In this edition of Anaheim Ducks News & Rumors, I’ll highlight information about the team mentioned in TSN’s “The Problem of Pain,” feature as well as the futures of Ryan Miller and David Backes.
San Diego Gulls Ex-Staff Member Appears in TSN Feature “The Problem of Pain”
On Monday, TSN released a 30-minute feature story titled “The Problem of Pain,” which explored the harmful effects of the NHL’s warrior culture and the resulting abuse of anti-inflammatory drugs including Toradol.
Related: Alex Steen Trade Revisited
The story followed a few former NHL players who relied on Toradol, administered by team trainers, to play through injury. Ryan Kesler, who is still a member of the Anaheim Ducks but will likely spend the rest of his career on long-term injured reserve, was a prominent part of the story. Though Kesler didn’t point the finger at the Ducks, he did discuss the side effects of the abuse of the drug that helped prolong his playing career while causing debilitating side effects. That included significant damage to his colon and intestines caused by Toradol.
The players interviewed in the story, who also included Kyle Quincey and Zenon Konopka (another former Duck), charged that teams did nothing to warn players of the harmful side effects of drugs like Toradol.
The feature included accusations against the Ducks organization by Justin Roethlingshoefer, a former strength and conditioning coach for the San Diego Gulls from 2017 to 2019. He alleged that the Ducks organization fired him for trying to educate players on alternative medicines besides Toradol.
The feature says that the Ducks accused Roethlingshoefer of “distributing and administering CBD.” Roethlingshoefer told TSN, “They want you to stay in your lane. No matter your education, no matter what you do outside, no matter your intention. Just stay in your lane and know your alliance lies with the staff and management before the player.”
Roethlingshoefer now works independently for NHL players, including former Duck Bobby Ryan. According to TSN, the Ducks refused to comment.
Ryan Miller Getting Back on Ice, Still Contemplating Future
Since the premature end to the Ducks’ 2019-20 season, many have speculated that Ryan Miller would retire instead of returning for the 2020-21 season. That doesn’t appear to be his final decision yet.
Miller himself indicated last month that he was getting back on the ice, although he didn’t specify if it was with the intention to return to the Ducks.
Ducks beat writer for The Athletic, Eric Stephens, wrote a story on Miller that explored his thoughts on coming back, among many other topics. According to Stephens, Miller has been on the ice, “probably like seven times.” (from ‘A candid Ryan Miller steps toward deciding his Ducks future amid uncertain world’, The Athletic – 9/20/2020)
Miller’s return to the ice isn’t as much about training for next season as it is an attempt to determine if he still has the motivation, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 season. From Stephens’ article, it sounds as if Miller has been participating in on-ice workouts with other NHL players at the Ducks’ practice facility in Irvine and feels good. Miller told Stephens, “Mentally, I’m good for another push for a season. I think I can mentally do it. I think physically I can do it. I have not had any problems. (I) feel strong.”
Miller followed that up by saying the NHL needs to have a season that “makes sense,” referring to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
Miller’s Decision Could Help Decide His Hall of Fame Entry
For the Ducks, Miller’s decision is an important one. If he does retire, they need to fill an important position with limited cap space. John Gibson has faced, perhaps, the most shots of any goaltender over the past two seasons, meaning the role of his backup becomes more critical by the year.
With increased wear and tear on Gibson, the Ducks may need to lean harder on their backup. If Miller doesn’t retire, the Ducks will need to see just how much he’s got left in the tank and come up with a contingency plan if he doesn’t last a full season.
Miller may also have deeper motivations than just missing hockey. As of now, he’s a borderline Hockey Hall of Famer who could better solidify his case with a good season. As of now, Miller ranks No. 15 all-time in career NHL wins by a goaltender, two behind Dominik Hasek. Miller probably can’t reach No. 13 on the list, currently occupied by Chris Osgood, unless he comes back, starts more games than he has in the past couple seasons and wins 15 of them.
Nine of the top-15 winningest goalies in NHL history are Hall of Famers. Three, Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo, are either active or freshly retired and will likely be voted in when they are eligible. Only Curtis Joseph and Chris Osgood have won more games than Miller and are not in the HHOF (Joseph, like Miller, never won a Stanley Cup). Of the 15 goalies behind Miller, only four are Hall of Famers, while three are still active. Miller appears to be on the precipice of the Hall of Fame. One more strong season could get him in, even without a Stanley Cup title.
David Backes Gets a Vote of Confidence
According to St. Louis Blues rinkside reporter Andy Strickland, the Ducks have told former Blues captain, David Backes, that they intend to keep him and that he will play.
Aside from the pursuit of 1,000 games played and a chance at a final full season in the NHL, Backes has plenty of motivation. He’s going into the last year of his contract, and if he intends on remaining in the NHL and continuing to pursue a Stanley Cup title, it will help to have a bounce-back season after disappointing in back-to-back campaigns.
If he does play well, the Ducks may move him to a contender at the trade deadline. Don’t forget the Bruins agreed to retain 25% of the cost of Backes’ contract, and if the Ducks were willing to pay the rest of it for 2020-21, they certainly might be willing to retain some of it in a trade to a contender. If Backes gets one more shot at a Stanley Cup title, who’s to say he won’t waive his 15-team no-trade clause.
Even if the Ducks don’t trade him, a significant improvement from his previous two seasons might earn him a new contract in 2021-22.
Even without playing any games, a lot has gone on relating to the Ducks in the past week. As the 2019-20 season draws to a close, the draft approaches, free agency heats up and the NHL offseason officially begins, we are sure to see more news out of the Ducks.
All stats from Hockey-Reference
Anthony Ciardelli grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire but now lives in Los Angeles. Though he was raised a Bruins fan, he quickly came to enjoy the hockey culture in Southern California and the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks. He covered USC Athletics while pursuing his journalism masters there. He also enjoys doing play-by-play for USC Trojan Hockey.