The Mighty Ducks' original team is fast disappearing, and the team continued its overhaul Wednesday by trading right wing Terry Yake--who led the team in scoring during its first season and has the only hat trick in team history.
General Manager Jack Ferreira isn't hesitating to put his confidence in the batch of rookies who pushed Yake down the depth chart during the exhibition season. He sent Yake, 25, who had 21 goals and 31 assists last season, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for center David Sacco, 24, a 1994 U.S. Olympian with little NHL experience. Sacco is the younger brother of Duck right wing Joe Sacco.
Ferreira said the younger Sacco, a playmaking center who was assigned to San Diego, gives the organization much-needed depth at the position.
The Ducks haven't been sentimental with personnel decisions, having traded Yake and their first All-Star (Alexei Kasatonov), first captain (Troy Loney), first game-winning goalie (Ron Tugnutt) and first goal-scorer (Sean Hill).
"It's just the reality of the league that everybody gets better. You can't stand still," Ferreira said. "With first-year teams, you can get to a level really quick and then kind of hit a plateau. That's where you have to either get better players or be patient. You try to prepare for not taking a dip down."
Yake, who turns 26 next month and has two consecutive 20-goal seasons, fell behind rookies Valeri Karpov and John Lilley at right wing during a poor training camp. But the Ducks' confidence in him was shaken by a poor finish last season in which he scored only one goal after Feb. 23.
"Terry has a history of being inconsistent," Coach Ron Wilson said. "We've got roles for certain people, and the role he was falling into, he wouldn't be able to play. If he's on the third or fourth line, would he be able to check?"
The team believes rookies Paul Kariya and Karpov are ready to carry a large part of the scoring load, along with Bob Corkum, who finished one point behind Yake for the team scoring title.
"Onward and upward. That's the whole thing," Wilson said. "You've got to make sure you improve."
Yake, who scored the first hat trick of his career Oct. 19 against the New York Rangers, said he has been happy in Anaheim and didn't realize until the past couple of days he might be traded.
"It hit like a hammer," Yake said after being called off the ice to meet with Ferreira while his teammates stretched, realizing what was happening.
"I did think I was in a good situation, and I considered buying a house over the summer," Yake said. "Then I slapped myself upside the head and said, 'You could get traded.'
"To say you're safe is never possible. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anybody can get traded. Being the leading scorer doesn't make you safe."
Even Ferreira said he thinks Yake could have a better year playing in Toronto if he's on a line with Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin or Mike Ridley.
"I expect a better year this year myself," Yake said. "I feel if I scored 50-something points with somewhat limited ice time in a situation here where I was not playing a lot on the power play, maybe with a team like that I'll pick up a few more. Especially if I do get to play with one of those three great centers."
Joe Sacco was surprised by the trade, even though he talked to his brother the day before.
"He said he was hoping to get traded; we didn't talk about where," he said.
"We're losing a good guy in Terry, a very good player. But I'm happy for my brother."
Ferreira said David Sacco, who had three goals and five assists in eight games in the Olympics, lacks his brother's speed but can play the point on the power play.
"Joe is more the explosive winger, David's more the center iceman with good hands, clever with the puck."
Joe Sacco's scouting report was similar. "Oh yeah, and I think he's a pretty good guy," he said.
Jean Francois Jomphe, a minor league center, has been assigned to the Canadian national team. . . . Jon Battaglia, the Ducks' sixth-round pick in June, has been named to the U.S. national junior team for the World Junior Championships Dec. 26-Jan. 4 in Red Deer, Canada.
Terry Yake said it was particularly hard to tell his wife, Tanya, about the trade because she was enjoying Southern California and was taking a class at Chapman University. They'll find it easier to tell their dog he's headed for a Toronto winter: "We have a nice Siberian husky. He'll probably enjoy it," Yake said.
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