John Cordes/Icon SMI)
In Anaheim, a whimpering close to a forgettable season may mark the end of one of the finest careers in hockey history—or it may not.
“I really would love to give an answer, but I decided already a long time ago that emotions go high and low during the season so I’ve got to get the right feeling,” Teemu Selanne said. “That will be happening for me in the summertime, when it’s time to start pushing, working out and getting ready for a new year.”
The Ducks fell 2-1 to the Oilers in a contest wherein Anaheim outshot Edmonton 32-15, thanks in large part to five futile power plays.
All three goals were scored by players named Teemu, one for Selanne (No. 663 of his career) and two for Edmonton’s Teemu Hartikainen.
Hartikainen, who is also a Finn, was reverent of the elder Teemu after the game. When Selanne debuted in Winnipeg, Hartikainen was just two years old.
“He was like the biggest hockey player when I was growing up,” Hartikainen said. “He was kind of my idol.”
Selanne seemed capable of eliciting thunderous applause at will, although he tapped the linesman with his stick to get him to drop the puck during an extended third-period ovation.
"I think we stood up too,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “We like having him around. We’ll take him as long as he’ll stay."
Selanne said he would take a long holiday with his family in Finland and give the Ducks a decision sometime before July 1.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he did not have a “gut feeling” regarding Selanne’s return. He has joked that Selanne could be a new-age Gordie Howe, playing into his 50s, and said that Selanne would be welcome back with open arms.
“Off the ice he takes care of himself and he trains right,” Boudreau said. “When you’ve got the God-given ability that he has, you can last a long time.”
This season had the makings of a storybook finish for Selanne, who will turn 42 in July. Outside of climbing career leaderboards—most notably, he passed Jari Kurri to become the highest-scoring Finn in NHL history—the feel-good stuff did not materialize for Selanne.
It began with the Ducks playing in Helsinki, where Selanne is worshipped widely. The Ducks lost to Buffalo there, and Selanne was held scoreless.
Another homecoming came in December, when Selanne returned to Winnipeg for the first time since being traded back in 1996. He had two assists but the Ducks fell to the upstart Jets.
In fact, the Ducks did a lot of losing early in the season, going from hosting a playoff series in the spring to occupying the Western Conference cellar through the entire fall and much of the winter.
“It’s pretty sad that we’re not making the postseason, but there’s a reason for that,” Selanne said. “The first half was just so bad that we couldn’t climb back into the playoff race. We always did before, but this time we ran out of gas.”
Selanne has contemplated retirement seriously before. He felt he would not last longer than three seasons in the NHL initially. A knee injury threatened his career in 2004, with the lockout layoff rejuvenating his body. He considered heavily going out on top after Anaheim’s 2007 Stanley Cup win and each season since has brought chants of “One more year!”
But, so far, Selanne’s passion for hockey keeps on bringing him back.
“It’s fun, I could never have imagined that I enjoyed this game so much, especially in my old age,” Selanne said.
Pacific Division Notes
Ray Whitney scored points Nos. 1000 and 1001 Saturday and Mike Smith earned his second straight shutout in a 4-0 win over Anaheim Saturday … Anaheim fell Sunday to Edmonton 2-1 and Toni Lydman missed the game with an upper-body injury, he is day-to-day and “pretty banged up” according to coach Bruce Boudreau … The Los Angeles Kings earned three points out of their two weekend games, beating Edmonton Friday and falling in a shootout in Minnesota Sunday. Jeff Carter missed both games with an ankle injury. He will undergo an MRI Monday and is doubtful for their home game against Edmonton … The San Jose Sharks got a huge 3-0 victory over Dallas behind Joe Pavelski’s two goals and Antti Niemi’s shutout. Douglas Murray missed his second straight game and Logan Couture has gone a career-high 10 games without a goal … The Dallas Stars had a weekend to forget falling 5-2 in Vancouver Friday and 3-0 in San Jose Saturday. They face San Jose again in Dallas Tuesday where they will look to avoid repeating last year’s stretch-run flop.