Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ducks Season Preview
By Earl Sleek, Battle of California

Division: Pacific
2006-2007: (48-20-14) 110 points
Playoffs: 2nd seed
Finish: Stanley Cup Champs


Andy McDonald – Chris Kunitz
(27G - 51A - 78P) – (25G - 35A - 60P)

Chris Pronger – J.S. Giguere
(13G - 46A - 59P) – (36-10-8, 2.26 GAA, .918 sv%)

Key Losses—Dustin Penner (Edmonton)
Key Pickups—Mathieu Schneider (Detroit), Todd Bertuzzi (Florida/Detroit)

In Limbo:

Teemu Selanne – Scott Niedermayer
(48G - 46A - 94P) – (15G - 54A - 69P)

Go ahead and vomit. I don’t mind.

That’s right, Pittsburgh. You may have won some lottery ball contest for some kid named Crosby, but it’s the web-footed ones whose beer tastes like silver polish these days. Let me just get the gloating off my chest early—Seriously? You guys lost to Ottawa?! Four times?!

Anyways, I’ve been trying to avoid writing up a season preview for the Ducks until there was some definitive news on either the Niedermayer or Selanne retirement fronts, but seeing as people like their previews before Christmas (plus I’m a sucker for Pensblog’s harassment), I’ll give it a shot. Here’s 5 things I’ll be looking forward to this season for the Anaheim Ducks:

1. Chris Pronger—I know I have been awfully spoiled watching Niedermayer and Pronger trade blueline minutes all last season, but having done so I have come to this conclusion: Scott Niedermayer is a defenseman who impresses your eyes but Chris Pronger’s a defenseman who impresses your spreadsheets. Covering all situations, Niedermayer in the playoffs was on the ice for 24 goals for / 26 goals against, and he won a Conn Smythe. Pronger, meanwhile, was on the ice for 32 goals for / 15 goals against, but his elbows kept him out of trophy consideration. I never expected to worry about Scott honoring his contract (for some reason, I kept guessing “Chris”), but if I had to choose, I’m glad Pronger’s the one who’s definitely playing next year—he owns the ice out there, and seeing as I’m a shallow guy who likes good results, it works out just fine.

2. The Pahlsson Line—As opponent after opponent found out last spring, the Ducks have a shutdown line of Sammy Pahlsson, Travis Moen, and Rob Niedermayer that draws all the toughest minutes—even strength and penalty kill. They get rigorously matched against an opponent’s star players, then work their asses off to keep them off the scoresheet. In the regular season, the tough minutes earned Pahlsson a Selke nomination, but in the playoffs, they took it up a notch—they outscored top opponents, and ended up forcing coaches to split up Gaborik from Demitra, Sedin from Sedin, Zetterberg from Datsyuk, and Alfredsson from Spezza. So now the secret’s out. How hard will opposing coaches work to avoid the Pahlsson line, and how will that affect their output?

3. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry—Two years ago, they were 4th liners playing largely with Todd Fedoruk. Last year, they were 2nd liners playing largely with Dustin Penner. Is this the year where they become first-line leaders? They certainly have benefited so far from playing behind the Selanne line—how will they do against top shutdown defenders? I’m really impressed at how the Ducks have managed these kids thus far—never having the pressure of carrying the team. In the end, who were the top two scorers at the end of the playoffs? Getzlaf and Perry. They really are unique talents, Getzlaf the stallion and Perry the snake. But they’ve played together so much they’ve become as synonymous as Kariya and Selanne, and that’s saying something in this town.

4. J.S. Giguere and the $24 million contract—If there’s one guy I worry about underperforming his contract, it’s not Todd Bertuzzi, it’s J.S. Giguere. Now I’ll admit that Giguere certainly passed up money by not testing free agency, and certainly his numbers were fantastic last year—including the playoffs, the Ducks were 50-14-8 when Giguere started. I’m probably over-worrying, but $6 M is a lot to commit to a goalie in today’s market. Still, there is one thing that Jiggy brings to the table—you can’t teach clutch, and he’s got it. Giguere is 12-1 in career playoff OT games, stopping 114 of 115 shots in more than 250 OT minutes. Still, I’m not fond of his habit of missing the first game of the playoffs, something he’s done two years in a row now. Thank god for crazy Russian Ilya Bryzgalov. Also, thank god for that crazy Tennessean Jack Daniels.

5. My geographical study of Road Boos—Brian Burke loves thugs. Pronger the elbower. Brad May the sucker-puncher. Todd Bertuzzi the infamous sucker-puncher. George Parros the moustache. The Ducks led the league in fighting majors last year, and were the most penalized team in the playoffs as well. They are quickly becoming the NHL’s most hate-worthy team, almost to world-wrestling proportions. Pronger draws hearty boos in San Jose, Edmonton, Detroit, and at some point Ottawa. In Denver though, Bertuzzi is likely to draw the boos. In Minnesota, it’s going to be Brad May. If I get drunk enough, I plan on drawing up a tri-color North American map, to show which Duck players draw the loudest outcry in which city. Damn, maybe I’ll have to color England as well.

Well, that’s the top 5 things I’m interested in seeing this coming year—although I nearly mentioned “How good is Beauchemin without Niedermayer”, “How good is McDonald without Selanne”, and “His nickname is Schneidermayer”.

Prediction: Regular season? I think they fall 2nd to the Sharks (I thought this last year as well), but with wildcards named Selanne and Niedermayer, things could really swing wildly in the Pacific. I guess you’ll just have to stay up late and find out.


Pensblog Take

The Ducks have the bull's-eye on their backs and their balls.

The Ducks owned the NHL last season, while getting to whoop on Phoenix and Los Angeles 16 times in the Pacific Division.
But, hey, they won the Cup.

They're still waiting on Niedermayer and Selanne to stop jobbing,
but unless Pronger's wife decides she's seen enough of the West Coast, the blue line is still money in the bank.

Behind Pronger, you still have the GoodYear Blimp in net.
Giguere's pads are a disgrace to the world.

There's no reason why Anaheim isn't the favorite going into the season.
Damn it.


TheNick said...

the pens roster on nhl 08 is a joke. nils ekman? eric cairns? and EMTBC and letang are on the ahl roster. worse of all eaton is somehow only a 68. other than that the game rocks

Anonymous said...

Anyone have NHL2k8 for the ps3. If so, what do you think. I was think about getting it.

Brian said...

wtf is in the air in california that makes these guys ahve to act like assholes in their previews.

At least the Ducks won the cup, but still that is no reason to act like a Melvin-bag.

Matt said...

it's all friendly little stabs. don't get your panties in a pretzel

Earl Sleek said...

wtf is in the air in california that makes these guys have to act like assholes in their previews.

Oh my bad. I thought you already knew that you lost to the Sens four times. Tough way to break the news, I know. Sorry.

Staff said...

Wooooooooo burn

Smog is in the air in LA

canaanregulatesblog said...

haha....earl sleek pwn3d brian.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Ok, I have to question the picture about the Stanley Cup with Mickey Ears. Since the Pens got slammed for losing to the Sens. I can still see why this fan still has a lot of "PRIDE" for Disney and The Ducks, considering Disney sold the Ducks back in what 2004? 3 years ago. And as for animal facts go, penguins also have webbed feet.


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