Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the best goalie in Anaheim Ducks franchise history. John Gibson may be one day,he’s certainly shown potential, but he isn’t yet. Whether or not you agree that it’s Giguere, it is worth asking the question: Should the Ducks retire his No. 35? The answer is unequivocally yes.
Giguere Helped Change the Ducks
When Giguere arrived in Anaheim via a trade with the Calgary Flames in June 2000, the Mighty Ducks (as they were known at the time) had only qualified for the playoffs twice. They had only won a single playoff series in their seven-season history.
By the time the Ducks traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010, they had made five playoff appearances including two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, with a Cup win in 2007.
Giguere’s nearly nine-season tenure with the Ducks, helped lift the franchise from perennial loser to Stanley Cup champion.
He was a franchise cornerstone. While Paul Kariya left Anaheim following the 2002-03 season, and Teemu Selanne played elsewhere from 2001 to 2005, Giguere stayed and excelled.
Giguere’s Conn Smythe Performance
In 2002-03, Giguere finished the regular season with 34 wins, a .920 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.30 goals against average (GAA), strong numbers, but not at the top of the league.
In the playoffs, he flipped a switch.
On the way to the Mighty Ducks’ first Stanley Cup Final appearance, Giguere posted 15 wins and six losses with a staggering .945 SV% and a 1.62 GAA. He was the difference on a team that, on paper, did not belong in the same building as some of their playoff opponents, including the second-seeded Detroit Red Wings, who the Mighty Ducks upset in the first round.
Giguere posted five shutouts in the 2003 playoffs. Three of those came in consecutive Western Conference Final games against the Minnesota Wild. He surrendered only a single goal in the series, a sweep.
Though the Ducks lost the Stanley Cup to the New Jersey Devils in seven games, Giguere became one of only five players in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP on a losing team. No player has done it since.
Giguere and the Ducks didn’t have to wait long for a Stanley Cup title. In 2007, Giguere also had an impressive postseason, and although he didn’t dominate as much as he did in the 2003 playoffs — with a 922 SV% and a 1.96 GAA, still excellent — he didn’t need to carry the load as much. The Ducks had Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer on defense, strengthening their blue line compared to their previous Cup run.
History Makes Giguere’s Case
Hockey Hall of Fame voters have declined to elect many great goalies to the Hall including Curtis Joseph, Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon, but that doesn’t mean a team can’t retire a goalie’s number.
New York Rangers great Mike Richter is not a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but the Rangers retired his number anyway. Similarly, Vernon’s number is up in the rafters of the Saddledome, home of the Flames. He also is not a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Both Vernon and Richter had great careers, and both played vital roles on Stanley Cup-winning teams, but neither won a Conn Smythe like Giguere did.
Most of Giguere’s numbers with the Ducks are just a tier below the man who set the standard for NHL goalie greatness in his era, Martin Brodeur, but they aren’t that far off.
Giguere’s .913 SV% over his career is only 0.01 lower than Brodeur’s .914 career SV%. Though their GAAs differ significantly (Brodeur’s is 2.24 while Giguere’s was 2.53). Brodeur played part of his career for Jacques Lemaire and a New Jersey Devils team notorious for their suffocating defensive trap.
Being in Brodeur’s ballpark, even over a shorter span, is significant considering he’s widely regarded as the best or second-best NHL goalie of all time. When you look at Ducks franchise history, Giguere is the leader in games played and wins. His statistics combined with his longevity in Anaheim and the success of the team make him deserving of the honor of having his jersey retired.
The Case Against Giguere
The main case against Giguere is abstract. Having your number retired by a professional sports franchise is a big deal and some may worry that retiring too many numbers dilutes the honor.
After sending Kariya and Niedermayer’s numbers to the rafters, the Ducks have retired three total jerseys (Teemu Selanne’s was the first). You can bet Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf will join them, so perhaps the Ducks are hesitant to retire Giguere’s number.
However, now that players from the first real era of Ducks success are finishing or have finished their careers, there are sure to be more jerseys retired. The team should decide to bestow the honor based on the player’s merit of success and contribution to the team, not the fear that retiring too many numbers will lessen the honor.
At least, they won’t stoop as low as the Wild and retire a jersey number for their fans, or the Colorado Avalanche, who retired Ray Bourque’s number after playing just over a season for them.
Giguere’s impact on the Ducks was significant enough to have his number retired: He achieved something only five other players in NHL history have done; was a key piece of a Stanley Cup title; and he spent nearly a decade on the roster at a time when the Ducks were finally making a name for themselves. If Giguere’s No.35 does not rise to the Honda Center rafters someday, it would be a travesty.