These Ducks are different from 2002-03 bunch

Updated: November 3, 2006, 12:07 PM ET
By Linda Cohn | Special to ESPN.com

It's a fact of hockey life: If you know you're good, you don't have to go around wearing a sign telling people just that.

Which brings me to the Anaheim Ducks, formerly known as the Mighty Ducks.

There is no need to have the word "Mighty" attached to their name anymore; "Mighty" doesn't even do the team justice. Not this season. They are so much better than that. Better than that overachieving, defensive-minded, opportunistic Mighty Ducks team of 2002-03.

Paul Kariya
Robert Laberge/Getty Images/NHLIPaul Kariya's comeback from this memorable Game 6 hit still wasn't enough for the Ducks in 2003.

That team was led by the inspirational Paul Kariya, who took that infamous hit from Scott Stevens only to come back 11 minutes later, score and force a seventh and deciding game in the Cup finals. That team scared the living daylights out of the New Jersey Devils before succumbing to them. The Ducks found out that "Mighty" can only take you so far.

But don't just take my word for it to realize a word doesn't make a team. Two guys lived it, then and now: Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere and forward Andy McDonald.

When I asked both to compare that 2002-03 Ducks team to this season's club, they felt the only similarity that came to mind was defense -- it was good then, and it's good now.

The '02-03 team played a trap style, they waited for their breaks and capitalized; the 2006-07 version is all about self-disciplined aggression, featuring highly skilled players and speed (as in, once you get it, you're gone).

McDonald said what's really scary about this season's team is that the roster is very deep; nobody panics, they just perform. It was a mentality that started to bloom last spring, when a hot goalie in Dwayne Roloson, a defenseman named Chris Pronger and the pesky Edmonton Oilers ended the Ducks' drive for the Cup in five games in the Western Conference finals. With Pronger now in Anaheim, he joins other Ducks like Giguere who have come oh-so-close to drinking from the Cup, but still have not.

Giguere is still hungry. What will help this team over the long haul, including the playoffs, is that the chemistry on and off the ice has been great.

Giguere shared a story from training camp this season. The coaching staff thought it would be fun for the players to take a break from the grind and race go-karts. Teemu Selanne was especially excited about it (he owns about 30 antique cars and loves Ferraris). The veteran was convinced he was going to win the race. Giguere said Selanne came to the track dressed in all his driving gear and ended up not qualifying for the first round. Francois Beauchemin won, and the guys haven't let Teemu forget it.

The coaching staff is all about delivering motivational messages. Look around the Ducks' locker room, and in different areas, you will be inspired:

1. Maintain a positive attitude
2. Every player is a leader in his own way
3. Play with self-disciplined aggression
4. Avoid making excuses
5. Unselfishness is essential

The message has been sent and received.

These Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose in regulation (9-0-4). By earning at least one point in the standings for 13 straight games, the Ducks broke the previous club record set in the 1996-97 season and became the first team to record the feat since the 1994-95 Penguins.

That's the reality. These Ducks don't resemble a Disney movie anymore. Except, perhaps, for the happy ending.

Hooked on hockey, Linda Cohn is an anchor for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. She has been with the network since 1992 and promises a gluttony of glove saves in her weekly column.

Linda Cohn

SportsCenter anchor
Linda Cohn joined ESPN as an anchor in 1992, was a SportsCenter staple and still hosts select SC shows. She has expanded her role with the network, hosting ESPNEWS' NFL Blitz and College Football Saturdays on ESPN2. She's also hosted coverage from the Super Bowl, WNBA Finals and the X Games.