Memorial Day post, remembering the Mighty Ducks

Last season (lockout included) proved to be a tremendously transitional one for the Ducks, with new ownership, a new GM and coaching staff, and a huge turnover on the ice. Gone at various times were Steve Rucchin, Mike Leclerc, Martin Gerber, Niclas Havelid, Vinny Prospal, Martin Skoula, Sergei Fedorov, Petr Sykora, Keith Carney, and Sandis Ozolinsh.

This postseason promises to be a different era of change. The team will have a new name (Anaheim Ducks) with new logos and uniforms, and even the Arrowhead Pond is being bid on for new naming rights. (Side note: I was surprised after being eliminated in G5 how many people were in the MD store. That seemed to be an odd time to purchase game gear.)

So, as this is sort of a team on the brink of a new 'chapter', let us look back on MD history and tell a little about Earl Sleek's top 10 Mighty Ducks. Note that these are just personal favorites, and the order isn't that important. Not surprisingly, most come from the past 3 years, based on the fact that our playoff history is very back-loaded.

10. Steve "Stumpy" Thomas--Stumpy is was the shortest-tenured Duck on this list, but he was a tremendous trade deadline pickup for then-GM Bryan Murray (I should note that Burke has yet to dethrone Murray as best Ducks' GM, though he's started well). He generally was thought of as 'washed-up', but carried a Chistov-Pahlsson line well into the playoffs. In 33 games he played as a Mighty Duck, he had 14 goals, 6 of which were game-winners. 2 game-winners came in the Stanley Cup Finals.

9. Fredrik "Freddie O" Olausson--Only one of two blueliners to make the list. Freddie O was a Mighty Duck for two stretches, but it is particularly his '98-'99 season that is noteworthy, as it was the one stretch in MD history where we had a dominant power play. The unit of Freddy O and Kariya on the blueline, with McInnis-Rucchin-Selanne up front, helped lead the league with a 22% success rate. Freddie O and his backdoor play led all blueliners in PP scoring that year, and his passing was first-rate also.

8. Guy "Care Bear" Hebert--For long stretches, Guy was the other recognizable MD not named Paul or Teemu. He was a very popular Duck, even during times when the team was not very good. He has had the coolest goalie name in MD history, which is tough considering the random selection of J.S. Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov, Mikhael Shtalenkov, Steve Shields, and prospect Michael Wall.

7. Petr "Please score" Sykora--You have to understand; before the Sykora trade in 2002, I was a huge A-Line fan (Arnott, Elias, Sykora on the NJ Devils). I thought that it was the best line in the league. Sykora had the mindset of the ultimate shooter, he wasn't a guy to mess around for another pass. There was a stretch when I noted that Stumpy Thomas had 8 goals in his first 10 games as a Mighty Duck. The surprising stat was that over that same stretch, Sykora had 9. His postseason numbers were underwhelming, although he did end a 5-OT G1 in Dallas and a 2-OT scoreless G1 in Minnesota.

6. Keith "Carney Asada" Carney--He is a guy who it was tough to watch play this year, as he had lost another step in the lockout. I say "another step" because he was always seemingly playing from behind, but was just so smart about poking the puck. He was better than Scott Niedermayer in that regard, although his skating was mediocre. He was an anchor on the blueline for that '03 squad, and gets bonus points for assisting on the series-winning goal against Detroit. I swear that is the only time I have EVER seen him behind an opponent's net.

5. Jean-Sebastien "Jiggy" Giguere--I think this post says it all.

4. Adam "Old Man" Oates--This guy was an amazing player to watch, as he was such a contrast from other scoring leaders. He was the smartest player I think I have ever seen, and if you've ever seen his stick-blade, you probably realize it's because he's playing a different type of game than anyone else. Perhaps the best pure passer in the game, although I know there's plenty of debate in that statement. It was truly a shame that Oates and Thomas could not win their Cup.

3. Steve "Roochie" Rucchin--How many seasons were the Ducks promised a better top line center to properly complement Kariya and Selanne and how many seasons did we end up going back to Steve Rucchin? On paper it always seemed like we could do better but on the ice we never could. He was underappreciated probably his whole career, until the '03 playoffs when he proved to be an invaluable stopper. His heart and smarts more than made up for a lack of footspeed.

2. Paul "the Captain" Kariya--Kariya is somewhat unpopular with Anaheim fans still, but this should not taint what Kariya did when he was here, which was not only lead this team on the ice, but really prove to the franchise that it could sustain a superstar player. Kariya was the one to really ask the question "Why not us? Why not Anaheim?" He was clearly a talented kid thrown into a Disney experiment, but while he was here he embraced that role rather than running from it, and played some damn good hockey as a little guy also.

1. Teemu "the Finnish Flash" Selanne--Selanne gets #1 on this list for his triumphant return (along, of course, with his glory days). Sure he is soft and European, so his leadership doesn't come through body work or backchecking, but for what he brings you, Teemu is the man. He is consistently keyed on by opponents' defensemen, which helps linemates like Kariya or Andy Mac to find more ice, and yet manages to shoot the puck with such skill and confidence that he puts up great numbers. He has been and will be the best seller of the game in Anaheim, and should be the first number hung from the rafters. Maybe even 2 numbers, if the league will allow it.

Notable omissions: Sandis Ozolinsh, Tomas Sandstrom, Ruslan Salei, Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Fedorov, and personal faves Vishnevski and Pahlsson.

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