The Anaheim Ducks were one of the most successful teams in the NHL's post-lockout era. During the past decade, they've only missed the postseason twice, with two of those misses coming in the last three years.
The management of Brian Burke, who joined the team in 2005, proved to be a huge part of the success that the franchise enjoyed for so many years. Luring in star power like Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger, re-signing Teemu Selanne and drafting Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry was only the beginning of a building process that seemed to take place over a very short period of time.
Yet, after building a team that seemed poised for long term success, the honeymoon between Burke and the Ducks ended in 2008 as Burke left southern California to take the job of managing the Toronto Maple Leafs. His departure saw Bob Murray take over as Anaheim's general manager, and set off a restructuring of Anaheim's roster that would slowly take place over the next several years.
During that time, Anaheim sent away most of the core pieces of their 2006-2007 Stanley Cup-winning team for what can only be described as "poor fits" in return. If Bob Murray had the last four years to do over again, I believe these players would have stayed in Anaheim jerseys.
Ilya Bryzgalov didn't want to stay on with the Ducks as a backup to Jean Sebastien Giguere, and considering his high caliber talent, no one would blame him. However, it wasn't long after Murray let Bryzgalov go to the Coyotes through waivers for absolutely nothing in return that Giguere's play began to decline and the inevitable need to replace him became clear.
While Giguere was eventually replaced by the young Jonas Hiller, who has earned All-Star status in his own right, it's tough to look at the elite goaltender Bryzgalov has become and not regret that he was let go for nothing in return.
Twice the Ducks have had Joffrey Lupul on their roster, and twice they have lost their patience with him and shipped him off to another team where he saw an incredible amount of success.
One season after the Ducks traded Lupul to the Maple Leafs along with Jake Gardiner (we'll get to him later) for Francois Beauchemin, Lupul earned a spot in the All-Star Game for the first time and collected 67 points in 66 games.
As I mentioned before, Gardiner was part of the trade that sent Lupul to Toronto and brought Beauchemin back to Anaheim. The Ducks had drafted Gardiner at 17th overall in 2008 and touted him as the future of their defense. Whether he should have been part of the package is highly questionable, but the fact that he was is highly disappointing.
He went on to play 75 games for the Maple Leafs and collect 30 points. His immediate success revealed that he was more than just an undeveloped prospect.
Certainly Chris Pronger has seen his fair share of injuries and at this point might not be worth the seven-year contract he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. However, Pronger was an immensely important part of the Ducks' core, and the bizarre round of trades that brought him both in and out of Anaheim are hard to make sense of. Here's how it happened.
Pronger was traded to Anaheim from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Lupul. Meanwhile, Lupul gets moved to the Flyers and is then traded back to Anaheim in exchange for Pronger again, sending Pronger to Philadelphia.
Since Lupul was eventually the main piece that brought Beauchemin back to the Ducks, you can essentially say that the Ducks traded Pronger and Gardiner for Beauchemin. That hurts no matter how you look at it.
Even when you consider injuries, had Pronger stayed in Anaheim it would have been a whole different set of circumstances.
Andy McDonald was a speedy homegrown center who was one of the major gears that kept Anaheim's offense going under a defensive-minded coach. Since his departure, Anaheim has seen Getzlaf rise to the spot of No. 1 center, and rightly so. However the Ducks have yet to successfully replace McDonald and establish a second-line center. I'm sorry, but Saku Koivu just isn't that guy.
What makes things even more painful, are the circumstances under which McDonald left. The McDonald trade happened because of a long stretch of difficulty for a team with high expectations who felt they had to "shake things up" in order to turn their season around. Let me also add that this one was on Burke, not Murray, as it took place late in 2007, before Burke had left the team.
Burke traded McDonald to the St. Louis Blues for Doug Weight and a seventh-round draft pick. Though a proven and talented player, Weight, who was already in the twilight of his career, just couldn't fill the role that McDonald had filled. Weight was eventually dealt to the Islanders for negligible compensation.