Ducks' future brighter after surprising postseason runPosted: Tuesday June 10, 2003 4:53 PM
Updated: Tuesday June 10, 2003 5:00 PM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Jiggy and the Ducks already are planning a sequel.
The improbable playoff run by goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Mighty Ducks bodes well for this once-struggling team that made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Giguere, the MVP of the postseason, hopes to be back at the finals next year.
"I think the way we are going to approach the season, we are going to go with Game 1," he said. "It's going to be the biggest game of the year and we'll go from that."
General manager Bryan Murray and rookie coach Mike Babcock built a team that provided a surprise to rival the one of the Anaheim Angels, who won their first World Series title last fall.
Giguere, meanwhile, emerged as one of the league's top goalies, and his performance in his first postseason earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy.
"I think we have a core of players now that will be here," Murray said. "There is a real foundation, for sure now. The winning part breeds more winning. There's no doubt that going forward, it'll be easier now for some of our guys to understand the level of commitment required.
"And if you do commit and play determined, you have a chance to win a lot of hockey games."
Babcock, whose only previous coaching experience was in the minors and in college, proved an excellent motivator, a coach who communicated well and remained calm when things weren't going well.
He bristled when his team was labeled a surprise, saying Anaheim was one of the league's best teams the second half of the season.
The Mighty Ducks finished the regular season 40-27-9-6 after going 29-42-8-3 the previous year. That was the NHL's biggest improvement this season, and the record was the best in their 10-year history.
They were dominant during the first three rounds of the playoffs. Seeded seventh in the Western Conference, they swept defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit in the first series and beat top-seeded Dallas 4-2.
It was the first time in NHL history a club eliminated the first- and second-seeded teams in the postseason. They then swept Minnesota on the way to the Cup finals against the Devils, where they took the series to the limit before losing their fourth straight game in New Jersey.
"People didn't know we were alive at the start of the year, and we're alive now," Babcock said after Game 7.
Then he got an early start on motivation for next season, saying, "We know that we have to have a much better team to be back here again."
Giguere, teary after the Game 7 loss, said he learned a lot during the playoffs.
"Tomorrow is a new day and I'll get up and I'll be happy again," he said. "We're just going to move on."