By Jim den Hollander
Whenever someone does ratings or rankings they almost always say “This was the hardest thing I have ever done.” Until now, I always thought it was a cop out.
Some really good players and great friends didn’t make this list. In fact, I sort of planned to do a qualifier with a bunch of Honorable Mentions, but then I thought. Well, what about the guys who just miss that list.
While I thought about who should be on here for a long time (since the end of this past season I have thought about doing this), when the time came to sit down and construct the list, the names came together quickly and with few alterations.
Since putting it together, I have been going through pictures and doing some of my Top 10 games and thought, “Dang, I should have had that guy.” I didn’t allow myself a chance to go back and change it though. I considered my first decision as final.
For sure not everyone will agree. There are enough of you out there that have been around the team as long as I have. I encourage you to make your own team as well…and I will put it in this space for you.
My fourth line is my defensive line – At least a few of these guys would be on the team whether there was a ‘checking line or not. But the Ducks’ penalty kill was so amazing in those early seasons, I had to give some of the guys their due. This I think is a combination of guys that could shut down the opposition, count an outrageous amount of shorthanded goals and in some cases, just got edged out for my top three lines.
Ian Harris – Harris played two seasons with the Ducks and
the 76 points he put up in 86 games played ranks him in a tie for 11th in all-time team scoring. Those stats aren’t the ones that stand out for Harris though.
This guy was a completely different player when the Ducks were shorthanded. I think he got genuinely excited with the ref’s arm went up with a minor call against the Ducks. I used to have all the statistics on the team, and I would update them after every game. However, a computer glitch a few years back made all that moot.
But I know this, Harris not only leads all Ducks in shorthanded goals, his total will never be broached. It’s ridiculous, like three or four times more than anybody. At the time, I followed the Green Bay Packers a lot more than I do now, and I recall they had some amazing cornerbacks who picked off a lot of passes. Harris was the hockey equivalent of that. Passes through the neutral zone somehow ended up on his stick and the play turned, frequently resulting in a Ducks’ celebration.
Harris went on to play a season of Tier 3 out east and wrapped up his junior career in Kingston, Ontario, playing Tier 2 hockey. He followed that up with a brief run of pro hockey with ECHL, SPHL and FHL teams.
I will always remember him as part of the best penalty killing combination our team will likely ever see.
Colin Cross – Harris racked up the points on the penalty kill and I believe ‘Crosser’ was an unsung hero.
The thing with Cross was, it didn’t really matter what the situation was –penalty kill, regular strength, power play, overtime…. He played every shift like there was 30 seconds left in the game and we were down a goal.
The tenacious forechecking of Cross has made me question the way teams kill penalties at every level (including the NHL) since I was able to watch him play.
You know when you’re watching your team kill a penalty and they manage to clear the puck. The opposition defenseman skates back and positions himself behind the goal and your forechecking forward skates down and stops at the top of the crease? You must see it a dozen times every game.
Crosser never stopped at the top of the crease. He raced the length of the ice and chased that d-man right behind the net. If he stopped, Cross would plant him on the wall and hold him for a faceoff in the opposition end. If the defensemen wised up to what Cross was doing, he would grab the puck and look for someone to pass it to –quickly. I believe it was that pressure that contributed to hurried passes ultimately picked off by Harris.
That’s my theory anyway.
Chris Vella – All he did in parts of four seasons with the Ducks was play in 128 games, fifth most of any Ducks player and collect 56 goals (third highest total), 47 assists (eighth highest total) for 103 points (sixth highest total).
What I love about Vella is the way he went about making the team. As a 16-year old, Vella filled a lot of water bottles and carried a lot of gear to the bus but to my knowledge he never complained. In his first season. I don’t believe he made a game roster before Christmas Break. Certainly, not often. He calmly waited and took advantage of his opportunities.
Who knows if it was an injury or discipline being doled out that saw Vella’s name penciled in for the first time? He showed he belonged, sat a little more, then showed he belonged again. He ultimately made it impossible for Coach Zaniboni to leave him out of the lineup. By the time we arrived at Nationals that season, Vella was an every game player.
I think of that whenever I hear a player (or parent) say the coach didn’t like them or was against them.
The rest is history, Vella went on to become a great contributor in every situation, including defense and he wore the ‘C’ on his chest for the final two seasons. He had a brief sabbatical at the start of one season, playing Tier 2 hockey in Lindsay, Ontario, but decided he loved the Ducks too much.
Mike Sullivan – ‘Sully’ never lacked in his own end. He played 84 games over two seasons with the Ducks and while his bread and butter was stopping the other team from scoring, he was a more complete defender by the time he left the Ducks.
Sullivan became more comfortable lugging the puck and even setting up on powerplays and as a result, he became a guy Coach Zaniboni relied heavily on. Time on ice is not a stat kept at this level, but trust me, this guy was up there in minutes played – perhaps a leader in his second season.
In his first season, Sullivan found his way to three goals and eight assists, then added 25 points with seven goals in his second campaign.
Sullivan had no trouble ratcheting up the intensity on the ice, but he was also well known for his ability to crack up the others off the ice and on the bus. A fun guy that came to play – that’s pretty valuable.
Sean Teske – It’s always great to have a local guy
on the team. Reedsburg’s Sean Teske came aboard midway through the 2014-15 season and played two more after that. An undersized defenseman at 5’6, Teske didn’t shy from the physical game, but his style was more about tying up forwards and steering them away than laying thunderous hits.
He was comfortable with the puck, leading the play out his own end as often as he passed it out. Teske was not just a defensive specialist either. He played as a forward in his freshman and sophomore years on the RWD varsity hockey team and was a regular offensive contributor.
Effective on the powerplay as well, the most noticeable thing about Teske was his lack of slapshot. I don’t believe in his three seasons with the Ducks, he ever raised his stick off the ice. He was more about waiting for the right opportunity and firing a snapshot either looking for a deflection or a well-aimed shot straight to the mesh. Defensemen are usually known for their heavy shots but Teske knew the wrister was more accurate and reliable.