Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All The Right Moves?

Well, we at Anaheim Calling have noticed that there isn't a lot happening that involves the Ducks right now. In fact, there isn't a lot happening at all. The top story on the Ducks website is a Q&A with Ryan Whitney, and the OC Register is apparently reporting on the Sharks. I digress. The point is, what are we going to talk about, Arthur?

I've been thinking, and thinking, and thinking, then I ate, then I thought more. Then the question came to me. On the last post, you said that our off-season is over. With that in mind, I'd like to know how we did. Do you think that these moves will be enough to get us back amongst the top teams in the conference and get us a deep move into the playoffs?

I would argue that the Ducks were one of the top teams in the conference this year, but that won't show in the standings unless we win the division. And we can't win the division if we don't out-point the Sharks.

I give San Jose the edge in the Pacific because they're bringing back the same Top Six, as well as Boyle and Blake. They're primed to repeat this year's performance. The Ducks, on the other hand, have added two major players to their Top Six and will be shifting the minutes around a now Pronger-less D-corps. If they find their groove early, it might be close, but I'm sure that at least the first dozen games will be spent juggling the lineup. I honestly can't predict what we'll have after that.

And I think that's really the wild card here, based on Carlyle's various comments to the OC Register. He wants consistent defense. And I think that means putting a dedicated backchecker with Koivu and Selanne, thus spreading out the offensive players. It also means splitting Niedermayer and Wisniewski, who weren't always successful at cueing and covering each other's offense. If he builds the defensively responsible, but offensively dangerous, team that he's contemplating, Carlyle should have a playoff squad capable of winning multiple series.

And at the end of the day, we have options. There's an overflow of talent. Almost half of the team might be fighting to stay on a line or get moved to a better line (not to mention the two guys trying to elbow each other out of the crease). Murray might even be motivated to call up players like Sharp and Mitera periodically, rather than let them lounge around a random AHL team. It should be an EXTREMELY competitive depth chart in October.

I offer only two predictions:
1) We will no longer field accusations of being a one-line team.
2) Carlyle won't have to use the healthy scratch as a motivational tool.

I'm happy with this off season. Not because it impressed me. We didn't do everything I wanted, [insert complaint about Top 4 D-man here]. But for the first time in about 2 years, there seemed to be front office motivation. Murray had a plan, he got what he could and he protected the future instead of mortgaging it on an underwhelming free-agent class. In previous years, Burke was scrambling, looking for the last piece to win the Cup and then dealing with the indecisiveness of Niedermayer and Selanne. This year, Murray wanted second line scoring, he wanted to make cap space and he got both. If nothing else, I say we are winners because the front office has a plan and is moving forward with that plan. I think that means the league will be dealing with a secure, confident Ducks team that will be very dangerous next year.

I don't think all the moves were great. Boynton isn't going to round out the Top 4 very well. Lupul is overpriced, but happy to be back in Califas. Maybe that'll help. And really, any type of scoring relief for our top line is bad news for the rest of the league. I think we have the top goalie tandem in the NHL, but they both need the D to be responsible on rebound control, which worries me.

The Sharks core is still intact, and the Kings might have acquired the veteran they need to turn their young talent around. But Kings fans shouldn't hold their collective breath. The division will be a dog fight, and I agree that San Jose comes out on top. They are just too loaded with talent. In terms of the conference, I wouldn't be surprised if we wiggle our way back to home ice, but only because Chicago will be playing without Hossa for the first 1/3 of the season. We have the goaltending and the scoring to go deep. Let's see now if fate agrees.

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