Ryan Getzlaf is going out on his own terms. Last week, the Anaheim Ducks’ longtime captain announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2021-22 season. He has been in and out of the lineup due to a myriad of injuries and it’s clear that he’s already thinking about life after hockey.
Getzlaf has always maintained the idea that he would not play into his 40s like longtime teammate Teemu Selanne and will finish his NHL career just a couple of weeks shy of his 37th birthday. He will also be finishing his career as arguably the greatest player in franchise history.
Getzlaf Was a Star From the Beginning
Part of the absolutely stacked 2003 NHL Draft class, Getzlaf was selected with the 19th overall pick by the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. After a rookie season in the Western Hockey League (WHL) that saw him post 18 points in 63 games for the Calgary Hitmen in 2001-02, he exploded for 68, 74 and 54 points respectively in the following three seasons. His tenure in Calgary was so spectacular that his No. 15 that he wore with the Hitmen now hangs in the rafters of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
However, Getzlaf’s NHL career had to wait an extra year due to a lockout that canceled the entire 2004-05 season. After making the team out of training camp during the 2005-06 season, Getzlaf was reassigned to the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League (AHL) after playing in just 16 games, but was recalled just 17 AHL games later and never looked back from there on out. 39 points in 57 games during his rookie season was just a preview of what was to come.
Getzlaf played an important role in his sophomore season alongside 2003 draftee Corey Perry and rookie Dustin Penner, with the trio combining to form the “kids” line on a veteran Ducks team. The three were influential in helping lead the Ducks to their first-ever Stanley Cup win.
The Road to Becoming a Ducks Legend
Getzlaf quickly became one of the Ducks’ premier point scorers, racking up 82 points during the 2007-08 season, a far cry from the next top scorer on the team that season (Perry, 54 points). With every passing season, he finished in the top-three in scoring among Ducks players and it wasn’t until the 2011-12 season that he finished fourth in scoring, behind Selanne, Perry and Bobby Ryan. He was also runner-up to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby for the Hart Memorial Trophy during the 2013-14 season.
There was also the matter of Getzlaf becoming the next Ducks captain during the 2010-11 season following the retirement of Scott Niedermayer at the end of the 2009-10 season. Getzlaf, who had been an alternate captain for two seasons prior, won the role through a team vote. Not only was he now one of the Ducks’ premier players, but he was also their leader. He wore the “C” as best as anyone could, with his no-nonsense approach backed up by his physically large presence at 6-foot-4. Though he wasn’t one to drop the gloves very often, he wasn’t afraid to do so when the time came either.
Over the last several seasons, Getzlaf’s production has waned. But most of that has more to do with the quality of the team around him rather than the player himself. Though the counting stats aren’t as high as they used to be (not that he cares much about those anyways), he remains a prominent figure on the Ducks’ power play and is still capable of using his terrific vision and playmaking abilities. Not to mention his wicked shot — one he seldom used as his career progressed.
What etches Getzlaf forever into Ducks history is not just the Cup win in 2007 or the fact that he’s been the captain for over a decade now. It’s also that his career was birthed and developed in Anaheim. One of just 12 players in NHL history to both captain a team for 10 seasons and score 1,000 points with the same team, he’s always been here and it’s where his career will end as well.
Last season, there were murmurings that he could potentially be headed to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline in a last-gasp effort to make it back to the playoffs, and perhaps win another Cup in the process. That move never materialized and while those same rumblings occurred this past summer when Getzlaf became a free agent for the first time in his career, they were soon quelled as well when he signed a one-year deal to return to the only NHL organization he’s ever known.
A Prominent Figure in Ducks’ History
Getzlaf was also predictably one of the Ducks’ top players during their runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tasked with not only continuing to produce offensively but also keeping the top performers on the opposition in check too. The team always did well when he was at his best and it showed especially in the playoffs. His point totals of 17, 18, 20 and 19 during the 2007, 2009, 2015 and 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs respectively represented some of the Ducks’ best playoff performances.
It seems poetic that Getzlaf reached a pair of historic milestones in his final season. He scored his 1,000th career point in the NHL, fittingly via an assist, and broke the franchise record for career points, again via an assist. He’s also played the most games in the team’s history, slotting in at a cool 1,152 games played and counting.
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There will be plenty of debates about whether Getzlaf will one day be enshrined in glory in Toronto but there is no doubt that his No. 15 will one day hang in the rafters of Honda Center, perhaps as soon as the 2022-23 season.
Out of all of the great players that have come through Anaheim, Getzlaf is the only one to arrive and never leave. He’s spent his entire career in Orange County and will conclude it on April 24, 2022, the Ducks’ final home game of the season. For me, that puts him just a notch above the likes of Selanne and Paul Kariya, the franchise’s first set of superstars.