What was long rumored in trending tweets and buzz around the NHL early last week has become a reality. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has officially retired from the NHL after a remarkable 16 seasons.
— Hockey Central (@SNHockeyCentral) May 26, 2014
The Montreal native has spent the last three seasons in Colorado, mostly serving in a back-up role to young, upcoming star Semyon Varlamov. But he meant so much more than just an aging back-up. Giguere has been an excellent mentor to Varlamov’s game. Over the course of that time, Varlamov’s stat-line has increased; culminating in 2013-14 season with 41 Wins/.927 Save Percentage/2.41 Goals Against Average and a Vezina Trophy nomination. He owes a lot to his veteran counterpart.
“He was a very important part of our team during the past three seasons, providing veteran leadership and stability in net. We wish him and his family the best of luck” (Joe Sakic, ProHockeyTalk, Aug 2014).
Giguere suited up for more than just mentorship; he still had something to prove… to himself and to his competition. When Varlamov needed a night off, Giguere proved he was still a capable NHL netminder and could give the Avalanche a chance to win every game. In what has become his swan song, he flashed moments of greatness we became accustomed to a decade prior.
On March 6th, 2014, Giguere had an epic game against the Detroit Red Wings. In what may have well been a flashback to the 2007 Western Conference Finals against the very same foe, Giguere flashed the leather to the tune of 35 Saves on 37 Shots (that’s a .946 save percentage if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone). The Avs would go on to defeat the Red Wings 3-2 in OT and give Giguere another win in his illustrious career.
Giguere concludes his career with 262 Wins, good for 44th place in the league’s all-time wins list. He grabbed his last one verse Edmonton, five days before his final game on the last day of the regular season – an overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks. In that final game against his former club, Giguere was honored with a tribute on the center-ice video scoreboard and was pulled into taking a final lap around the ice with former teammate Teemu Selanne, who was skating in his last game. Did Giguere know in his heart that it would be his last game? If so, it was a great send-off for this man as well. The video tribute highlighted his 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy year and claiming Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2007, in which the parody of Will Smith’s popular song lyric rang through Anaheim. It was truly the spring of “Getting’ Giggy wit it!”
Giguere was drafted 13th overall by the Hartford Whalers way back in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. With his retirement, there are no longer any active players from the Whale. After a four year stop in Calgary, where he mostly played in the AHL for the St. John Flames, Giguere came to the team where he would make his mark on the NHL.
He would become the face of the Ducks franchise for nine seasons. Then called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim after the famous Disney movie, Giguere’s improved play offered legitimacy to an often scoffed at franchise. His first winning season in the NHL propelled the Mighty Ducks into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. In the 2003 Stanley Cup tournament, Giguere delivered one of the greatest playoff performances in NHL history as he helped lead the team on a Cinderella run to the finals. He set the record for most saves in a playoff debut with 63 (later broken by Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in 2007). Giguere finished the playoffs undefeated in seven overtime games… another record. The Mighty Ducks dreams of hoisting the cup were dashed by the New Jersey Devils. However, Giguere’s playoff shutout streak of 217 minutes and 54 seconds was not left unrewarded. “He was the fifth player to receive the Conn Smythe Trophy as part of the losing team and the first since Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall won (it) in 1987” (Legends of Hockey, Nov 2009). The Mighty Ducks were scoffed at no longer.
In between Giguere’s inaugural playoff run and winning the Stanley Cup, he lost the reins on the starting gig to Ilya Bryzgalov due to inconsistent play. However, entering the final season of his contract with the renamed Anaheim Ducks, he earned his starting role back. In the first month of the season, Giguere did not lose a single game in regulation. He proceeded to put up a career-high 36 Wins in 56 Games. He once again went on a magical run to the finals, shutting down the competition again and again. This time, he would not settle for the consolation prize. Giguere and the Ducks went on to eliminate the Ottawa Senators in a 6-2 game five win and hoist the franchise’s first Cup.
Is J.S. Giguere a future Hall of Fame candidate? Besides being 44th in Wins, he has 38 Career Shutouts, which is tied with Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke for 37th all-time; a life-time 2.53 GAA & a 9-1-3 SV% (23rd & 44th respectively); and all the above accolades. Furthermore, with still to be signed Unrestricted Free Agents out there like Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Brodeur; will Giguere’s announcement of retirement be the 1st of a trifecta? Only time will tell.
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