Considering, at one point in the season, Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller was being hailed as one of the best in the NHL, how it all ended seems a bit surreal. In case you missed the Ducks’ playoff run, it all ended for Hiller on the bench.
While many may argue Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau did what he had to do to give the Ducks their best shot in the playoffs, rumors of how Hiller’s benching came to be and the goalie’s treatment from the organization (none confirmed) only further the other end of the argument: Hiller deserved far more faith from the Ducks than he was given in his, seemingly, last days wearing the black and orange.
Hiller’s year with the Ducks was one record for the goalie and the team after another. The team went undefeated at Honda Center through the entire first half of the season, much to Hiller’s expert goal tending. Hiller almost single-handedly won the outdoor Stadium Series for the Ducks against the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-0 shutout game where Anaheim was gravely out shot by Los Angeles. Hiller did everything in that game for his team, stopping short of only scoring a goal himself. To add icing to the cake, there is that 14-game win streak Hiller rode for Anaheim as well.
However, during locker clean outs and postseason interviews earlier this week, Hiller made the fact that he hasn’t felt trusted by his team since the trade deadline very apparent, saying he was never given the opportunity to play against big teams in big games. Given that side of the argument, it’s no wonder Hiller’s game went downhill after a stellar showing in net for Team Switzerland at the Sochi Olympics.
After the seasons Hiller has spent with the Anaheim organization, looking back, there is really nothing more the goalie could have done to gain the trust of the Ducks or coach Boudreau. Sure, his playoffs last year were faulty, but the same argument can’t be made for his brief showings in this year’s.
Boudreau could not expect to start backup goalie Frederik Andersen for the first series and not have it do something to Hiller’s mental game. Is Hiller a professional? Yes. Which is why anytime he was thrown into the fray of the playoffs he played to the best of his ability, even if it didn’t get the win.
Although nothing is confirmed, chances are Hiller will not be with the Ducks again next year; no need to worry for his future. Someone with this amount of talent will be snatched right up off the free agent market in good time; there are plenty of teams in need of veteran goal tending.
Hiller may not have all the years in the world left in his career, but he certainly should be given the chance to prove he still has a few of the best left in him. A chance the Ducks shouldn’t have squandered when given the open opportunity to let him shine.