Scott Niedermayer Is a Happy Duck
All it took was watching the Penguins and the Red Wings play for the title to get Niedermayer in the right frame of mind to say "yes" to the Ducks and their one-year, $6 million offer. He officially agreed to the deal on Wednesday, the first day of free agency.
"The Stanley Cup Finals obviously gets you excited to get back on the ice," Niedermayer told FanHouse by phone from Vancouver.
The main consideration in the decision to return was the regular season and its rigors, Niedermayer emphasized, but there's something else he'd love to do. The Ducks' captain is from British Columbia, and the 2010 Winter Olympics are in Vancouver. A four-time Stanley Cup winner, Niedermayer also played on Canada's 2002 gold medal team, and a repeat in his own country would be extra memorable.
"It's definitely something I'd be honored to be a part of," Niedermayer said. "My hometown, my province, that would be a pretty special experience. But that's a two-week tournament and the NHL season is 8 to 10 months and that's really what I based my decision on because of the commitment that takes."
Niedermayer returns to an Anaheim team that features another notable returnee, Teemu Selanne, who cited Niedermayer's presence as a primary reason he was re-upping with the Ducks. But a prominent Anaheim player is gone: big, bad Chris Pronger was shipped to Philadelphia. Pronger's departure was tied to Niedermayer's return, done with an eye toward the salary cap and fitting in Niedermayer's salary.
That's a sizeable loss on the defensive side of things, but Niedermayer didn't sound overly concerned. He's seen all sorts of team upheaval in his time in the NHL.
"There are always changes," he said. "Changes in the summer, changes during the year. You learn to live with that. Obviously Chris was a big part of the team and a great player and he helped make us a good team, but this is a team sport and it takes 24 guys to create success. We'll have some new faces, we'll see how they fit in, but I like this team and I'm excited to get things going. We all expect to make the playoffs and to compete for the Cup."
Next season, though, Niedermayer would prefer if the Ducks didn't leave their big surge for so late in the year. They barely made it into the playoffs after a dreadful start. Left with the eighth seed, Anaheim upset San Jose -- the best team during the regular season -- and then pushed the defending champion Red Wings the distance in the semifinals.
"That didn't make it easy," he said of the team's late bloom. "Hopefully, we learned our lesson. We got behind the 8-ball, and by the time February rolled around we had a tough road, playing the top teams in the conference in the first couple of rounds."
The Ducks ranked high again in ESPN the Magazine's ultimate pro sports rankings, placing 11th among every franchise in the four major sports. Over the past three years, Anaheim has averaged the top spot in the NHL and the fourth spot overall in the rankings, which list teams "by how much they give back to fans for all the emotion, money and time fans invest in their favorite teams."
"You always know that you have a chance to compete to win a championship there," Niedermayer said. "That's all you want. The fans are great, the team treats people well. It wasn't a hard decision to be a part of that. I didn't know what to expect when I first came here, but I'm pleased with how it's working out."