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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.

Forwards
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.

Defense
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.

Goaltending
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?

Prediction
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.

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Previewing the Ducks-Red Wings Series, with a Special Guest Host

In Hockey on April 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Today April 30, 2013 marks a special day in the history of this blog, as we are running our first ever guest piece. We here at The D.A.R.T. Board enjoy visitors, and joining us for a last minute preview of the Anaheim-Detroit series is the one and only Pierre Canard. As the only Ducks’ fan I have ever come in contact with, I had a moment of weakness when I asked Pierre to lend his thoughts to the Ducks’ first round matchup.

So boys and girls, without further ado, here is Pierre’s take on the Ducks-Wings series (which may not be as awesome as mine, which you can read here).

Anaheim started off hot and fast, posting an impressive record that was overshadowed by the Chicago Blackhawks historic streak. While the Ducks streak out of the gate went relatively unnoticed, the team comfortably “flew under the radar”, building up an impressive lead that, with the exception of a bit of a slide towards the end of the season, cemented the teams second Pacific Division title.

Detroit on the other hand, struggled out of the gate, (understandably so) in the Red Wings first season post-Lidstrom. The team saw the obvious lack of defensive depth exploited initially, and had struggled with injuries up front. Detroit closed out the season very strong, on the backs of Jimmy Howard, and the still reliable forward depth.

The teams faced off three times this season, with the road team always winning. Detroit won 2 games (back to back) in Anaheim, where the Ducks were outclassed.

I am obviously biased towards the Ducks, but the depth that Anaheim has had is something any team would desire. With 6 players with 10 or more goals, and even more depth throughout the line up, the Ducks are team that easily rolls 4 lines.Ryan Getzlaf (fresh off an extension) has returned to form, and the other omnipresent threats like Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry (who also re-signed with the Ducks), are complimented with pleasantly surprising performances from Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri. Defensively, this team is built very well, with Francois Beauchemin enjoying a career year, Sheldon Souray enjoying his own resurgence. Cam Fowler has been struggling with injuries this season, with solid depth further in the line up in Luca Sbisa, Toni Lydman and Bryan Allen rounding out the rotation. Ben Lovejoy, a mid season pickup was a revelation, has played his way into the lineup. The Ducks also enjoy a terrific depth in net, with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller posting 15 wins each.

Detroit has seen Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Val Filppula get support from younger blood in Dan Cleary, Justin Abdelkader and Damien Brunner in scoring, but beyond the top 6, this team struggles mightily in scoring depth. (However Jordin Tootoo is a constant threat to Anaheim’s sanity; in his time with the Predators he was a constant thorn in the Ducks side, and always got the Ducks off their game). Defensively, Detroit simply has no real threats beyond Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall. The drop off cannot possibly be expected to compete in a long series. Jimmy Howard looks to carry the load for the Red Wings.

My Take:

Detroit and Anaheim always have great playoff battles- Detroit stormed into the playoffs, while Anaheim did cool off towards the end of the season. Detroit’s hot streak worries me; this is a team that can still do damage despite the depth limitations. Jimmy Howard quietly has had another good year, and is capable of stealing games for his team. Anaheim’s depth is intimidating, and should be able to wear down Detroit over the series. This will make for some great TV, and I have Anaheim winning the series in 6 games.

I would like to thank the owners of this blog for the opportunity to post my incoherent thoughts on this series. Feel free to agree/disagree/stir up some arguments with me on Twitter @SargeTheDuck.

And there you have it! If you like Pierre’s take on the Ducks, follow him on Twitter because there’s plenty more where that came from. If you didn’t like it, tell me and I’ll be sure to let Pierre know on the 7th of Never.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Dallas Stars

In Hockey on October 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

Dallas Stars

A Look Back at 2010-11
Oh what could have been. The Stars played outstanding hockey for much of the 2011-12 season, leading the Pacific Division for a good portion of the season thanks to their high-powered offense and a surprisingly good defense. The Stars had the Sharks, Coyotes, Kings and Ducks in the rear-view mirror as late as the all-star break. That’s when things changed and the Stars suddenly couldn’t buy a win to keep pace with the hard-charging teams behind them. Despite how bad the Stars were in the last quarter of the year, they still had a chance to earn a playoff spot on the last day of the season. That wasn’t enough to get the team into the playoffs, as they came out flat against the Minnesota Wild and lost that chance. It signaled the end of the Brad Richards and Marc Crawford eras in Dallas, and the Stars walked away with a whole lot of nothing in return for Richards. The combination of being passed by everyone in the division and ownership instability, and the Stars have to be considered a disappointment last year. Grade: D+ (There was some good that came out of it, but they fell apart in dramatic fashion.)

A Look Ahead to 2011-12

Forwards

Loui Eriksson will be in his first season playing without Brad Richards

For the first time a very long time, the Stars won’t have a bona-fide number-one center now that Richards is gone. They will, however, welcome plenty of new faces to their lineup, but their returning forwards are the strength of this team. Expect for the Stars to line up with a top unit that features Mike Ribeiro centering Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn. Ribeiro led the Stars in assists last season, and he will have the task of getting the puck to the two talented wingers. Eriksson was called the league’s most underrated player last season, but after his third straight season with more than 60 points, no one is taking the talented winger for granted. Benn is already being touted as the Stars’ sleeping giant on offense. He had a great year last year and plays well past his young age of 22. Expect him to surpass his 56 points from last year, even if the Stars move him to . Team captain Brendan Morrow had a great year last year, scoring 33 goals while playing on the second line while playing the physical game Morrow has been known for his entire career. He’ll fit in nicely on the team’s second line.

Once you get past those four players, the Stars face quite a few questions as to where the production will come from. Michael Ryder should be a candidate to team with Morrow on the second line. Ryder is fresh off a Cup win with Boston and he played very consistent throughout that playoff run. That had always been a knock on Ryder, and whether or not he can bring a whole year of solid play to the Stars is a giant roll of the dice. Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Godard and Jake Dowell also join the team this year, but the Stars won’t expect much out of those three in terms of offense. Dvorak and Fiddler were brought in for checking a penalty killing purposes and Dowell and Godard bring extra toughness to the team.

Rounding out the Stars’ forwards include mega-pest Steve Ott, Adam Burish Tom Wandell, Krys Barch and Toby Petersen. Dallas does boast a few prospects that could make the lineup in Tomas Vincour and Scott Glennie. Glennie is a former first-round pick that could help out the Stars’ offense if he can ever crack the lineup.

The Stars don’t have much past the top line that’s scares opponents offensively. The way their lineup is constructed, the Stars are going to try to play a slew of low-scoring games. The fact that their ownership is also in limbo means the chances of the Stars picking up any offensive help are pretty slim. That’s not a good sign for this team that was so fun to watch a season ago. Grade: C

Defense

Stephane Robidas is the elder-statesman on the Dallas blue line

The Stars were 15th in the NHL last season in goals against. But with a lineup that I expect to struggle with scoring this season, that ranking to going to have to be better. Trevor Daley, Nicklas Grossman, Mark Fistric, Stephane Robidas and Alex Goligoski are all locks to play every night they are healthy. The first four in that group are all very sound defensively, and Daley is beginning to evolve into one of the league’s better defensemen. Goligoski is an offensive wizard on the back end, an area that the team desperately needed to improve last seasaon. He should help the team’s power-play remain strong because of his ability to distribute the puck. Robidas has the most experience on the blue line and will be counted on for great defense and the occasional point. Grossman and Fistric are rocks in the Dallas zone.

Sheldon Souray and Adam Pardy were brought in to compete for the final spot on the Stars’ blue line. Souray is an interesting case, as he was nothing short of a bust when he was in Edmonton due to his inability to stay healthy. But while he may never get back to the level he played at when he was with Montreal, he still has an absolute rocket for a shot and he might have the chance to contribute on the power-play for the Stars. Should he stay healthy and team with Goligoski, the Stars suddenly have a potent attack from the blue line. Pardy never really fit in Calgary, but he should see some time on the Dallas blue line this year.

Prospect Philip Larsen saw some time last year, and he may not be far off from being a full-time player for Dallas. Dallas also boasts a pair of promising prospects in John Klingberg and Jamie Oleksiak who won’t be with the Stars this year, but could be within the next few years. Grade: B

Goaltending

Kari Lehtonen was great last year, but how he performs in year two could prove the difference in the Stars' season

Well look who finally showed up to play. For a guy that has always had the ability to be a franchise goalie, Kari Lehtonen finally put his skills to use last year. Lehtonen was also blessed with a clean bill of health for the first time in his career, and that doesn’t hurt. Lehtonen kept the Stars in the majority of his games last year, and this season he is going to be counted on to do the same. I’m still skeptical about his ability to stay healthy, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him bit by the injury bug. I don’t hope it happens, but forgive me since he hasn’t put together a pair of healthy seasons yet in his career. But if Dallas wants any shot at challenging for a playoff spot this year, Lehtonen not only needs to stay healthy, but play above the level he was at last season.

Andrew Raycroft is back for another year to back-up Lehtonen. Raycroft was pretty good when he was called upon last year, and as a former starter he needs to be ready to go at any time with Lehtonen’s history of injury woes. Richard Bachman is next in line, and he’s about as good of a number-three option as anyone in the league. As it is with most teams, goaltending is going to go a long way in terms of the Stars’ success this season. Grade: B

Prediction
The good news is that the Stars will be competitive on a nightly basis. The bad news is that they play in a very tough division and tougher conference with plenty of teams that are going to score plenty of goals. The playoffs aren’t out of the question, but the Stars are going to have to have a lot go right for them in order to get in. 5th in Pacific, 12th in West