LAS VEGAS - The then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were the only team Ryan Getzlaf didn't talk to at the 2003 NHL Draft combine.
You can imagine his surprise not only at the team's decision to draft him, but the fact that he dropped all the way to the No. 19 selection in order for them to do so. Getzlaf had been ranked by central scouting as the No. 5 overall pick in the star-studded 2003 draft. Yet, as each pick went by, he remained nervously in his seat.
With hindsight being 20/20, how much do you want to bet those 18 other general managers ahead of the Anaheim want a do-over?
Nine years after the draft, Getzlaf, 29, finds himself as the captain of a Ducks team that recorded a franchise-high 116-points, and won their second-straight Pacific Division title before falling to the rival Kings in seven games. Anaheim's roster is a mix of promising young talent and veteran leaders; however, Los Angeles exposed their flaws.
"I don’t think there’s one thing. Obviously, the LA Kings are a great hockey team. They went on to win the Stanley Cup; so they’re doing something right. We had a few areas of our game that I thought slipped a little bit in that series. We had a little youth that showed through. We were a little nervous in that Game 7. And those are things you only learn with experience," said Getzlaf. "Sadly enough, [the Kings] had that experience from a couple years before. We can carry that forward, and try to make changes the next season."
There is a slight changing of the guard coming to the Ducks next season. For the first time since Getzlaf became captain, both assistant captains, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, will no longer be in the locker room.
Getzlaf feels he and his team are ready for the transition.
"I have a tremendous group around me to support me ... A lot of those veteran guys ... really helped me and mold me in to who I am today.
"Anytime you have those veteran presences that have been around that long, it’s going to be a little bit of a change. For the most part, our locker room stays pretty much the same. We have a few of us that have been here just as long as Teemu in Anaheim, anyway. We know how we want to run things."
Getzlaf is making his second appearance at the NHL Awards. In 2010, he came to Vegas to celebrate teammate Corey Perry's MVP campaign. Now it's his turn to be in the spotlight. The center is nominated for the Hart Trophy, the Mark Messier Leadership Award and the Ted Lindsay Award. The latter is voted on by the NHL Players Association, something not lost on Getzlaf.
"Well like in any job that’s the biggest honor you can possibly have ... When you’re talking about your peers, the people you compete against every day, it shows a lot of respect and I’m very humbled by it."
We caught up with the one they call Getzlaf at the NHL Awards media day in Las Vegas.
Q. Would you say you felt the most comfortable this season as a captain?
GETZLAF: I would say, actually, the year before was when everything kinda clicked, and was feeling a lot better. Not too much second guessing on decisions, those kind of things. Just kind of let things go where they wanted to. Then this year our team’s success helped that and makes you look a lot better than you are (grins).
How much of that was Bruce?
A little bit here and there. I mean Bruce is an easy coach to be with. He talks to you a lot. Me and Bruce talk on a daily basis, and that makes me feel a little bit more comfortable. Sometimes I know too much of what’s going on (wry smile), but it’s all part of it, I guess.
Who do you and Perry need on a left wing? It feels like you guys have rotated wingers for years.
We’re really hard to please (laughs). Oh, I don’t know. It’s such a hard role to fill because it’s, when you’re talking playing with us, we’re expected to perform every single night. It’s hard to put a young guy in there to fill those shoes for any length of time. I think that’s been our biggest thing. When you’re talking about putting kids in, they don’t know what it’s like exactly to have that pressure every single night. So, you have to rotate a little bit. It’s been fine for us, too.
It’s funny you say ‘the kids’. Now you’re the old man on the team?
I know! I’m the old man on the team. Somebody said that the other day and it didn’t tickle me very well. I’ve been the young guy for the longest time because Teemu’s still around, but now he’s leaving.
Have you gotten any sleep with the new baby? [Baby girl Willa born April 18th]
It’s been good! You know what, my wife does all the heavy labor at the start anyway. (Laughs) There’s not a whole lot of use for me. We’re getting our share.
(Bonus points if you can find me in the picture above)