The Battle…of the backups.

By Luc Villeneuve

Unlike past off seasons, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim may have been the most active organisation in the NHL. They will begin the new season with many new faces such as defenceman Fredrik Ollausson, winger Petr Sykora and the “new backup”. What happened to last year’s backup, Steve Shields? The Toronto native was dealt to the Boston Bruins for a draft pick, so the “bench warmer’s” position is now wide open.

It will be an intense “battle” between Ilja Bryzgalov, Martin Gerber and Jean-Francois Damphousse for the right to backup star goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère. Here is a look at the three candidates.

Jean-Francois Damphousse

The former 1997 first round pick became a Mighty Duck of Anaheim during the summer in the blockbuster trade involving the New Jersey Devils. He served as Martin Brodeur’s backup for most of the past season until the club signed veteran netminder John Vanbiesbrouck. Damphousse may have only 6 NHL games under his “belt” but he still is the most NHL experienced of the trio. He seems be the front-runner for the position.

Ilja Bryzgalov

Anaheim’s future starting netminder spent his first season in North American with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks during the 2001-2002 campaign. Bryzgalov had great statistics for an AHL rookie with a 0.916 save percentage. The Russian is certainly in the same “ballpark” as Gerber and Damphousse but would the Ducks be rushing him to the NHL? Many young goaltenders had they’re confidence ruined by this, so it might be better for Bryzgalov to spend at least another year in the American Hockey League as a “star”.

Martin Gerber

The oldest of these three netminders, Gerber will be 28 at the beginning of this season. The Swiss, who was recently inked to his first NHL contract, was amazing with Farjestads of the Swedish Elite League during the 2001-2002 season. No NHL experience may be a factor in Coach Mike Babcock’s decision to choose his backup for the upcoming