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Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Because I’m a Very Busy and Lazy Person

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

AbeSooo yeah. I didn’t exactly meet the opening bell when it came to getting my season previews done. Work and life get in the way, so deal with it.

But I am not about to deny my loyal reader(s) the remainder of these previews. Here they are in fast forward, unchanged from the start of the season, beginning where I left off.

Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals – 3rd Place
Lots of offense, not alot of defense, but this team is going back to the playoffs.

Atlantic Division

Detroit Red Wings
The move East helps this old roster earn their first divison crown as members of the East.

Boston Bruins
Still a physical and nasty group, the Bruins will contend for the division title but just miss out after playing lots of hockey over an 18-month span.

Ottawa Senators
Maybe the most fun team in the league to watch, but with a few of their top forwards prone to injury, the team lacks depth to contend for the top spot. Still a playoff team though.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Defensive issues and possession numbers don’t favor the Leafs as they aim for a second straight playoff berth. Adding Jonathan Bernier means there’s no easy night for opposing shooters.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Suspect defense and a lack of consistent goaltending spells trouble for the Bolts this season.

Buffalo Sabres
They’re not good and the most entertaining thing about this team will be the Ryan Miller/Thomas Vanek trade watch.

Florida Panthers
Still a young group trying to find their way. Adding Tim Thomas helps, but these guys are a long way away from contending for anything other than a lottery pick.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks
Loaded at every position, the Blackhawks won’t run over everyone like they did last year but they’re still the class of the NHL.

St. Louis Blues
Great on defense and solid in goal, the Blues are one still one dynamic scorer away from challenging for the top spot in the Central. But man will it suck to play against these guys every night.

/laughs knowing the Sharks pounded the Blues early this year

Minnesota Wild
Still a year or two away from being a serious threat. But this team showed great strides last year and I expect that to continue this year.

Dallas Stars
They’d be higher on this list if I knew Kari Lehtonen wasn’t one play away from falling apart. Still a really good group of young forwards and veterans and a sneaky good defense.

Nashville Predators
They won’t run away with many games this year, but defense and goaltending will keep the Preds in most games this year. Plus, they have American Hero Seth Jones on the rosters, which is awesome.

Colorado Avalanche
A fast and skilled group of forwards makes the Avs a fun team to watch. A shaky defense and spotty goaltending do them in. But man will Patrick Roy be fun to watch as a coach.

Winnipeg Jets
They couldn’t win the worst division in hockey the last two years. That’s bad news as they transition to the West. Ondrej Pavelec is not a franchise goaltender. Why can’t Jets’ management understand this?

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings
They have the right mix of skill, toughness and great goaltending. They’ll be in the mix for the Stanley Cup again this year.

San Jose Sharks
It’s the last shot for this group to win. They’ll still roll out world-class talent at forward and have a very good goaltender in Antti Niemi. One serious injury to the forwards will doom the Sharks.

(This was my thought before their red-hot start. I never would have expected what has happened.

Anaheim Ducks
Lucky for you, Pierre Canard has you covered with an actual in-depth preview. Read it now.

Vancouver Canucks
They’re a tire fire waiting to happen, but they still possess some of the best talent in the world. They’re not elite anymore though. And the Sharks own them, which is great for everyone.

Phoenix Coyotes
Still stingy on defense and the score more than you think. I’d be shocked if they didn’t earn the West’s final wild card spot.

Edmonton Oilers
I still don’t trust this team on defense and in net. That’s bad news for a fan base that expects to win now.

Calgary Flames
Oof. Calgary needs to fail badly to try to lock up the top pick in next year’s draft. They’ll battle, but they’re very short on talent.

There ya go. I did not take anything that has happened so far into account for these brief previews. I’m sure everyone will agree with me though…

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m glad I don’t do this for a living. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because if you like hockey, you’ll like following me.


Anaheim Ducks 2013-14 Season Preview

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

While I was away, I wrongly put aside the contributions of others to the season previews. Stepping in for the Ducks preview is our lone contributor to the site, Pierre Canard.

2013 Recap
The Ducks pleasantly surprised their fans last year, while quietly compiling the second best record in the west last year, going 30-12-6. Riding the resurgent Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and an outstanding goaltending duo, Anaheim’s first complete regular season under Coach Bruce Boudreau was a success, with the Ducks winning the Pacific Division.

The Ducks entered the first round of the playoffs to face the Detroit Red Wings. To say there is a history between these two teams in the postseason is an understatement. Recent history(2006-07, 2008-09) had the winners eventually making it to the finals, and to put it bluntly, these teams don’t like each other.

This series was no different, with the series going to 7 games and the Red Wings advancing. Over the summer, the Ducks saw some major changes on the roster, but thankfully for them (and the entire league) Teemu Selanne returned to the team, as per norm, using a hilarious video, for his final season. How will the Ducks do? Let’s take a look.

For the better part of the last decade, the Ducks have had one of the best duos in the NHL in Getzlaf and Perry, who both signed long term deals during last season. Longtime line mate Bobby Ryan was finally traded to Ottawa after years of speculation, with the Ducks getting highly touted prospects like Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen in return.

GM Bob Murray didn’t stop there, and brought back Dustin Penner on a 1 year deal, so I guess “Out with the old, in with the new old-er??” . The Ducks youth movement saw great improvement with Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem and Nick Bonino showing they will be big names in the organization sooner than later. Veterans like Dan Winnik, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano, and elder statesman Teemu Selanne round out the offense. Of note, Cogliano had a spectacular season  last year (13g, 10a), including a gutsy performance coming back into a game where he had his teeth knocked out, without missing a shift.

The Ducks seem to have a balanced attack, but it will depend on Dustin Penner finding his old groove with Getzlaf and Perry, a continued (and tangible show of) growth by the younger guys, and consistent contribution from Teemu Selanne and company.

Anaheim did struggle mightily in the face-off circle last year, and had power play issues at times too.  Hopefully the young blood helps with this, otherwise another early playoff exit may be in the cards. Anaheim lacks a gritty enforcer type, a role that Brad Staubitz could not fulfill, and this will be an issue in the rough and tumble West.

On paper, Anaheim has quite the capable defense. On paper. Last season, Francois Beauchemin had a Norris trophy level season, playing on a bad knee but putting up an outstanding 24 points (6+18) in 48 games, being a +19,  and playing lights out great hockey all season.  Despite having reconstructive surgery on his knee in the offseason, he has played  games this preseason and should be good to start.

As usual, Cam Fowler had a solid season, with Sheldon Souray providing welcome offense early in the season, before struggling defensively in the second half of the season, and Sheldon will miss a big chunk of the season this year, while recovering from an off season wrist injury. Ben Lovejoy, who the Ducks acquired for next to nothing (2014 5th round pick), was a revelation, playing as a solid 2nd pairing defenseman. Lovejoy earned a 3 year extension over the offseason.

Sadly, Luca Sbisa took a step back in his development(and was benched during the season for it) is also injured and doubtful for the seasons start, and Bryan Allan, who was brought in to be a defensive specialist, was at times a liability on the blue line. Dependable vet Toni Lydman chose not to return to the NHL, and at the time of this writing was rumored to be considering retirement. Anaheim rookie Sami Vatanen, small but a fantastic power play quarterback who we saw briefly last year will likely make the team out of camp, and could be joined by rookies Hampus Lindholm, a capable two-defender and absolute giant (6-6, 253lbs) Nolan Yonkman, a 32 year old player who finally seems ready to make the jump to the NHL. Journeyman Mark Fistric was signed when Souray’s injury was announced, and will provide the team a depth defenseman with NHL experience.

If there was ever a way to illustrate “embarrassment of riches”, Anaheim’s incredible depth in net would be the perfect example; Two great NHL #1 capable goalies in Jonas Hiller, and last season’s “rookie” surprise Viktor Fasth, two fantastic goalies in the AHL who are capable of being solid backups in Fredrik Andersen and Igor Bobkov, and American hero John Gibson, who probably makes the AHL team, and has time to develop into the sure fire #1 he will be eventually.

You might see Anaheim moving one of the NHL level goalies at some point this season, likely Hiller, but Anaheim fans would be content to ride out the duo this year.

The Hat Trick

1. Defensive Woes
Anaheim needs to solidify its defensive corps, in a hurry. At the rate things are going, the Ducks will not make it very far unless its defense stays healthy and every member contributes. Last season saw a big drop off between Fowler and Beauchemin, and with injuries compounding the already shaky situation, the gap on the blue line needs to be closed-quickly.

2. Who Scores the Goals?
Losing Bobby Ryan costs Anaheim a 30 goal a year guy. It is not impossible to expect Dustin Penner and Jakob Silfverberg to fill that void, but it isn’t reasonable to expect them to “hit it off” immediately. Further, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are not getting younger seeing their numbers trail off last season, and Andrew Cogliano’s season might have been an over performance and it might be a stretch to get the likes of Etem, Palmieri and Bonino to fill that void. It may be a return to the “score by committee” tactic next year. With Getzlaf and Perry now secure in long term deals,

3. Anniversary!
It’s TWENTY years of the Ducks this season! Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?  There’s the outdoor game versus Los Angeles in Dodgers Stadium,(ICMYI- that is in California… how can that possibly go wrong?). There is the throwback game where the team will pay tribute to the Original 93-94’ Mighty Ducks, and all sorts of celebratory things throughout the season. The Ducks have the opportunity to make a big splash on the national stage with the additional coverage; and hopefully capitalize on it. And, despite the fact that they are no longer the Disney team, who wouldn’t love a fairytale ending or Teemu’s career?

Anaheim will be in the mix this year, assuming the defense holds up. Strong goaltending and a potentially lethal offense should offset initial defensive woes. Anaheim benefits from the re-alignment, and should feast on teams like Edmonton and Calgary, despite facing challengers like LA, San Jose and Vancouver. Third in the Pacific.

Must-Follow Ducks Twitter Feeds
I am Pierre Canard, and as usual, I thank the D.A.R.T. Board for the opportunity to post a piece.  Feel free to go at it with me on twitter @SargeTheDuck. Apart from shameless self promotion as “the Ducks fan to follow”, I would suggest you take a look at my buddy Kyle Nicolas  @ACKyleNicolas and the always in-the-know Eric Stephens (Anaheim’s beat writer) @icemancometh.

I’ll add to this. Follow along with the Battle of California’s Jer and former BoC writer Earl Sleek. That is, if you like humor, cartoons and profanity to go with your Ducks talk.