On that January day when Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray said that everybody on his team except Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were available for trade if things didn't improve, Ryan Getzlaf was immediately trending on Twitter in Canada.
It happened instantly. One minute the not-so-veiled warning escaped from Murray's mouth; in the next, Getzlaf had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs – in cyberspace, if not in the real NHL world, where deals are occasionally harder to manufacture.
Sadly, it has become clear – to Getzlaf, to Leaf Nation and more importantly to general managers around the league – that Murray's threat was mostly just that, designed to get everybody's attention, but not a serious attempt to move a 6-foot-4 centre who at 26, is just approaching his prime.
"I know how this business goes, and the pressure Bob's under, and I wasn't doing him any favours," Getzlaf said in a moment of sober self-analysis Thursday. "That's the way things go. He's showed a lot of faith in me in years past and I'll continue to show that faith back to him.
"I don't want to go anywhere," continued Getzlaf, with emphasis. "Anaheim, the city itself, has been unbelievable for me. My wife is from there. It's definitely where we've laid our roots and plan to stay as long as we can."
Anaheim was carrying a three-game win streak into Thursday night's date with the Calgary Flames, and even though its playoff hopes remain bleak, it looks as though the message was received. The Big 3 – consisting of Getzlaf, reigning NHL MVP Corey Perry and shifty winger Bobby Ryan – were finally starting to find the offensive range after a glacially slow offensive start.
Getzlaf has not spoken to Murray about his intentions and says he doesn't need to. He "didn't take it personally" and interpreted his message as "more of a kick in the ass than anything; that I needed to get going – and I knew it as much as anybody.
"It wasn't that I wanted to play that way. It was a frustrating time we were going through. I planned on working hard and getting back to where I needed to be and I think I'm there. Hopefully, we'll continue this into the second half and not have to worry about those rumours again."
Getzlaf was 14th in league scoring last season, with 76 points in only 67 games after he missed a month with multiple facial fractures. On a points-per-game basis, that put him in the top five alongside Perry. This year? He has just 27 points in 41 games, which prorated over a full season, would be his lowest total since his rookie year. In an offensively challenged league, Getzlaf is one of a handful of NHL players who averaged more than a point a game in each of the past four years.
New Ducks' coach Bruce Boudreau says he didn't see Getzlaf's line much live and in person, in his Washington Capitals days, but thought they were "as good as any line we've faced in the league – big and strong and powerful.
"When you can get a big strong powerful centre man, that's a want on a wish-list for every team."
Getzlaf, according to Boudreau, hasn't scored at the rate he would like to, but noted: "For the most part, everybody has statistically some year they wish they could do over again – and he's still got half a year left. It wouldn't surprise me if, all of a sudden, he turned it on and got 50 to 60 points in the last half of the year and then everybody would say, it's a good year."
The Ducks have made the playoffs in five of the past six years and won the Stanley Cup in 2007, just as Getzlaf was emerging as an above-average NHL player. This year, they will need an exceptional second-half push to make up the 17-point disadvantage on eighth place. But the sense Thursday was that they would get a chance to do it together, rather than see the team dismantled because of a poor first half. That's what Getzlaf, as the captain, wants to see.
"It's a frustrating thing because we have the tools, we just couldn't put it all together," Getzlaf said. "A couple of our guys were struggling, myself included, and we can't have that to win in this league."