It was about this time last season that Teemu Selanne
was contemplating retirement after 14 electrifying seasons in the League.
"I thought, 'I'm done,' " Selanne said. "Winning the Stanley Cup (in 2007) was something that got me so empty, physically and mentally, and the only way I would come back was if I still felt it in my heart to play again."
That itch returned following the birth of his fourth child, Veera, in December 2007.
After posting 23 points in 26 games with the Anaheim Ducks
last season, the 38-year-old Finnish Flash has rediscovered the fountain of youth after signing a two-year deal in September. How else can you explain the sudden offensive outbreak alongside linemates Corey Perry
and Ryan Getzlaf
"When you get older, the hardest part of playing in the NHL is the recovery time so you have to be so much smarter with eating, resting and getting the energy level where it should be," Selanne said. "When you're younger, it was pretty easy to get ready for that next game, and your energy level was normal."
Selanne won't openly admit it, but maintaining a high energy level hasn't been a problem for the 10-time NHL All Star. Not only did he record 6 goals and 9 points in 4 games last week, but he notched his 21st career hat trick, the most among active players; equaled Hall of Fame right wing Guy Lafleur
with 560 career goals; and tied Hall of Fame left wing Bobby Hull
with 1,170 career points.
"If someone told me (I'd be mentioned with Lafleur and Hull) when I first broke into the League, I would have said you were crazy," Selanne said.
Additionally, Selanne's 23-year-old linemates, Getzlaf (10 points) and Perry (9 points), combined for 19 points and a plus-8 rating over the 4 games. All told, the line accrued 10 goals and 28 points with a plus-7 rating last week for the surging Ducks, who are 6-0-1 in their last 7 games.
"They are getting inside and creating chances," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
told the Ducks' Web site. "When you have the amount of skill that they have, those things will eventually turn the tide in their direction. As long as they continue to work hard to get inside and control that puck, they can be an effective group."
The entire first line, in fact, earned a collective NHL First Star of the Week -- the first time since the inception of the award in 1981-82 that a group of teammates were given such an honor.
"Corey and Ryan are players who have all the tools that you need to be a great hockey player -- they see the game very well, can pass and shoot," Selanne said. "They're so strong down low and really hungry to do some damage. When you get open, you know that those guys are going to find you. It's the same thing with guys like (Chris) Pronger and (Scott) Niedermayer -- they make playing the game so much more easier."
It's also the reason the Ducks' power play has risen from the depths of the League standings to ninth overall with a 20.4-percent efficiency. Selanne leads the NHL with 7 power-play goals, including 6 he collected last week.
"I think we had a pretty good preseason. Honestly, I think we thought it was going to be a little easier, but there are no easy games. The secret with the Ducks is that we have to outwork the opponent. That's the only chance we have at winning games and we realize that."
-- Teemu Selanne
"Our power play has improved a lot and is one reason we've been able to turn things around (after starting the season 1-5-0)," Selanne said. "I think we had a pretty good preseason. Honestly, I think we thought it was going to be a little easier, but there are no easy games. The secret with the Ducks is that we have to outwork the opponent. That's the only chance we have at winning games and we realize that. Once we started working harder, we got this thing rolling but we still know that we can do even better."
Despite his age, Selanne has defied the odds by scoring at least 40 goals and 90 points in 2 of his last 3 seasons.
"My speed is still there," Selanne said. "Maybe I'm not as fast as I was when I was 22, but I think the speed is still the key for me. You know, I still like the game and I'm very lucky that I'm always playing with great players, which really makes it easier. But you just have to love this game and play with a passion and hope that you can stay healthy. That's the bottom line."
Selanne needs to just 3 more hat tricks to surpass Hall of Fame right wing and fellow Helsinki native Jari Kurri
for the most by a European-born player.
"Jari was my hero and my idol when I was growing up, so any time you can compare yourself to Jari Kurri
or you hear the conversation, it's obviously a big honor," Selanne said. "You have to have done some great things if you can be in the same company as Jari.
"When I was younger and got the first goal, I was so hungry to try to get another one. Usually when I got 2, I know there's a good chance to get a third one. As you get older, you're not so greedy anymore but it's always very special to get hat tricks."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.