NEW PLAYERS 9
NEW RULES HELP
BETTER THAN '03-04? YES
A month after the 2003-04 season ended for their respective teams, Scott and Rob Niedermayer headed to Prague to play for Canada in the world championships. For two weeks the brothers practiced together, ate together and bunked together. "It was just fun being out there with him," says Rob, who is 16 months younger and, at 6'2", an inch taller. "It was new for us. It got us thinking that before both of us retired, we wanted to play on the same team together."
In early August, with half the league courting Scott, a free agent who won the Norris Trophy in '03-04 with the Devils, Anaheim G.M. Brian Burke flew to the Niedermayers' hometown of Cranbrook, B.C., where the dynamic duo was hosting a junior hockey camp. Burke re-signed Rob, a Mighty Ducks forward, to an $8 million, four-year deal and a few hours later locked in Scott, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, to a $27 million, four-year deal. "Rob is critical to our success.... We can turn him loose on the ice," Burke says. "And Scott is the best defenseman in the NHL. He's a mobile, fluid guy who sees the ice so well. He's exactly what we need."
The Niedermayers are not the only entertaining act the new G.M. has planned. He has brought back Teemu Selanne (who scored 225 goals for the Ducks between '95-96 and '00-01) and added 6'2", 235-pound winger Todd Fedoruk for a more physical, high-tempo game. "There hasn't been a steady progress or a blueprint. Anaheim was a passive team last year. I don't like passive," Burke says about a lackluster '03-04 season in which the Ducks finished 12th in the conference with 29 wins. "[My vision] is right out of the wild, wild west. We fight. We hit. We score goals. And we won't apologize for it."
An aggressive forechecking style suits Scott Niedermayer's offense-first approach. The adjustment to the West Coast with his wife and three kids should be just as easy for the elder Niedermayer. After all, his brother just bought a condo 10 minutes away. --Y.Y.
The Ducks will score a lot of goals off the rush. Watch for a rejuvenated Sergei Fedorov to really light it up.