Andy McDonald, Ducks History, Hampus Lindholm, John Gibson, Rob Niedermayer

Anaheim Ducks: Counting Down the 30 Greatest Players (20-16)

With the Anaheim Ducks celebrating their 30th anniversary this season, now is the perfect time to look back. In the last 30 years, the Ducks have made history – from the Disney days to winning the first Stanley Cup in California and the decade of contention that followed – and now is the time to look back at the players that made these moments possible.

Related: Anaheim Ducks: Counting Down the 30 Greatest Moments (5-1)

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This is the second installment of the countdown. The first part can be found here. The final group of players will be revealed before Anaheim’s opening night on Sunday, Oct. 15.

20. Matt Cullen

Like Chris Kunitz previously on the list, Matt Cullen’s career arc may be more associated with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. However, Cullen’s 20-year career began with six seasons in Anaheim dating back to the 1997-98 season. He was traded to the Florida Panthers in 2003, which means he just missed the Ducks’ Cinderella run to the Cup Final, but he played a big role in Anaheim’s rise to relevance in the years leading up.

Matt Cullen Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Matt Cullen, Anaheim Mighty Ducks (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Cullen often operated as the team’s second-line center behind the top line of Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, and Steve Rucchin. He ended his Ducks’ career with 200 points (65 goals, 135 assists) in 427 games.

19. Rob Niedermayer

Throughout their history, the Ducks have had a handful of “siblings.” Selanne and Kariya often showed chemistry that would have one convinced they were separated at birth. There have been several instances of players reaching the NHL at a similar time — Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were often referred to as “the twins,” and this has continued over the years with Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm, and recently with Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. Despite all these dynamic duos, no bond has been stronger than the familial ties of Scott and Rob Niedermayer.

Rob, the younger of the two, was the first to arrive in Anaheim in 2003. He played a significant role in the team’s run to the Cup Final, registering 10 points and averaging over 23 minutes per game. The Ducks would lose to Scott and the New Jersey Devils in seven games.

Scott teamed up with Rob and signed with the Ducks in 2005. The siblings were part of the team’s leadership group with Scott as the captain and Rob serving as an alternate, and they became the first brothers to win the Stanley Cup since the dynasty New York Islanders of the 1970s. After taking the customary lap with the Cup, the captain handed it to his younger brother.

Rob didn’t have the Hall of Fame career that his brother had, but he was one of the better defensive centers of his era. He had the responsibility of centering the all-important shutdown line with Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen during the 2007 playoffs. In 382 regular season games in Anaheim, he scored 124 points (56 goals, 68 assists).

18. Andy McDonald

Andy McDonald was a fan-favorite of the mid-2000s. Listed at 5-foot-10, the diminutive center was undeniably talented, but injuries slowed his development. He played in 82 games for the first time in 2005-06, where he scored a career-high 85 points and tacked on another nine in the playoffs to help Anaheim advance to the Western Conference Final.

McDonald shook the injury-prone tag by playing a second consecutive 82-game slate in 2006-07 while on the top line with Selanne and Kunitz. He scored another 14 points during the 2007 postseason, including a hat trick in Game 1 of Anaheim’s second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. His 10 goals set a new franchise record for a single postseason.

McDonald’s time in Anaheim didn’t last too long beyond the parade, as he became a salary cap casualty by the end of the year. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in order to facilitate Scott Niedermayer’s payday, ending his Ducks career with 259 points in 391 games.

17. Hampus Lindholm

Ducks fans weren’t particularly shocked that Lindholm made a huge impact in his first full season on the Boston Bruins last year. Granted, the offensive explosion that helped him finish fourth in the Norris voting was a surprise, but he was an underrated defensive stalwart for nine seasons in Anaheim before getting his roses in a larger market.

Lindholm and Josh Manson were an elite top pairing during the mid-2010s when Anaheim was regularly competing for the Stanley Cup. He was never an offensive threat outside of his lone-career hat trick in 2017, which at the time it happened in late December doubled his goal total on the year. He was, however, among the best in the league in the neutral zone. Having a defenseman excel in their own zone is great, but having a defenseman excel in stopping defensive zone shifts from happening altogether is even better.

Lindholm’s biggest limiting factor in the latter stages of his time in Anaheim was his availability. After only missing 10 games in his first three seasons, he missed 126 over the course of the next five years. With the Ducks rebuilding and his contract expiring at the end of the 2022 season, he was shipped off to Boston for a bounty of draft picks that turned into Nathan Gaucher and Damian Clara, as well as a second-round pick in 2024.

16. John Gibson

As the Ducks have regressed in recent years, the reputation of John Gibson has taken a significant hit. The Pittsburgh native had the unenviable task of being thrust into the role of starting goaltender in the middle of playoffs as a 20-year-old in 2014. While he couldn’t prevent the seemingly annual Game 7 defeat, Gibson has held a share of the net ever since.

Gibson shared the net with Frederick Andersen for the next two years. In 2016, the duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy by allowing the fewest goals during the regular season. After Andersen was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gibson took over a lion’s share of the work beginning in 2016-17. He’s started at least 50 games a season in every year except for the shortened 2020-21 season.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After two stellar years as Anaheim’s workhorse, the once-competitive team around him aged out of contention. As the team got worse, so did Gibson’s numbers. Once boasting numbers that had him seen as a Vezina snub, his last five seasons have resulted in goals saved above average numbers in the negatives. The lack of support has been the biggest contributing factor to his decline, but Gibson has certainly regressed.

Even with the recent down years, Gibson has been a steady goaltender following a long line of steady goaltenders in the Ducks’ franchise history. He already owns the team record for career saves (12,102) and the records for wins and games played aren’t far behind. While he still has time to make his case as the best goaltender in franchise history, we still have two more netminders ranked ahead of him. Look out for the next part of the countdown to see if both of them make the top 10.

Statistics courtesy of Hockey-Reference.

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