ADLER, Russia — He has received criticism, ridicule and mockery in this space.
Today, Ryan Getzlaf will receive credit. And praise. And even more.
Because Getzlaf earned something of legitimate value Sunday - another Olympic gold medal - I feel compelled to give him the most genuine thing that I can:
It isn't much. Isn't worthy of hanging around his neck. Isn't even forged out of the cheapest of metals.
But it's authentic and heartfelt and about all I can really offer.
There's no cheering in the press box, no. To be honest, though, I was going to write this column even if Team Canada lost the gold-medal game to Sweden at these Sochi Olympics. Before the puck dropped - before the Canadians in fact won, 3-0 ï¿½ - I knew I owed Getzlaf that much.
No one in this market was harder on him than I was two seasons ago. The Ducks were drowning under Randy Carlyle and Getzlaf, more nights than not, was practically holding their heads underwater.
I questioned everything from his play to his heart to his captaincy. Now, I wrote at the time, is when the Ducks need Getzlaf to prove that the "C" on his jersey has been earned, not just awarded.
I was harsh, direct and serious, something I generally prefer not to be. Or maybe you haven't noticed my references during these Games to English-speaking roosters, cigarette-smoking dogs and Vladimir Putin's pectorals.
Then, in early January of 2012, I produced a column that was topped by these words: "It's Time for Getzlaf to be Dealt."
The Ducks were 29th in the 30-team NHL. Bruce Boudreau had separated Getzlaf from his longtime linemate Corey Perry and removed Getzlaf from the No. 1 power-play unit. The newly hired coach was trying to ignite a captain and a team. Nothing worked.
If there's a deal out there that improves the Ducks significantly in one way, I wrote, the damage done the other way by the loss of Getzlaf is worth it.
And now today ... Getzlaf is second in the league in points and fourth in goals. He's plus-24 and so is Perry. The Ducks lead the NHL in points, and Getzlaf is the main reason why. He's also just became a second-time Olympic champion.
No one knows what would have happened had the Ducks agreed with my opinion and traded Getzlaf. But now that everyone knows what has happened since the team didn't move him, Getzlaf deserves to be celebrated.
Even in this space. Especially in this space.
He produced an impressive comeback season in 2012-13, helping the Ducks return to the playoffs. This year, on most nights, Getzlaf simply has been the best player on the ice.
And here I am again starting to sound way too serious. So, I'd like mention my favorite quote from these Olympics. It came from downhill skier Alessia Dipol of Togo, where the average daily temperature during the cold season is 77 degrees.
"The giant slalom was a bit difficult due to atmospheric conditions," Dipol said after finishing 55th. "It was snowing."
See, I could have continued dissecting Getzlaf's play or possibly inserted one of his quotes following the victory over Sweden. But dissecting a hockey game sounds brutally boring and, frankly, Getzlaf and his teammates were much better on the ice Sunday than they were off it.
It's difficult to believe that, after doing something as emotional as winning a second consecutive Olympic gold medal, a player couldn't come up with something better to say than, "It's nice to be able to repeat it, two championships, and every time you win a gold medal you are excited."
But that was Team Canada defenseman Duncan Keith, who plays for the Blackhawks, and no wonder everyone in Chicago still finds a group that never wins ï¿½ the Cubs ï¿½ more interesting.
Statistically, Getzlaf wasn't great during Canada's run to the gold medal here. But then, statistically, none of the Canadian forwards shined. This team won by preventing offense, giving up only three goals in six games.
But Getzlaf was solid, consistent and in the middle of a lot of the good Team Canada did, as much as he was in the middle of that group photo taken on the ice afterward. Google it, if you like. There's Getzlaf. First row, dead center.
He wrapped his arms around the shoulders of his teammates, just like they all did, and sang "O Canada" as the red maple leaf rose toward the ceiling of the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Lifted a country, that's what Getzlaf and the Canadians did.
Now he'll return to Anaheim and the pursuit of another shiny souvenir of significant value. But first this:
Congratulations, Ryan. You earned it. And where I once called for your departure, I'll close by adding, "It's Time for Getzlaf to be Appreciated."