Thursday, 7 June 2007

14 Years In The Making

The 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs have come to end. The Anaheim Ducks won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history with a 4-1 series win over the Ottawa Senators, and are the second team from the 1990 expansion wave to win the Silver Chalice (Tampa Bay was first). The Ducks played their best hockey during the Stanley Cup Final series, and, in doing so, earned the right to be called "NHL and Stanley Cup Champions".

Here's how the Ducks became Stanley Cup Champions in their short history.

In 1993, benefitting from the success of Wayne Gretzky's stay in Los Angeles and the thriving San Jose hockey market, California received a third NHL team as the Walt Disney Corporation was awarded an expansion franchise. Hockey traditionalists hated the choice of the name as Disney announced that the team would be called "the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim" after the Disney kids' movies. The team took up residence at the Arrowhead Pond, just a short distance east of Disneyland. The Ducks chose goaltender Guy Hebert of the St. Louis Blues as their first player ever in the 1993 Expansion Draft. Paul Kariya was selected 4th overall by the Mighty Ducks in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft as their first NHL draft pick. They created fairly recognizable jerseys that felt like you were watching a bunch of kids play hockey.

October 8th, 1993 saw the Mighty Ducks take to the ice for their first NHL game. The Detroit Red Wings pounded the Ducks 7-2 before an electric sellout crowd at the Pond. The Ducks finished their first season with a respectable 33-46-5, and won an expansion record 19 games on the road. The Ducks were a competitive team most nights, and even swept the two-game series with the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers.

After a four-month lockout to start the 1994-95 season, the Ducks struggled in their second season. However, Paul Kariya's first season in the NHL was a success as he totalled 18 goals and 21 assists. His team, however, finished with a record of 16-27-5, finishing in last place.

The 1995-96 season saw Paul Kariya's continuing emergence as a bonafide star in the NHL. Kariya tallied 50 goals and 58 assists to finish seventh in league scoring. The Mighty Ducks pulled off a monsterous trade this season to help compliment Kariya's scoring. The Ducks traded Chad Kilger and Oleg Tverdovsky to the Winnipeg Jets for Teemu Selanne. Selanne and Kariya clicked almost instantly as linemates, with Selanne scoring 36 points in 28 games after the trade. Unfortunately, the Ducks missed the playoffs by losing the tiebreaking scenario with Selanne's former team, the Winnipeg Jets. Even more unfortunate is the alternate jersey scenario. The alternate "Wild Wing" jersey that the Mighty Ducks introduced has been noted as one of the worst jerseys in the history of the NHL. Thankfully, it only last for this one season.

The 1996-97 proved to be a breakout season of sorts for the Mighty Ducks. Selanne led the team in scoring in his first full season as a Duck, posting 51 goals and 58 assists. Kariya scored 99 points despite missing 13 games. The Mighty Ducks posted a record of 36-33-13 for their first winning season in the NHL. They advanced to the playoffs to play the former Winnipeg franchise, now called the Phoenix Coyotes. The Ducks won their first playoff series over the Coyotes four games to three, and advanced to the second round to face the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings swept the young Ducks, but three of the four losses came in overtime.

The Mighty Ducks opened the 1997-98 season in Tokyo for the Game One Japan promotion against a west coast rival in the Vancouver Canucks. The Mighty Ducks were without one of their key players as Paul Kariya held out for a better contract. The Ducks and Canucks split the two games in Tokyo before heading back to North America. Without Kariya, though, the Ducks struggled. They got off to a 12-18-6 start before signing Kariya on December 22nd. 22 games later, Kariya's season ended with an injury, and the Ducks limped to a 26-43-13 record, missing the playoffs. What made matters worse was the introduction of both a home and an away alternate jersey. In partnering with Nike to create their jerseys, the "streamlined" jerseys were supposed to be an upgrade. They were certainly a regression in Mighty Ducks jerseys as the road alternate lasted only until the end of the 1998-99 season.

The 1998-99 season saw Kariya bounce back, posting 101 points alongside Teemu Selanne who posted 107 points. The Ducks posted a record of 35-34-13 for third place in the Pacific Division, and their second playoff berth. They were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings being outscored 17-6 in the four games.

The 1999-2000 season saw Kariya and Selanne struggle for the first time. The Ducks played less-than-average hockey all season, and finished last in the division with a 34-36-12-3 record. The up-and-down story of the Ducks continued. They did keep their white alternate jersey for this season, but it would not be seen again once this season ended.

In 2000-01, Mighty Ducks management decided that last place was a great place to be, and traded away Teemu Selanne to the San Jose Sharks for goalie Steve Shields, winger Jeff Friesen and draft picks. The Ducks' struggles got worse after the trade when Paul Kariya was injured and missed 16 games. The Ducks finished with a 25-41-11-5 record, worse than the two new expansion teams, the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In 2001-02, the Ducks ended up in last place in their division again for the third consecutive season, posting a 29-42-8-3 record. The Ducks did pick up the pace a little in the second half as Jean-Sebastien Giguere emerged as the starter, going 20-25-6 with a 2.13 GAA. GM Bryan Murray also made a couple of bold moves after the playoffs, acquiring setup man Adam Oates through free agency and sniper Petr Sykora from New Jersey in a trade for Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky.

The Ducks started the 2002-03 season by hiring a new coach in Mike Babcock. Babcock was promoted from Anaheim's AHL affiliate in Cincinnati after going 74-59-20-7 in two seasons with the baby Ducks. The Mighty Ducks started the season with a 15-10-6-3 start, but management felt they needed to get stronger. Bryan Murray acquired Sandis Ozolinsh, Steve Thomas, and Rob Niedermayer, leading the team to its best finish ever at 40-27-9-6. The Ducks were one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season, and carried that momentum into the playoffs. The Ducks swept the highly-favoured Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Giguere stopped an incredible 165 of 171 shots in the series. The Ducks defeated the Dallas Stars, the number one seed in the Western Conference, four games to two in round two. The Ducks continued their brilliance in the Western Conference Final against the Minnesota Wild, sweeping the Wild while allowing only one goal in the four games played. The Mighty Ducks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the New Jersey Devils in seven games, but Jean-Sebastien Giguere established himself as one of the premier netminders in the game by earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL Playoff MVP. Things were certainly looking up for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

The 2003-04 season started with stunning news as Paul Kariya signed a contract with the Colorado Avalanche far below his market value to be re-united with Teemu Selanne. The Ducks decided to try and replace Kariya's scoring by signing long-time Detroit Red Wing Sergei Fedorov. However, the team struggled throughout the season and could not duplicate the success they had in the previous season. The Mighty Ducks finished the season with a 29-35-10-8 record. Giguere looked nothing like himself from a season before as he posted a 17-31-6 record with a 2.62 GAA. The Ducks also got onboard with the black jersey craze and introduced a brand new alternate jersey and logo. This alternate jersey and logo lasted until after the 2005-06 season.

In 2005, Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli of Irvine, California and his wife, Susan, bought the Mighty Ducks from The Walt Disney Company for a reported $75 million. The Samuelis pledged to keep the team in Anaheim, and worked to change the attitude and image of the Ducks' brand. Brian Burke, former Vancouver Canucks general manager and President, was appointed GM and Executive Vice-President of the Mighty Ducks on June 20, 2005.

After the lockout, the Mighty Ducks struggled out of the gate during the 2005-06 season. They had signed Teemu Selanne again, and picked up star defenseman Scott Niedermayer through free agency. Brian Burke hired Randy Carlyle to replace Mike Babcock as head coach. Sergei Fedorov continued to struggle as a Duck, and was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Tyler Wright and Fran├žois Beauchemin. The deal revived the struggling franchise as they climbed back to .500 hockey by the end of November. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Andy McDonald and Joffrey Lupul emerged as stars as they were promoted by Burke. After the Winter Olympic break, the Ducks won 10 of 13 games and looked unbeatable on most nights. The Ducks set a new franchise record for points with 98 and posted a franchise-best 43-27-5-7 record. The Ducks eliminated the Calgary Flames in seven games with career backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov emerging as a star. The Ducks swept the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, winning Game Four 4-3 on four Joffrey Lupul goals. They advanced to face the Edmonton Oilers, but lost in five games. If you were a Ducks fan, you had seen this scenario before - great season followed by disappointment.

However, the 2006-07 season saw sweeping changes for the Anaheim franchise. Gone was the "Mighty" moniker. Eggplant colours were replaced by champagne, and new jerseys and a new logo were created. Brian Burke continued to make big moves, and he grabbed another stud defenseman via a trade. Burke dealt Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, a 2007 first-round draft pick, a 2008 second-round pick, and a conditional first-round selection to the Edmonton Oilers for Chris Pronger.

On November 9, 2006, the Ducks defeated the Vancouver Canucks 6-0 at General Motors Place in Vancouver to improve their season record to 12-0-4. The win set an NHL open era record by remaining undefeated in regulation for the first 16 games of the season, eclipsing the previous mark set by the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers.

On April 7, 2007, the Ducks won their first Pacific Division title ever as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the second-place San Jose Sharks in the Sharks' final game of the season. Anaheim set a new franchise record for points in a season with 110.

The Ducks entered the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild were outplayed from the start, and Anaheim won the series four games to one. The Vancouver Canucks fell to the same fate in the same number of games in the second round. The Ducks continued their masterful play as they bounced the Detroit Red Wings out of the Western Conference Final four games to two. The Ducks won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history with a 6-2 win over the Senators in Game 5 on Wednesday, June 6, 2007, at the Honda Center. The Ducks became the first west coast team since the 1925 Victoria Cougars, to win the Stanley Cup.

Ok, so that's the NHL season done. The NHL Awards Night is upcoming, and the draft is but a mere 15 days away. I'll have more AHL coverage this week as the Calder Cup Finals between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Hershey Bears winds down. Congratulations to the Anaheim Ducks, the 2007 NHL Stanley Cup Champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

- big thanks to for the images of the jerseys and the timeline!


Anonymous said...

"The Anaheim Ducks...are the first team from the 1990 expansion wave to win the Silver Chalice."
Not so. The Tampa Bay Lightning set up shop and started play in 1992-93 (the same year as the Ottawa Senators) and won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Teebz said...

Good call, Johnny. I had forgotten about their championship in my lack-of-coffee-fog this morning. I'll make the change right now.

Anonymous said...

Too bad the Sens lost. This guys rocks! I wish more politicians were like this.