Posted 29 April 2014 - 09:51 AM
he was an odd Duck too, gotten in the deal for Teemu Selanne. I don't think Friesen was a very smart player and when his skills declined he was through as a regular NHLer. Also he was probably propped up by NJ which was a shot factory at the time - once he was released into the NHL proper, he was lost.
I've often wondered if there's some correlation between starting earlier and finishing earlier - both Sykora and Friesen played their Y18 seasons in the NHL, but both guys were basically through at 32 - Sykora was propped up by the right teams in his mid 30s, but he was at best an average NHLer after his 30th birthday when you considered everything he couldn't do. Sergei Samsonov was a Calder winner and was done at 32, and that after having his best seasons in his early 20s (which seem now to have been propped up by Joe Thornton, who is amazing). Scott Gomez, Calder winner, in the NHL at age 19, his Y30 season was his last good one. Dunno, seems like for non-superstars like this there's a clock on them - this is something to consider with free agents. It wouldn't surprise me a bunch if Nathan Horton suffered a big decline in his game, say (wow, looking at his numbers for this year, which I didn't do before I wrote the first half of this sentence, it looks like it already happened)
I think in a guy like Friesen's case, he might have gotten worn down from high expectations as well...there was an article in SI about future up-and-coming stars, and he was considered to be a big one coming up. In SJ, they thought he was going to be a 35-40 goal, point-per-game type...when he scored a career-high 31 goals in his fourth season (he was only 21 going on 22), their fans thought "Finally, OK, here we go." They didn't realize (or refused to believe) that he wasn't going to be any better than what he was. After another 2 3/4 seasons of "disappointment", he then goes to Anaheim, like you said, as part of a deal for Teemu Selanne. He didn't come close to living up to what the Anaheim faithful were hoping for, and even worse, he didn't even produce like he had previously (which probably would've STILL been barely acceptable to Duck fans).
I remember him admitting when he was dealt to NJ that playing for both SJ and Anaheim had been difficult for him, and that he was looking forward to a new start in NJ. In a lot of ways, like you alluded to, playing here in 2003 was pretty ideal for him...he was replacing a guy in Sykora who some fans were a little sour on, and after Arnott had been dealt, Sykora following him out the door was a lot less shocking. Friesen playing for the Devils had to be a lot easier than coming in as youngster with massive expectations, as he did in SJ, or having to follow a pure highlight scoring machine, like Selanne. Here all he had to do was fit in and be a reasonably productive piece to succeed, and for that one season, he was.
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