The Anaheim Ducks have had a lot of stars over the years. However, they’ve also had a lot of crucial pieces that aren’t always given the recognition they deserve.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. Those names will be forever remembered for what they were able to accomplish wearing the Anaheim Ducks logo. While it is easy to remember the stand out stars in Orange County, there are several other players who spent time in Anaheim that don’t get their just do. That ends today, as we remember 5 of the most underrated players in Ducks history.
As we remember these players, it won’t just be about stats, hardware, or recognition. It will also include other factors that seldom get remembered, such as, their background and their best moments while wearing a Ducks sweater. Underrated no more, this is my list of the top 5 most underrated players in Anaheim Ducks history.
Third round draft pick, 55th overall, wearing #12 for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim; Mike Leclerc. Leclerc was drafted by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1995, two years after the Mighty Ducks drafted their franchise superstar, Paul Kariya. Leclerc played for the Mighty Ducks from 1996-2004, making the playoffs twice.
Though he didn’t score a goal in the ’97 playoff run, he was a huge part of the 2003 playoff run. He really stepped up to the forefront when the Mighty Ducks faced the top-seed Dallas Stars in the 03 WCSF, scoring the overtime game-winner in game 2, then scored the lone goal in Game 4, before assisting on what would be the series clincher for Sandis Ozolinsh in game 6, driving wide of the net and shooting backhand, which left a fat rebound for Ozo to bury the Stars.
His underrated contributions for the Mighty Ducks is the reason why he gets a spot on my top 5 underrated MDA list. Though he didn’t win a Cup with us, he did sprinkle some magic of his own.
When you think of those who played the center position for the Mighty Ducks, some might mention the current captain, Ryan Getzlaf, or former Ducks, like Ryan Kesler, etc. However, one might mention the name Steve Rucchin, who played for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from 1994 to 2004. Like Mike Leclerc, Steve was a part of the 97, 99 and 03 playoff runs, and like Leclerc, Rucchin shined brighter in the 03 playoffs, netting ten points (7 goals and 3 assists).
Even though Selanne and Kariya were the main attractions, it was Rucchin that held the line together, and to this day, is a top 5 Mighty Duck of all-time in several categories (Goals, Games played, Assists and Points.) Of course, his major career moment was the 2003 1st round clincher, in which he banged the puck home to sweep the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in game 4.
You also saw him strike twice against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 (aka the Paul Kariya game). Rucchin may go down as one of the quietest top 5 most underrated Mighty Ducks, as you don’t hear a lot of publicity coming towards him. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me considering the fact that in 03, the Ducks were all about defense and not a high-powered scoring machine. Regardless, Rucchin’s career stats alone puts him in my book, and though he may not get to hockey’s holy grail he will no longer be underrated ever again.
Rob is on the Job
Though Rob Niedermayer’s career didn’t start with the Mighty Ducks, he’s one of the few Mighty Ducks from the miraculous 2003 SCF run that was around when they captured the Cup in 2007. Niedermayer started his career in Florida, where he scored eight points on another Cinderella team, the Florida Panthers in their run to the SCF in ’95-96 against the Colorado Avalanche.
His return to the SCF didn’t happen until 2003 when he joined the Mighty Ducks, and he netted ten points in the entire playoff run. Though he was on the losing end in 03 against his older brother Scott and the New Jersey Devils, the third time was indeed the charm, as his brother came down to Anaheim in 07.
Again, Rob scored ten points, this time 5 G and 5 A. Probably the most memorable assist was the OT GWG against the Vancouver Canucks to advance to the WCF, when his hit jarred the puck free, and landed into his older brother’s stick, and Scott’s shot bounced past Luongo for the series clincher. He also scored what would be the cup clincher in most people’s eyes, when he scored a short-handed goal in game 5 on a backhand shot.
The most favorable quality about Rob Niedermayer was that he was on the checking line, and in ’07, his defensive skills were put on display along with Travis Moen and Samuel Pahlsson. That line was a tough line to play against, as they played smash-mouth style defense in their cup run in ’07. With his defensive skills hard to match against, as well as his clutch gene coming through when it mattered on offense, this Niedermayer gets a spot on my list.
The Original Atomic Adam
Another underrated Mighty Duck is Adam Oates. Adam Oates spent 1 season with the Mighty Ducks, but man, did he have a career beforehand. He led the 97-98 Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. His 17 points were tied for first with Petr Bondra. The ending to that cup run fell short of prosperity, as the Capitals would be swept by Detroit.
Oates didn’t get back to the SCF, until 2003 when he was traded by Philadelphia. Years of experience was the ingredient that Adam provided for the Mighty Ducks, and in the 03 SCF run, he was the top points leader, scoring thirteen (four goals and nine assists). His memorable moments in the 03 cup run were the two goals he scored against the Minnesota Wild, including the power-play game-winner that eventually would send the Mighty Ducks to the Stanley Cup Finals that year.
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In Game 3, Oates struck again, this time, by winning the face-off and setting up the game-winner for Ruslan Salei to give the Ducks life in the series. A HOF’er since 2012, Oates’ short stint in Anaheim shouldn’t be diminished, but rather appreciated, as he was the steely veteran whose presence alone was key to helping the younger Ducks maneuver through the playoffs.
Moen No More
Travis Moen is probably one of the most underrated defensive-minded forwards in the history of the franchise. Normally, we think of Rob Niedermayer, Samuel Pahlsson, Andrew Cogliano even rings a bell, but to me, Travis was one of the few “big bangers” that played on the fourth line that rarely gets recognition.
Moen played for the Ducks from 2005-2009, so he was here for the run to the WCF in 05-06, then the Cup run in 06-07. His big impact was in the 07 cup run, but not because of his twelve points, which were a top-five finish, but his major presence on what I believe was the most important line, the checking line with Rob Niedermayer and Samuel “Viking” Pahlsson. That line was lethal to play against, mainly because of how they played defense together.
Of the 12 points that he scored in the ’07 cup run, Moen scored seven goals and netted five assists. Some of the major highlights were his OT GWG in Game 4 against Vancouver in the semifinals. His overtime winner set up the series clincher a few days later that would send the Ducks back to the WCF for the third time in five years (’03, 06 and 07). In the SCF, he scored three goals against the Ottawa Senators, and all three were vital to them winning the cup.
In Game 1, he scored the game-winner late in the third period, and in the clinching game, he scored twice, the first off an own-team goal to make it 3 to 1, then early in the third period, he scored to make it 5 to 2 early in the third period. His bruising hitting style of play was cognizant of what made the Anaheim Ducks so successful in 2007 and that is why he gets my last spot on the underrated player’s list.
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