Veteran right-winger Teemu Selanne has recently announced his intention to return to The Anaheim Ducks and a familiar face could be following him to "The Pond." His close friend and long-time teammate Paul Kariya will likely join him and return to the team he started his distinguished NHL career.
Selanne himself spoke on the matter, "I've talked to Paul and the Ducks. Paul has been waiting for my decision, and I hope things move forward."
Fans who believe that the duo could rekindle their sensational play of the mid-to-late 90's are mistaken but both are still productive players when healthy. It would be a strong possibility that Saku Koivu could center a veteran line with Kariya and Selanne on the wings. Selanne's chemistry with the pair is strong considering the time he's spent with Kariya in Anaheim and Colorado and with Koivu as Finnish national team members and recently with the Ducks.
Kariya would be rejuvenated by linking up again with Selanne and the chances for playoff contention as his time spent in St. Louis was mostly outside the playoffs. The Ducks have also just come off of a disappointing season in which they failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Anaheim will be hoping to get back to their usual expectations of sustaining long playoff runs as their team has the right mix of veterans and emerging talents to do so. Kariya will be joining a group of solid players that are 35 or older in Selanne, Koivu, Jason Blake, and Todd Marchant. It's clearly a "win now" mentality as head coach Randy Carlyle will try to squeeze out as much productivity as he can from the aging stars.
If the veterans can play near their former abilities, there is a good possibility that the Ducks can go deep in the playoffs as the team has plenty of youthful talents. Bobby Ryan will soon reach his potential and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are already in their prime years. Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller's numbers slipped in 2009-10 but could rebound in the upcoming season and if everything falls into place Anaheim will exceed expectations.
Some Ducks fans haven't forgiven Kariya for his departure to the Avalanche in the 2003 offseason. Who could blame him for taking a $1.2 million deal for the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup as at the time Colorado was loaded with league superstars? Though it was difficult for Ducks fans to see their captain and face of the franchise leave, Kariya should have been applauded upon his return to Anaheim as an opposing player.
He never deserved such abuse as his gave so many great years to the Anaheim fans and played with unusual grit for a diminutive scoring forward. Many remember when the Devils' Scott Stevens blindsided Kariya, levelling him onto the ice during the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. It was a scary moment for anyone watching as Kariya laid motionless on the ice for a few minutes but he showed real toughness by coming back and scoring just 11 minutes later ensuring a game seven. Though the Ducks ended up losing the series, Kariya had inspirationally led them to their greatest-ever season before their Cup-winning year of 2006-07.
It would be fitting if Kariya could earn back the respect of Anaheim fans by helping them go deep in the 2010-11 playoffs and possibly reproduce some magical moments alongside Selanne on the way.