CALGARY - Originally, Teemu Selanne was going to be the Anaheim Ducks’ lone representative in the NHL all-star game - or until he pulled the plug on himself and convinced the league’s hockey operations department to send teammate Corey Perry instead.
Selanne’s reasoning was based largely on two factors: One, that as the reigning MVP, Perry should go this year, more than any other. Two, Ottawa is a long way to fly a 41-year-old who admittedly isn’t playing anything like an old man - and leads the Ducks in scoring, with 41 points in 41 games. Without actually saying so, Selanne made it clear that he would rather have the weekend off to rest than to trek all the way to Ottawa to play.
He called the decision to recommend Perry ahead of himself “Very easy. I’ve been there many times (10, most recently in 2007). Honestly, I think it’s a great opportunity for young players and Perry was MVP last year.
“He’s the man. The MVP should go. It’s better that he be there.”
In some ways, it would be a shame if the Ducks wasted Selanne’s last season with such a singularly mediocre performance that, even after three consecutive wins, still has them 14th in the Western Conference standings and 17 points out of a playoff spot. If it isn’t hopeless, it is the closest thing to hopeless. Selanne himself wouldn’t rule out a return for next year, saying that is a decision for down the road, and Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau thinks any talk of retirement is silly, considering how well Selanne is playing.
All Selanne would venture about the future was to note: “Obviously, I still enjoy the game and playing with the kid players, and hanging around with Perry and Getzky and those young guys. They make me young too.”
Historically, Anaheim generally struggles early and then makes a mad second-half dash to the playoffs. Last year, with a playoff spot in doubt with as little as a week to go, they pushed all the way to fourth in the conference (technically, they were in a three-way tie with Nashville and Phoenix all at 99, L.A. was just a point behind at 98), which gave them home-ice advantage in the first round. The Ducks were a team that many feared in the opening round, but then they stumbled and lost to the Predators.
“It’s a great league when you’re playing well because you play so often and you’re going to win a lot of games, but it’s a brutal league when you’re not playing and we were struggling a long time,” said Selanne. “We really put ourselves behind the 8-ball right away. That’s the toughest part - and especially since we feel we still have a good team here. If we had a bad team, obviously, you could live with that. But we all feel that we have a team that’s going to have success. So that’s why it has been so tough.
“But you know, right now, I think we just try to stay hot and see how far we can go, and give a push. You never know. It’s a half season. We have done it before. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
“You gotta win seven of 10 games at least. But we have been in this situation before. For some reason, this team has always been a little bit of a slow starter. The second half has always been better. I really hope that this year, this will be the case too.”
As for deferring to Perry for this year’s All-Star Game, someone who clearly didn’t get it asked Selanne if Perry owed him a steak dinner.
“No, I owe him a dinner,” answered Selanne, with a twinkle in his eye.