Ryan Whitney enjoyed his time in Anaheim, even though things never quite seemed to fit.
A first round pick accustomed to playing big minutes in important situations, Whitney got a little lost in the shuffle with the Ducks and eventually became expendable, getting shipped off to the Oilers just prior to the NHL trade deadline.
“I think kind of from the day I got there, (head coach) Randy (Carlyle) didn’t like me very much,” said Whitney.
“I just kind of got that vibe. It’s not that he didn’t like me as a guy, but I don’t think he liked me as a player.
“I was playing a lot, it’s not that there was an issue with ice time, I just never seem to fit his mould. (GM) Bob Murray said it best when he called me and told me that it wasn’t working out.”
A former fifth overall pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Whitney was traded to Anaheim in February last season. On Friday, he’ll be going up against his former team for the first time when the Oilers play host to the Ducks in the final game of a four-game homestand.
“I did enjoy my time there, I made a lot of friends there,” Whitney said.
“It’s always nice to play against the guys you became friends with and played a lot of games with. It’s always pretty fun. I think it’ll be a good game — they have to win games to try and get into the playoffs — so it will be nice to try and beat them and play the spoiler.”
Whitney, 27, still stays in touch with some of his Ducks teammates. While not playing on the first defensive paring in Anaheim, the native of Boston was still a little surprised to be moved at the deadline.
“I wasn’t counted on as a guy to play against other teams’ top line, I was playing against the second line,” he said.
“They had Scottie Niedermayer there and last year they had Niedermayer and (Chris) Pronger.
“When Bob called me and told me I was traded, I was curious about it and he just said that it just wasn’t working. Those were his exact words. Take that however you want, but that was the situation there.”
With the Oilers, Whitney is the top defenceman.
He’s playing on the top pairing with Tom Gilbert, gets first-team power play minutes and is the first guy over the boards to kill penalties.
“He came up in a real good organization (Pittsburgh) and he really looked good with other skilled guys around. He could pass the puck and he has range,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “He had lots to learn about the defensive side of the game, but he looks to be improved over his years of playing.
“I’m happy to have him because I like how he passes the puck. My picture of a strong defenceman is someone that can get the puck out of trouble fast, not by carrying it necessarily, but by being able to move it.”
Whitney looked at the trade to Edmonton as an opportunity to make a fresh start with a team dependant on his services.
“Yeah I do,” he said. “It’s tough not being in the playoff this year.
“I think at this point next year we can at least still be battling for a spot.
“When you’re rebuilding, you can never expect to jump from worst to first, but at the same time, if you get some good young guys in here, you get a new start, and I think we’ll be a much better team next year. It’s exciting.”