DUCKS QUACKING: The Anaheim Ducks entered the all-star break on an 8-1-1 run and have been one of the most dangerous teams in the league ever since general manager Bob Murray read his players the riot act and threatened to move everybody but Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu (both of whom are protected by no-trade clauses).
The problem with the Ducks is that they dug themselves too big a hole early, so that they look like this year’s version of either the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils or the Calgary Flames - two teams that were red hot in the second half of last year, but were so far gone early that even their big push didn’t result in a playoff spot. But the Ducks are true believers, at least Selanne is. And by the way, he has no interest in moving to another team - pretender, contender or the Winnipeg Jets - at the trading deadline, under any circumstances. Selanne said that in a conversation the other day, and then went on to assert: “The thing is, I still feel we can make it. This is a great league when we play well.” Selanne went on to note that past the all-star break, “there are still 30 games left. That’s a lot of hockey if you can stay hot and healthy for a while.
“This is almost like a very familiar situation. We are always behind the eight-ball at Christmas and we start climbing. Hopefully, this is the case too. If this type of team makes the playoffs, that confidence, that building ... who knows? You never know. That’s a new world. That’s a new hockey world then.”
In 11 games in January, the Ducks offence roared to life, scoring 37 goals, the second-highest goals-per-game average in the NHL behind Boston, at 3.83. Selanne, meanwhile, has already this season passed Mats Sundin, Guy Lafleur, Brendan Shanahan, Johnny Bucyk and Mike Modano on the NHL’s all-time points-scoring list, and now sits at No. 22 overall, six points behind Brett Hull, who is at 1,391.
Barring injury, he should be able to reel in Luc Robitaille and Jari Kurri before season’s end. Passing Kurri, an idol of his growing up, would be a big deal and also enable him to get to 1,400 career points, something Kurri just failed to do (1,398). The way Selanne, 41, Nick Lidstrom, 41, and Daniel Alfredsson, 39, are all playing this year, you’d have to think there’s a chance all three will play on beyond this season, when many believed the trio might all be in their final seasons.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT ALFIE: The all-star weekend marked the return to Ottawa of Zdeno Chara, who was a popular figure in his four seasons (2001-02 to 2005-06) with the Senators, before leaving to join the Bruins as an unrestricted. Chara has delivered more bang for Boston’s free-agent bucks than perhaps any high-profile, high-priced unrestricted free agent in history, after the Sens chose to keep Wade Redden instead of him when it became clear they couldn’t afford to pay both.
As captain, Chara shared the spotlight Thursday with Alfredsson, a former teammate, when selecting their respective teams for Sunday’s game. An while Alfredsson stuck with the script that Eric Staal followed as the hometown captain last year in Carolina, picking teammates and countrymen first, Chara got off to a great start by grabbing Pavel Datsyuk, then a teammate (Thomas) and then Evgeni Malkin with his first three picks.
Of course, Alfredsson got the de facto equivalent of Datysuk and Malkin by selecting the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel much deeper in the draft, and did what every smart fantasy manager does - which is delay for as long as possible before making his good sleeper picks. Because of Boston’s history with the Canucks and Sedins, it was highly unlikely that Chara was going to take either of them, which meant they (and Alex Edler) would come to Alfredsson anyway.
It’s remarkable how much fantasy sports drives the real thing these days. Alfredsson isn’t into it himself, but is only too aware of how fixated some people can be on picking hockey pools and the like. This year, with 38 points in 46 games, he would have been a shrewd pick for anyone who took him. Coming off an injury-filled 2010-11 season, in which he managed 31 points in 54 games and then required back surgery, there would have been some thought his numbers would tail right off.