Finally, those who doubted Corey Perry’s hockey future might be right.
It just took 14 seasons, four All-Star games and 372 goals.
They might not be right either.
The Ducks bought out Perry’s contract Wednesday. He had lost a step while the NHL had gained two. He wasn’t a first-line player anymore. Nobody inside the franchise could stomach watching him play on the fourth.
The quickest way to feel old is to watch Perry, 34, grow old, because he always played like Ryan Getzlaf’s rambunctious little brother. They were born six days apart, and Perry kept going where he didn’t belong, emerging with a goal, a welt and a smirk. That was his personal hat trick.
“People didn’t realize he was such a big guy,” said Sean O’Donnell, who played with and against Perry and shared that Stanley Cup in 2007. “But he had that baby face and that little head. He’d go to the net and stay there no matter what you did to him, and he’d figure out a way to score and you never knew how he did it.
“You loved him as a teammate because he would do anything to win. You didn’t like him as an opponent because he was a pain in the butt.”
O’Donnell and Brian Hayward, the Ducks’ TV analyst, believe Perry has a chapter or two left.
“I hope he goes somewhere and wins the Stanley Cup and goes into the Hall of Fame,” said Bob Murray, the general manager. “For some team, he could be the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. We’re not there at this point.”
“It reminds me of (ex-Duck) Pat Maroon in St. Louis,” O’Donnell said. “He didn’t have a great deal of speed either, but he was tenacious and he knew how to play down low. That’s what the Blues needed.”
Twelve more games with the Ducks and Perry would have gotten to 1,000. He is their all-time leader in games and penalty minutes, ranks third in assists and points, and second in goals and power-play goals.
He is 34 and wore teal-and-eggplant for the Mighty Ducks, once upon a time. He leaves Anaheim with two Olympic gold medals for Canada, a World Championship, a Memorial Cup title for a truly frightening London Knights squad, and a World Junior crown.
In 2011, Perry won the Hart Trophy, hockey’s MVP, with a league-leading 50 goals, along with 29 points in the Ducks’ final 14 games. He was their trail guide into the playoffs.
Even in 2017, when the dropoff became a plunge, Perry struck three times in playoff overtimes. His most consequential goal was in double overtime of Game 5 vs. Edmonton, the Komeback on Katella in which the Ducks trailed 3-0 with 3:16 left in the third period and still won.
All of this should equal retirement for Perry’s No. 10.
Perry and Getzlaf were drafted by ex-general manager Bryan Murray in 2003. Perry went 28th. The Kings had the previous two picks and chose Brian Boyle and Jeff Tambellini. The Ducks got that pick from Dallas in exchange for second-round picks that became Wojtech Polak (no career points for the Stars) and B.J. Crombeen (seven).
Perry played that disrespect card for 14 years. It all came down to skating, which can be overcome. Uncoordinated hands cannot. The Ducks scored fewer goals than anyone else last season.
“He paid a high price for the way he scored,” Hayward said. “I can’t tell you how many times (play-by-play man) John Ahlers and I would watch him get knocked down and figure that, this time, he can’t get up.
“As a goaltender, I would have hated him. He had that move where he would back out from the goal line and find some space, and then he’d fall on the goalie. That was the fun part for him.”
“It was like a fumble in football,” O’Donnell said. “Things go on under that pile that nobody else knows about.”
Perry was speared in the groin by Dominic Roussel of Dallas and he was roll-blocked in the back of his ailing knee by Chris Pronger of Edmonton, who then joined Anaheim. He and Kesler, then in Vancouver, were furious rivals. He and Bobby Ryan had their junior hockey wars, but became roommates for a time.
“It was a quiet room,” Ryan once said. “I knew to leave him alone when he was having a bad day.”
For Perry, most days on ice were good ones. Murray thinks he has a few days left. Murray also said it was painfully hard to move Perry somewhere else. A host of drained defensemen could have told him that.
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