For years the Mighty Ducks have been like an episode of Baywatch:
fun to watch, not to be taken seriously and spectacularly
top-heavy. Last season was no different. Wingers Paul Kariya and
Teemu Selanne anchored an awesome first line, finishing fourth
and fifth, respectively, in the NHL scoring race. The rest of the
team, however, was less offensive than Katie Couric. No forward
on any of Anaheim's other lines could muster more than the 15
goals scored by defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky.
To remedy the situation, the Ducks brought in yet another player
they are touting as the solution to their second-line woes. This
year's model is German Titov, late of the Penguins, who signed a
three-year contract on the first day of the free-agent signing
period last summer and who Selanne says stands out from past
would-be saviors by being "strong like a bull." Titov, 35, has
averaged 19 goals in seven NHL seasons and, coupled with the
return to form of left wing Marty McInnis, who missed 20 of the
final 32 games last season with a torn abdominal muscle, may give
Anaheim a decent second line.
There's no question, of course, about the Ducks' one-two punch.
Selanne and Kariya were the league's highest-scoring combo for
the third time in four years, despite the fact that each battled
nagging injuries. Over the summer, Selanne worked hard to
rehabilitate his sore back, which limited him to 33 goals last
year, a career low for a full season. Kariya, on the other hand,
took it easy for a change. In 1999-2000 he missed training camp
and the season opener because of a hip injury he sustained
working out over the summer, the most recent in a string of
early-season ailments he has suffered. He finished the season
with 86 points, down from 101 in '98-99. "It's been years since
I've been completely healthy," says Kariya. "What I've learned
is, it's much better to be 100 percent healthy and 95 percent in
shape than 100 percent in shape and 95 percent healthy."
The hard-working Kariya even took two vacations, to Maui and Palm
Springs, Calif. "When I was antsy to get to the gym, and I wasn't
feeling good, I thought, I'm not going through a year like last
year again, and I stayed home," says Kariya. "I'm not stupid. I'm
not going to make the same mistakes three or four times. Sooner
or later you learn."
Sooner or later the Ducks will have to learn that without more
than one solid line, meaningful games in April are rare.
Left wing Paul Kariya had the best plus-minus rating (+22) in
1999-2000 of any skater on a nonplayoff team.
CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY
FORWARDS 18 Titov another option behind Kariya and
DEFENSE 22 Traverse and Vishnevski need to produce
GOALTENDING 20 Hebert coming off a poor season
SPECIAL TEAMS 2 Tverdovsky had breakout year on power
MANAGEMENT 18 G.M. Gauthier is solid evaluator of