Now that we're all set up for the final matchups of the season, it's time we start looking a little further ahead. Time to get ready for that crucial point in every season where teams begin to think about their future, the long haul. Trades, free agency, and the draft all mark the hopeful beginning for so many teams.
But for the Anaheim Ducks, it's a different story.
Before fans can hope for a bright new prospect, and before we can begin to wonder if Bob Murray will bolster the very weak blue line, we have to wait on two very usual suspects.
Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne: will they or won't they retire?
While the question is valid, and while once again they're making the franchise wait—the real questions fans should be asking is should they retire?
Are these two ready for the rigors of another 82 (and hopefully many more) games in 2010-2011? Or are they both better off watching from the stands, spending more time with their families, and perhaps preparing for hockey jobs that don't require rigorous exercise regimens?
Starting with Niedermayer, who is by and far a great asset for any blue line. While he may not be the Niedermayer we've seen from years past, there is no denying his value for any team.
If you can hang it around your neck, if you can have your name engraved on it, if you can hold it over your head...Niedermayer has won it.
True, this previous season his numbers were the worst of his career, but many of us would put the blame on a sketchy and undeveloped blue line rather than the veteran's diminishing talent. Let's face it: a sub-par Niedermayer is better than the average defenseman any day.
Should he return?
In my opinion, the Anaheim blue line still requires his services. With no guaranteed veteran returning to battle, there are few who would be a better at playing over 23 minutes a night than Niedermayer himself.
With question marks surrounding James Wisniewski, Aaron Ward, and Sheldon Brookbank returning to defend, there are very few options without shopping around. The Ducks are also finding themselves with a variety of young defensemen who don't have the experience to carry major minutes or play key roles on specialty units.
Not to mention there is a strong possibility that Luca Sbisa will finally be making his return to the NHL permanently and having Niedermayer as a tutor is just about as good as it gets.
At a reasonable price of course.
Teemu Selanne on the other hand might be a different story. Selanne ended the season in "flashy" style as expected. He surpassed the illustrious 600-career goal mark and hurdled his childhood idol Jari Kurri on the all-time goals scored list.
However, don't forget the numerous injuries he suffered throughout the season.
A broken hand and a broken jaw weren't enough to keep Selanne from reaching his career milestones with the Anaheim Ducks, but it might be enough for him to question returning for another season.
Again we ask, should he return?
I don't think the fans would mind.
While we know Selanne is capable of playing the game, you may have to question if there is the space for him on the roster in the future.
With Jason Blake, the possibility of Saku Koivu returning, Joffrey Lupul getting healthy over the summer, and the emergence of players like Dan Sexton and Matt Beleskey, the top two forward lines are getting a bit tight. Is there room for Selanne? If you prefer Selanne stays, who do you chose to squeeze out?
I'm all for the Flash returning to play hockey until it is no longer a passion running through his blood. And while I am a huge fan of his dominating power play goal scoring ability, I am also a huge fan of getting these rookies the playing time to develop them into quality players.
The Ducks are overloaded with right-wingers so much that players like Dan Sexton and Bobby Ryan often have to play out of position, something that has been an obvious hindrance to Ryan's game from time to time.
So ask yourself, should Niedermayer and Selanne return to hockey next season? Or is it time to hang up the skates and start playing dad full time?