be quick with his current choice.
"It probably all is going to come down to a feeling," Niedermayer said. "I've already had a bit of time to think about it and I'm sure there will be a decision fairly soon."
The 2004 Norris Trophy winner says that in fairness to his team, brevity is key.
"No one enjoys going through this," Niedermayer said. "It started when I didn't play that one year (2007, limited to 48 games). I'd rather just make the decision and go from there. It'll be quicker (this time)."
Brother Rob, to whom Scott first passed the 2007 Stanley Cup, is at the end of a one-year deal in New Jersey. Niedermayer doesn't put much stock into the possibility of a reunion.
"We had a good four years," Scott said. "I think things change, and he ended up somewhere else, but you can't take away the time we had here. It was a good time."
The talk surrounding Selanne's potential return centers mostly around his tremendous numbers over the past five seasons. From the age 35 on, Selanne has averaged .501 goals per game, which is shockingly similar to his career average of .51.
Carlyle thinks he knows the key to Selanne's success at an advanced age. It's not getting to the open areas, it's not Selanne's famous hands, not the timely goals, not the power play goals.
"If you turn the mikes off, I'll give you the real answer," Carlyle said, then paused and smiled to set up the punch line. "It's coaching!"
Selanne enjoyed Carlyle's suggestion.
"Funny, a couple of years ago, when my plus/minus was something like plus-26, he said that it was because of him. I said, 'I didn't see you out there.' He said, 'I was protecting you, playing (Teemu's) line against the line that can't score.'"
"It's like a wife or a coach," Selanne laughed. "You try to make your coach or wife feel that they're right, even if they are not."
Ducks enforcer George Parros
said that elite talents can't be replaced so easily.
"You can go out and find elite guys, but to have them be in an organization like this for this long, there's going to be a gap when (they) leave," Parros said. "Someone can come along and fill it because there's a lot of skilled guys (out there), but there's a special feeling in the locker room that sometimes you lose."
Selanne trails Dino Ciccarelli
in two statistical categories. His 606 career goals place him 17th, just two behind Ciccarelli. His 220 power play goals are 12 behind Ciccarelli, good for ninth place.
"He hasn't lost a step yet," Hayward said. "As all goal scorers will tell you, it's the hands that go before the feet, and we've seen with Teemu that the hands haven't lost much. "
"I never would have expected to play this long," Selanne said. "I would never have expected to score 600 goals in this League. To be honest, in Winnipeg, I thought I'd play three or four years in this League and go back to Europe. I made a bet with Tomas Steen and Fredrik Olausson
. I totally forgot what it was. Hopefully they don't remember it, because I lost (the bet)."