Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And Then There Were . . . 23

This is Anaheim Calling to the Hockey World.

The Anaheim Ducks have officially announced the final cuts of the preseason. Logan MacMillan was sent to Bakersfield of the ECHL and Brendan Mikkelson was sent to Toronto of the AHL. Logan MacMillan being sent to Bakersfield probably isn't a huge surprise considering his limited ice time during the preseason, but Carlyle expressed sincere interest in running 11 forwards and 7 defensemen during games, leaving us wondering if he would carry 8 blueliners on the 23 man roster. In the end, he chose to have 14 forwards and 7 defensemen on the full roster. Tell me Arthur, what do you think were the main factors that led to Mikkelson being sent to the AHL rather than Ebbett who is also on a 2-way contract?

I think there is some surprise at MacMillan playing in the ECHL. It could be that we're more familiar or comfortable with that organization or that we want to see some toughness out of him, but first rounders rarely end up in the ECHL, even in a complex minor affiliate situation.

On Mikkelson, I have to say that he and Christensen were given a real opportunity on Sunday. They both needed to do well to send Ebbett home. Christensen came through; Mikkelson didn't.

They gave the blueliner time with Eminger, his most successful mate, they put him on the penalty kill and they generally gave him a chance to do the little things right. But, at every turn, he seemed to come up just shy, missing opportunites to clear the puck, sending the puck into open space and just not using the boards effectively. If he can't eat minutes on the blueline, it doesn't matter if he can eat minutes up front.

This may not last very long; most of this corps is still so unpredictable. But I like the message this sends to Mikkelson: this team has no problems relying on free agency if its prospects come up short.

I know Mikkelson didn't have the best game on Sunday, but I think the real story behind these cuts is Joffrey Lupul's back. The OC Register mentioned that Lupul was kept out of practice on Tuesday due to some recurring back problems. If that's the case, this is probably a move by Carlyle to make sure he has forwards around to take care of the hole that Lupul is about to leave in the Top 6.

Ebbett has shown he can play with Selanne, and while the wing is a new position for him, I think that the desire to have a skater who knows how to create offense is a compelling need if Lupul isn't 100%. Also, Ebbett is a strong positional player, and he'll be a strong back checker when Selanne isn't. I thought Mikkelson played a good game Sunday. It's not so much that he made a lot of mistakes, just that the mistakes he did make came at key times, like on the penalty kill. I'd also like to mention that the Christensen-Marchant-Artyukhin line looked fantastic, and Christensen earned at least a chance to play regular season minutes. Mostly, I just think these cuts reflect a greater concern for Joffrey Lupul's back more than any satisfaction Carlyle has with his situation on defense.

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