Like it was yesterday, Chuck Fletcher remembers Tim Murray, then the Anaheim Ducks’ chief scout and now the new GM of the Buffalo Sabres, going on and on about Corey Perry leading into the 2003 NHL draft.
“I still remember Timmy pushing Bryan and I on him,” said Fletcher, the Wild’s GM who was former Ducks GM Bryan Murray’s right-hand man in Anaheim 11 years ago. “He took Bryan and I to go see him because the big knock on Corey was his skating. But he was so skilled and so smart and so competitive.”
With the 19th pick, Anaheim took Ryan Getzlaf, a big, skilled centerman from the Calgary Hitman. As current Ducks assistant GM David McNab recalls, the rest of the first round, the Ducks’ scouting staff was convinced “there was one premier player left in the draft — Corey Perry,” a big power winger from the London Knights.
So Bryan Murray began frantically calling teams, offering two second-round picks to each for another first-round pick. Finally, the Dallas Stars, who liked Loui Eriksson, made the move, giving Anaheim the 28th pick for two seconds.
“We wouldn’t have done it if Perry was gone,” McNab said before scouting Thursday’s Wild-Oilers game.
“It was just a franchise-changing draft for Anaheim to get Getzlaf and Perry nine picks apart in the same draft,” Fletcher said. “Four years later, they were integral parts of a Cup-winning team, and to this day, they’re 28 years old and franchise players.”
Getzlaf and Perry, the 2011 Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer) and Hart (MVP) Trophy winner, are the third- and fourth-highest scorers in Ducks history and third and fifth in scoring this season for what is the NHL’s best team.
Some of Perry’s goals have been off the charts.
“He has all the tools to be magical every night,” future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne said. “He’s hungry, that’s the key.”
The Ducks, who are running away with the Pacific Division, have won 18 of their past 19 games. They have watched 22 opponents walk into the Honda Center and watched 22 opponents walk out of the Honda Center reeling from losses.
The last victim of the Ducks’ torrid 20-0-2 home streak was Vancouver, which got annihilated 9-1 on Wednesday thanks to six power-play goals.
Getzlaf, who has 39 points in the past 27 games, and Perry, who is second in the NHL with 27 goals, may lead the way, but the Ducks’ success goes beyond just them.
GM Bob Murray has done an impressive job balancing size and speed with a mix of youth (Cam Fowler, 22, and Hampus Lindholm, 19, who is plus-25) and veterans (Selanne and Saku Koivu). They are terrifically coached by 2008 Jack Adams winner Bruce Boudreau.
Their forwards are so balanced, from the reacquisition and retransformation project of Dustin Penner to hardworking guys such as Andrew Cogliano (shrewd trade by Murray) and Matt Beleskey (draft pick) and Nick Bonino (third in scoring!) to skilled guys such as Jakub Silfverberg (Bobby Ryan trade).
The team is so deep, future stud Emerson Etem can develop in the minors and Kyle Palmieri, who has proved against the Wild before how talented he is, was a healthy scratch against Vancouver.
They’re four deep in goaltending, from Jonas Hiller winning 14 in a row until a loss at Chicago on Friday, to free-agent pickup Viktor Fasth to draft pick Frederik Andersen going 11-2 in place of the injured Fasth to 2011 second-round pick John Gibson in Norfolk.
Ben Lovejoy, acquired for a fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh, is playing out of his mind on the blue line (plus-18) and the smooth-skating Fowler, a minus-57 his first three seasons, is plus-13 with 27 points.
“What is this, Year 4 now for Cam?” McNab said. “It takes time. We knew he’d be a good player. This is when you come into your own. Everybody knew he’d be good. Was just a matter of when.
“The scouts have done a great job and Bob is just a smart guy. We’re staying levelheaded though. There’s a lot of great teams in the NHL, a lot of teams that can win a playoff series.”
NHL Short Takes
Winter Classic update
The Wild so badly wants a Winter Classic that sources say owner Craig Leipold has changed his tune about an outdoor game.
Previously, Leipold said the Wild was not interested in playing in any of the stadium series games, that the franchise wanted the actual New Year’s Day Winter Classic that is televised on NBC and comes with all the bells and whistles like HBO’s “24/7.”
But Leipold has informed the NHL that the Wild is willing to either play in or host a stadium series game if it would enhance the team’s chances for a Winter Classic.
Besides the Red Wings-Maple Leafs Winter Classic, there are four stadium series outdoor games this season in the NHL — Kings vs. Ducks at Dodger Stadium, Devils vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium, Islanders vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium and Penguins vs. Blackhawks at Soldier Field.
Great game, lousy business
Paul Maurice, technically the new interim coach in Winnipeg, discovered a note left on his desk from fired coach Claude Noel.
“It’s really special,” Maurice said. “The point was: There are very special people here. …When you get fired, you’re dealing with a lot of tough emotions and for him to take time, that just shows how much he cares and the quality of the man that he is.”
As Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said, “It’s a great game and a lousy business.”
The Chicago Blackhawks may be a juggernaut, but even they have problems.
1) They’re 4-11 in shootouts. 2) They can’t seem to find a consistent second-line center to play alongside Patrick Kane. They experimented with three in three games last week.
Still, Kane is second in the NHL in scoring.
Wild’s Week ahead
Tuesday: at Dallas, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Thursday: vs. Chicago, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Saturday: at San Jose, 9:30 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch:
Patrick Kane, Chicago
Potentially the right wing on Zach Parise’s line on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi next month, the Blackhawks star, who once upon a time made his NHL debut in Minnesota, is second in the NHL in scoring behind Sidney Crosby.
"It’s 10 times better than the way people describe it."
Zach Parise on being a father (wife Alisha gave birth to twins Jan. 8).