BY CHRIS PRONGER
I am glad Scott Niedermayer has decided to play hockey again, if for no other reason than we no longer have to answer questions about the possibility of him returning.
When players say they don’t want to talk about it – we want to talk about the season and the games instead – it gets a little tiring having to answer the same questions over and over again. We answered the questions about Scott possibly coming back right from the beginning of the year and yet every day we were asked about it over and over again. Nobody’s answer changed, but the questions kept coming.
There are those who wondered about Scott’s decision to take time off, but not his teammates. We understood and so did our fans. Anaheim Ducks fans are delighted Scott has decided to play again. They enjoy the way he plays.
Scott has the right to retire or play, regardless of his contract situation. What some people forget is, when we sign with a team, that team has the right to play us, not play us, put us on waivers, send us down or trade us. Teams own your rights, they don’t own your soul.
If Scott wants to sit at home and hang with his kids, that’s his choice. He’s the one leaving up to $7 million on the table. He made a decision. Whether we like it or not, that was his decision.
Obviously Scott has accomplished a lot in his career and he has had very little time off in the summers because he has played for successful teams. Clearly, Scott needed some time to come to grips with facing another long season and we respect that.
It has been a challenge for our team playing this season after winning the Cup. It was a short summer; some guys got married and others had kids. And then there is the fact every other team gets up to play the Stanley Cup champions. Everybody wants to beat us.
The fact is we didn’t exactly play our best hockey either. The way we play, we have to be a skating, physical team and play in-your-face hockey. There have been too many nights through the first portion of the season when we simply did not play up to our potential. People point to our lack of scoring as a problem, but I think our overall effort has led to fewer goals scored.
When we aren’t doing the things we are capable of doing, at both ends of the ice, we’re not going to score very many goals. The games we showed up ready to play, we were able to score.
We won the Stanley Cup last season by being a strong defensive team. Adding one of the best defensemen in the world in Scott Niedermayer immediately makes us stronger in our own end. We hope having him back in the lineup will be one major step in getting our season turned around.
It is nice not to have to answer questions about his possible return anymore.
Oh, and for the record, I don’t know if Teemu Selanne is coming back, so please don’t ask.
The second overall pick in 1993, Chris Pronger is a veteran of more than 900 NHL games. He currently patrols the blueline for the defending champion Anaheim Ducks.