All 30 NHL teams will deal with any number of variables going into the 2011-12 season, but few face the kind of high-risk toss-up that the Anaheim Ducks must contemplate with their franchise goalie Jonas Hiller. When healthy, Hiller cleans up a lot of mistakes for a shaky Ducks defense, but vertigo issues prematurely ended his 10-11 season and put his future in serious doubt.
Judging by the fact that he accepted a measly tryout offer with the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s reasonable to think that the Ducks could have signed Ray Emery to another two-way contract in case Hiller’s problems persist. They opted against that, though, sticking with Hiller and expensive backup Dan Ellis going into next season.
That seemed like a dubious risk to take, but maybe the Ducks know that he’s on the right track. Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski provided a translated interview that provides optimism straight from Hiller himself, which must be a breath of fresh air for Ducks fans. (Here’s video of the interview, if you’re among the few who don’t need the translation.)
Reporter (starts at the 00:15 mark): Seven months have passed since the bitter diagnosis. A hard time with new tasks.
Jonas Hiller (00:23): “What I can say today is that, yes, today I am feeling much better than a month ago. This I can say. But I can’t say that I feel much better than yesterday. There are like too small periods to measure. And that’s certainly not been easy for me, somehow, this change. I’m accustomed to getting better every day, [someone] who sets myself new goals on a daily basis. I had to give myself so much time to progress. This was a difficult and especially depressing time.”
Reporter (02:47): In a month, training camp will start overseas. Only then will Jonas Hiller have certainty. But one thing is clear already: He’s doing much better.
Hiller (02:58): “Of course I know I still have to get some ice-training and I have to work hard towards it. But that is something that you do every year. And for that I am here in Switzerland. This is what I’m working towards. And then, I believe, that I’m going to be ready come training camp and the season. And the All-Star game is certainly a goal again.”
It sounds like Hiller’s still going through a recovery process of sorts – or at least making sure his situation is stable by going through typical summer workouts – but it would be fantastic news for the Ducks if he returns to his underrated form next season. Hiller received a well-deserved All-Star selection last season, but it would be that much more impressive (and inspiring) if he did it again next season.
The Ducks would be happy to have him back either way.