Sunday, March 29, 2009

Penalty Kill: NCAA Tourney

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

The NCAA tournament opened this weekend. If you haven't been glued to ESPN2, ESPNU and even the Notre Dame game on ESPNC then I'm sorry, but I just don't know what you're doing with your life. Anaheim had four prospects in the tournament. I thought we'd take a brief look .

Vaive isn't a featured forward for the Redhawks, but his size (6'6") could prove valuable in DC, so tune into the Frozen Four if you can.

Vaive took an undisciplined holding penalty against the Bulldogs that Mercier converted into a shorthanded goal. As good as Stalock was playing, I'm going to give Vaive an honorary assist on that one.

Kampfer has become more famous for his off ice injury and a vicious on ice hit than for his playing ability. Hopefully, he will stay for a senior year in Michigan to show he can still play hockey.

Michigan senior captain, Mitera spent most of the year holding a clipboard and a crutch after ACL reconstruction. He looked good coming back in late February, making only the occasional mistake. He didn't look great against Air Force, but none of the Wolverines really did. Expect to see Mitera in the upcoming preseason.

Against Ohio State, Bonino had a goal and two assists in a one-sided blowout, and in my opinion, Bonino and Yip have provided more energy and scoring chances for the Terriers this postseason than Wilson and the other forwards.

Today, this kid completely blew me away. A tenacious UNH team traded chances with BU for three periods, locked in a 1-1 tie. With under a minute to go, the Terriers established play in the UNH end. Bonino came streaking into the zone calling for the puck in the slot. He got it, and skated it forward into a gauntlet of blue jerseys. After two dekes, he was hauled down with 45 seconds to play, drawing the penalty that sent Boston to the Frozen Four. What more can I say about a kid, playing for the best team in college hockey, who wants the puck when the game is on the line...


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rap Around: March 25th, 2009

This is the Rap Around for March 25th, 2009. Daniel and I will run down hockey headlines from the week with answers limited to one paragraph. Let's get started.

Alexander Ovechkin's "hot stick" goal celebration for his 50th of the season-- more, less or just as outrageous as Selanne's "skeet-shooting" celebration with the Jets?

Ovechkin's celebration was a little over the top. I enjoy big celebrations, but this one was just too far. I felt like I was watching a football game. I don't have a problem with good celebrating, I'm just saying I'm looking for more creativity from one of the premiere goal scorers in the NHL.

Everyone seems to be making a big deal about whether the Sharks or the Wings will walk away with the Presidents' trophy, so who takes the Presidents' and does it mean anything?

They both have easy remaining schedules, but a lot of those games are against division rivals. The Sharks were struggling, but they've seemed to regain their scoring touch. Still, I have to give the trophy to Detroit, who's up by 1 point and will only be on the road TWICE for the rest of the season. Presidents' Trophy doesn't really forecast anything. Cup success depends on how deep the team is, and who the 8th seed is that year.

Brad Richards came back from a hand injury just in time to injure his other hand, are the Stars out of the playoffs?

The Stars aren't done yet, but if they don't scare up some wins quick, they will be. Modano is done and Morrison is not the scoring answer they are looking for. I don't think they have the offense to get it done, but if Turco can steal some games and they hang around for another week, they're going to be a problem down the stretch, they're just too feisty to roll over and die. Of course that doesn't mean they won't choke.

Positions 7-12 in the Western Conference are only separated by 5 points with about 10 games left. Since we are clearly biased Ducks fans, and greatly concerned with magumbo, I will only ask this, if not us then who makes it in?

If the Ducks are out (huk huk), then on strength of schedule I have to say the Predators and Wild are out, too. The Wild are at home, but they don't get to play the Coyotes or Avalanche at all, so no free points. 7 and 8 on my Ducks-free bracket would be the Stars and Edmonton, respectively; I just don't think the Blues will have what it takes to close the gap with Edmonton.

Best Deadline Duck so far? Christensen, Nokelainen, Whitney or Wisniewski?

I call toss up, Nokelainen is great in the circle and has been a really solid force with Robbie on that line, and he's got two goals both of which came in wins, and the one against Nashville would have been a game winner if we didn't cough up the late lead. Whitney is so solid, he eats minutes and gives us an opportunity to have our second powerplay unit be a first unit on some other teams in the league. Right now I say Whitney only because he's locked up for the next few years and will give us more leverage in the offseason with Pronger and Niedermayer.

What move, or prospect that will come up, do you think will help propel us back into competition in the Pacific and keep us from having this dogfight for a playoff spot in 2010?

I think we called up a lot of the guys we might see next year. If we re-sign Beauchemin, you'll still likely see Mikk or Fest out there before you see Salcido or Bickel or even Mitera. Of course, Niedermayer's destiny will determine Pronger's and may shake up the pairings, if not the whole team. I think Murray will re-sign Todd and/or Rob, maybe trade Pronger, and then window shop in the free agent market. But with the cap likely going down the year after next, I expect to see a lot of one-year deals, which may have us back in the dogfight as early as 2011.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


[Ryan forces Bob Miller to learn his name]

With about ten games left in the NHL season, a number of the statistical awards appear settled. Evgeni Malkin will take home the Art Ross Trophy, while Alexander Ovechkin will claim the Maurice Richard. However, the more subjective trophies, like say, the Calder Trophy, remain up for grabs. For the first half of the season, Kris Versteeg (CHI), Drew Doughty (LAK), and Steve Mason (CBJ) positioned themselves as the front-runners for the NHL's Rookie of the Year honor, but Blake Wheeler (+36 for BOS) and Bobby Ryan (24G) have filled out the picture.

With such a tight race, Daniel, who do YOU think the Calder Trophy winner should be? And make the statistical argument for your choice.

This is a tough choice for me. I'll start by saying that if this was a list of all position players then Ryan is the obvious choice. He's played almost 15 less games than everyone on the list except Steve Mason, and he's still second in scoring. If he's here when the year starts maybe Morrison has a better year surrounded by Bobby and Selanne. I honestly believe that. Versteeg has been just as good as Bobby in everything else. Versteeg has a better +/- by 2. I think that Ryan is a little more important to how well we do though, that is we need Ryan a little more than Chicago needs Versteeg.

Wheeler is an interesting option as well. His +/- is a ridiculous 36 and he's third in rookie scoring behind Versteeg and Ryan, but he's also played the most games and has had a solid year on what has been a really good Bruins team leaving the question if his +/- stat isn't padded by being on that team. Also, of all the rookie candidates Wheeler spends the least amount of time on the ice averaging just under 14:00 a game. Versteeg averages about 17:00 a game and Ryan about 15:00. I think this stat is a little deceptive though. When Ryan first came up he would maybe get 10:00 to 12:00 minutes a game and he was spending a lot of time with Parros and Miller. Over the last 5 games Bobby only played less than 17:00 minutes once, putting him right around the kind of minutes Versteeg is logging with Chicago. I think you can dismiss Wheeler because he's played the most games and therefore his TOI stat is the most revealing, his 14:00 minutes a game mean he isn't a significant part of the Boston game plan. Another thing to look at when seeing who is more important to what their team does, is Ryan's 9 PPG. That's 4 more than Versteeg and 6 more than Wheeler. That means that Ryan is playing significant Power Play time and is instrumental in the Duck attack.

Yes, Doughty deserves honorable mention. He leads rookie defenseman in TOI and points as well as game played, but his -12 is pretty glaring. Yes when you play that many minutes and you're a rookie, +/- is bound to be affected, but more importantly I haven't seen Doughty take over a stretch of play. Ryan does hard work along the boards and he comes up with big plays. Remember the Hat Trick he hung on Doughty's Kings in less than 5 minutes, and 2 of those goals came with Doughty on the ice. I think the fact that the Kings are out of the Playoff picture hurts Doughty. He's definitely the best rookie defenseman, but I don't think he's had the kind of spalsh and overall effect on a team that the other candidates have. And the only person on the list who's had the same impact on his team as Ryan is the next Candidate.

Goalies are a special breed, and it's usually hard to just step in and carry a team, but that's exactly what Steve Mason did. It's usually sexy to pick a forward who racks up a lot of points for the Calder, but Mason has led a team that's never been to the playoffs and has them the closest they've ever been. He leads all rookie net minders in almost every category, is in the top ten in both wins and save percentage and is 2nd in GAA. A team can ride a hot goalie into the post season and sometimes deep into the playoffs. The fact that this kid is performing so well that this former league doormat could be a problem in the post season means something. Not to mention that he completely dethroned the oft-injured Leclaire and his fancy new contract. I've got to give the Calder to Steve Mason. I love everything Bobby has done for us this year and he's going to be a star for a long time, but for a rookie to step between the pipes and do what Mason has done is just special. Mason has to get the Calder. Every GM and pundit will tell you that you need solid goaltending to make it in the post-season, and Mason has provided that for Columbus. The kid is going to make history for his organization in his first year. I don't know what else you need to be rookie of the year.

First, let me say that I don't think that hockey writers should speculate on what Bobby Ryan would have done with the Ducks in the first dozen games of the season, not when evaluating him as a Calder Trophy candidate. Versteeg and the other candidates should not be penalized because Brian Burke couldn't manage his finances. At best, you just have to think of Ryan as being injured or ineligible to play for the games he spent out of the lineup-- nothing that was his fault, but nothing that spells untapped potential for all those "lost" games.

The Calder declares itself as the award for the most "proficient" rookie. Let me give you some numbers that speak to proficiency - 30W and 9-SO for a team that is 18th in Goals scored AND Goals per game. The last netminder to win the Calder, Raycroft in 03-04, ended the season with 29 wins and 3-SO but a slightly better GAA at 2.05 (compared to Mason's 2.26). The new NHL rules skew a lot of the straightforward number comparisons, but wins and shutouts can always be balanced against a team's production to measure a goalie's skill. Mason has done what it takes.

But I won't dismiss the forwards. Immediately, Versteeg has the advantage of playing in Chicago. Unlike Mason and Ryan, it's likely that the voting hockey writers have seen Versteeg play. Remember that he opened scoring in Wrigley on New Year's Day. Versteeg has also shown some true grit and grind as a rookie, taking the major penalties when they need to be taken and potting four shorthanded goals for the Hawks. The only downside to Versteeg is that he isn't ending the season well, nursing a scoreless streak and a decrease in shifts due to some minus play. But overall, during the course of the season, he's been consistent, and has one fewer minus game than Ryan has.

If there is one thing Bobby Ryan has going for him, it's poise. I despise hockey intangibles in a stats discussion, but you have to look at what a team is asking you to do. The Blue Jackets were asking Mason to lead them to the playoffs. His success in that regard will speak to his proficiency. Versteeg is producing, but he's a 5th rounder playing on a team with Kane and Toews. Essentially, the game (with all its pressure and consequence) is NEVER on his stick. Bobby Ryan doesn't have that luxury. He's asked to win games, and to win them with whatever ice time Carlyle can spare in his matchup system. Bobby Ryan has played 35 games this season with fewer than 20 shifts; Versteeg has played only 6. Versteeg has seen 30+ shifts twice, Bobby's never seen more than 25. As you said, TOI can often be deceiving, and I think this is a head-to-head that goes to Ryan.

I'll still say Mason; the numbers are undeniable, but Ryan's performance this season puts him at a close second.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Penalty Kill: Eric Tangradi

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Back on the Penalty Kill today after digesting 9 straight hours of WCHA tourney goodness (Slingbox owns my soul during these Selection Sunday countdowns).

I said before that my Penalty Kill posts would focus on players who are (or who I think SHOULD BE) in the Ducks organization. Well, file this one under 'should be' because we're taking a look at LW Eric Tangradi, the plus-one that went to Pittsburgh on the arm of Chris Kunitz.

When Brian Burke left for Toronto, the company line was that nothing would change. Players marveled to the media that Bob and Brian were not just a team, but practically the same individual. Bob saying something was as good as Brian saying it. They were two voices speaking for the same body, two entities sharing one managerial destiny. Then came the trade deadline. Bob went rogue. Bob went solo-- and I mean Bobby Brown singing a 15-minute rendition of "Mr. Telephone Man" kind of 'Solo.'

Burke was an Entry Draft artist, doing some of his best work in the second round (Anaheim picked there thrice in 2008). Murray moved Burke's 2008 43rd overall pick, Eric O'Dell, in a straight-up deal with the Thrashers for Erik Christensen. And days before that, Bob moved Burke's 2007 42nd overall pick, Eric Tangradi, to Pittsburgh as the bow that gift wrapped Chris Kunitz.

I'm sure Ducks fans would like to continue to debate the Kunitz trade, but the truth is that Ryan-Ebbett-Selanne established themselves as the second line and Kunitz's size prevented him from ever clicking with Getzlaf and Perry's cycle game on the first line. He had become a superfluous Top Sixer. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was desperate to find a linemate for Crosby, and they were locked into a long-term deal for Whitney when they had plenty of cheap, young defensemen, hungry for on-the-job training. The meat of the deal made sense for both teams. However, Tangradi tipped the scales far in Pittsburgh's favor.

"Why?" you ask. Let's start with size. Tangradi is 6'4" 220 lbs., and he's posted 32, 41 and 61 PIM during his three seasons with the OHL's Belleville Bulls. That's not all fight time. Don't forget that Tangradi is the same guy who took a stick blade to Chris DiDomenico's face when the Canadian forward took a victory lap by the US bench in the World Junior Hockey Championships.

When he wasn't riding the pine, the Bulls' captain matched his penalty numbers with the directly proportional 20, 60 and 88 points, proving himself to be a dynamic and dominant scorer. As to his abilities as a leader, Coach George Burnett welcomes a comparison to Tangradi's former teammate and still Ducks' property, Matt Beleskey. Both players display the poise to deliver the fight, the block, the big hit or the goal when the team needs it. But don't forget that Tangradi is bigger than, and also a stronger skater than Beleskey.

Add to this the consensus that Tangradi is still getting better and still gaining confidence in the physical and finesse parts of his game and you have to wonder what Murray was thinking. Tangradi should be a Duck, not just because he WAS a Ducks propect, but because he's ALREADY a Duck. He's the sort of gritty, skilled power forward who has no business playing anywhere else.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Too Many Cooks in the Crease

Jonas Hiller's performance Sunday night against the Sharks and Jiggy's continued struggles have created an interesting situation. Jiggy's GAA has been over 3.00 for a few weeks now, his positioning has been off and his former brilliance has only flashed through occasionally. It's true that he's been having a lot of off-ice trouble, but he hasn't rebounded the way we would have hoped. You've said it yourself, Hiller is one of, if not the, most athletic goalies in the league right now. Unfortunately, Jiggy is 31 and Hiller is 27. If we don't make a move and use Hiller's best years now while Giguere is struggling, are we wasting a great goaltending talent? Can the Ducks afford to play out the rest of Jiggy's contract before letting Hiller take the reins?

Since I saw the game against the Kings in London, I've been adamant in declaring Jonas Hiller the most athletic goaltender in the NHL. To me, Jonas is first, and Luongo is tied for second with Hiller's glove hand, okay? This kid's a starter who knows how to win games. He was great BEFORE Allaire got a hold of him, and that's new for the Ducks. It would be a SIN, a Cardinal Hockey SIN, for Hiller to be a backup in the 10-11 season, no matter what he's paid!

I think the most interesting thing here is that Hiller signed a two-year extension at the beginning of this season. That means he becomes a free agent before the last year of Jiggy's contract-- Jiggy, who has a no-trade clause. HIller has set himself up to either steal this job or come close enough to stealing it that he can get himself a fat UFA paycheck while the Ducks' hands are tied to Giguere. Now, I'm not suggesting that this was Hiller's or even his agent's plan, but this is what the Ducks have set themselves up to face at the end of next season by signing this kid to a two-year extension. They either ask Jiggy to waive his no-trade clause next season, or they ask Hiller to sign-and-wait and play behind Jiggy for another year, which no truly talented goaltender should ever do.

The Ducks don't really have the option to change horses before Jiggy's contract runs out, unless Carlyle commits to flipping the depth chart for good. As it stands, only Jiggy can give Hiller the job. However, if Jiggy doesn't waive his no-trade clause, Hiller WON'T go the way of Bryzgalov. Murray will move him next year; Bob showed at the trade deadline that he values his assets above all else.

As far as Jiggy's slump goes, I think Giguere's performance has always been inextricably tied to his confidence. That's what got us to the Finals in 2003, and that's what put Bryzgalov in the net in 2006. You have to take the good with the bad, AND you have to assume that your father dying after a year of your son's serious health problems creates a lot of bad. I've always said, though it's EXTREMELY insensitive to the tragedy that befell number 23, that at least Jiggy didn't take up baseball. He still wants to play, and Allaire is teaching him to rely on his fundamentals when his focus is off.

I think it's a cold day in hell before Jiggy surrenders this job willingly. He waited too long in the AHL, after being drafted in the first round, to have any appreciable sympathy for HIller being 'too good to be held back.' Jiggy might see evidence of it on the ice, Carlyle might offer him a front row seat for it next season, but I don't think that will change his mind. Ultimately, I see the Ducks moving Hiller next year, and that's the only thing they can really do if Jiggy won't waive his no-trade clause.

I've been worried about this for a little while, and the Ducks might regret giving Giguere that no-trade clause. Hiller is athletic, and he makes some of the best stops. Let's face it, outside of the strong positioning game Jiggy plays, there's not a whole lot to him. He's still a great competitor and if he decides to show up, and we decide to get in, I wouldn't want to face us in any round of the playoffs. But Hiller is younger and has a lot more potential. I'm very sentimental when it comes to Jiggy. I'll never forget the way he and Paul carried us in 2003, but he just hasn't looked like himself all year. I think based on that alone, you've got to give Jiggy one more shot to prove that he can be who he is. He's only 31. Brodeur, Roy, and Hasek have shown that a net minder who takes care of himself can go a long way, which means Jiggy could be in a Ducks sweater for another 6 years if he makes it back next year, and shows that all the off-ice drama is out of his system.

I think you've got to move Hiller. Not only for the same reason we moved Bryz, that is he deserves to be a starter and carry his own team to a cup, but because that trade will get us a top 6 forward or a top 4 D and a high draft pick. We picked up San Jose's top goalie prospect for a reason. Let's be honest, when Washington fails again this year, or Detroit realizes that they need someone between the pipes that isn't 80, they'll be willing to part with plenty to make that run to the cup. It makes me sad because I've developed a soft spot for Hiller too, but I think that of all the great back ups Allaire has produced, he's the most likely to have success in another place because he won't be just a position goalie. Of course Bryz would be doing better if Phoenix had anything that even resembled a defense. I just don't see this ending really well for anybody. When HIller gets a starting job, his team will be really good for a solid 4-5 seasons.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Penalty Kill: Jake Gardiner

Updated look at Gardiner (11/6/09) available here.

I'm shorthanded today, as Daniel is handling some offline business. That's bound to happen from time to time here at Anaheim Calling, life being what it is, but we've planned ahead for these scheduling emergencies with these solo "Penalty Kill" posts. For my part, I will try to use my PK posts to highlight players that are (or that I feel should be) in the Ducks organization.

With the Conference tourneys warming up in college hockey, I thought we should take a look at Jake Gardiner.

[Gardiner assists the first two goals in the video and pretty much scores the last one]

The Ducks traded down in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and picked 17th overall. They claimed 6'2" 175 lb. offensive-defenseman Jake Gardiner, who played all four years at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota, though only the last year on the blueline.

Gardiner now plays for the University of Wisconsin-Madison in college hockey's WCHA. In 35 games for the Badgers, Jake's posted 2G (both on the Power Play) and 16A on 58 shots. He's a breathtaking skater, who can lead a rush or make the smooth quarterback moves on the man-advantage, but his incredible on-ice awareness makes him much more valuable as a blueliner than he ever was as a forward.

The one 'knock' I can place on him, from the televised games this season, is that he needs to fill out physically. He's strong on his skates and he's a smart checker, but he'll need to show that he can physically dominate at the 200 lb. mark without sacrificing any of the quickness in his feet and hands.

Luckily, Gardiner has seen plenty of ice time with Junior defenseman and Hurricanes' property, Jamie McBain. The Badgers' Assistant Captain has a better pedigree than Gardiner, having played high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's, and that shows in his conditioning. Jamie plays textbook offensive defense at 197lbs., and he was imposing his visage on the Hobey Baker picture until the last few games of the season. A testament to his leadership, he went scoreless in six games and the Badgers lost four of them. McBain has given Gardiner a look at an NHL-ready offensive defenseman, where Gardiner hopes to be in two years.

Wisconsin swept the Mankato Mavericks over the weekend to advance to the WCHA Final Five. The Badgers were, as usual, unstoppable at the Kohl Center, opening up a 2G 2nd period and a 5G 3rd period in the first game on Friday. Mankato pulled Zacharias in the 3rd, and Gardiner immediately found the net with a wicked wrister from the blueline that got behind relief goaltender Dan Tomey. Gardiner would tack on 2A (1EV, 1PP) during superfluous scoring on the way to a 7-1 victory.

The Ducks' prospect failed to show up on the scoreboard in the second game on Saturday, but he got a few clean shots on goal and made some timely defensive plays in a tight 4-2 victory.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Follow Up: "Pugilists" and "Kariya"

This post is a follow up to two previous posts: "9: A Problem Like Kariya" and "Punishing The Pugilists." In the Kariya post, I repeated the popular hockey rumor, which I agree with, that Kariya wanted out of Anaheim or should have wanted out of Anaheim because he wasn't being protected. One of our readers from Facebook asked me to defend that opinion. Now, I have always thought that this rumor was tacitly confirmed when Kariya continued to get cheapshotted after the holdout, and when Gauthier made a trade to get back Stu Grimson. This seemed to confirm that Karpa and the existing squad of enforcers since Grimson left were not getting it done. But our reader from Facebook found that opinion laughable, citing the overwhelming fighting statistics during the no-Grimson era.

I continue to disagree because I think there's a difference between two enforcers fighting, and the real strategic enforcing that protects players. Grimson had a Claude Lemieux kind of nastiness to him where he would cheap shot small players, and really let the other team know that there would be consequences. A GM has to decide to have a nasty player like that on his team, but that player will potentially send stronger messages with his fights. For recent Ducks fans, the effect is the difference between Parros fighting Boogard and Beauchemin fighting Iginla.

The GMs seem to agree with me, as they voted to make recommendations to create a 10-Minute Major for 'staged' fights i.e. two enforcers fighting for the sake of fighting, as well as an enforcement of the instigator penalty for unnecessary fights i.e. a guy should be able to take a bodycheck once in a while without it turning into a brawl.

Now, Daniel, this is all you, as my opinion is clear from the feed question, but what do you think? If the NHL approves these adjustments, will they neuter fighting? Are the fights between two non-enforcers just as effective or more effective than having two 'designated hitters' drop the gloves every game? Should a Duck let a teammate get laid out every once in a while?

Hitting is a part of the game, and I think we do a good job of not letting every hit get us down. Getting laid out is part of the game and, let's be honest, good clean hits are usually met with good clean hits. That is, you hit our star, we'll hit yours. These types of exchanges are pretty common and hardly result in fights. But when cheap shots start happening, or worse you have a Sean Avery not even following the play and just putting his stick in the goalie's face, someone has to pay the price. I don't think these new penalties will have the effect that people think. Sure, guys will stop dropping the gloves right after the faceoff and instead wait 5-10 seconds and skate to a different part of the ice. Or, guys will just avoid that problem all together and choose a better time to have their fights. Hockey is a tough game and the enforcer will never really go away, they will instead evolve. Think, Steve Ott in Dallas, or Parros when he was on a line with Ryan. The enforcer will still fit into that mold of a guy who can skate, forecheck and at least provide a good shift and some energy on the 4th line. "Goons" like Grimson and Domi may be gone for good, but the job of enforcer will never truly leave. I don't think the NHL's new rules will do anything to deter fighting, it'll just make fighting occur in more creative circumstances.

As I've said, I don't think the enforcer will go away, but will instead evolve. This also means that the Beauchemin-Iginla style tilt will become more common. Not because the enforcer will be gone, but because we might start seeing 15-20 goal scorers becoming enforcers. I also think that because of the new circumstances and penalties surrounding fighting you'll see some skill guys dropping the gloves and sticking up for teammates. I think we do this more than any other team. Perry and Getzlaf have fighting majors this year. I think Perry has more than one. When the circumstances of fighting become unpredictable, so do the participants. I'm not saying I want to see Getzlaf and Perry throwing down every game, but you never know what will happen. In the end, fighting will just become something that falls in the hand of the more rugged forwards and defenseman who only contribute minor minutes, but still have the skill to not be dead weight.

Finally, I think there's one part of fighting that no one has explored, and that's fighting as a momentum tactic. It's not always your teammates getting laid out that triggers these altercations. If the ice is tilted one way and the opposition is carrying play, a fight can really alter the energy in the building. I think that's a good reason to leave fighting in; the players like it and use it as a part of playing the game. Yes, protection and self-policing is important, but sometimes a guy showing he'll go as far as fighting another guy to help his team win builds camaraderie in the locker room and creates an appreciation in the fans that our heroes aren't all overpaid primadonnas. I appreciate fighting and I think the players are as interested as anyone in keeping it in the game, and they know better than the rest of us just how dangerous it is.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Punishing the Pugilists

Over the past few months, there have been a few injuries during fights, and one death. Hockey is frequently criticized for being too brutal. It is the only sport of the Major 4 (Baseball, Basketball, and Football being the three others) where players literally drop the gloves and fight like two kids in the street. The critics say this pugilism is seen as unnecessary and distracting from the overall product that the NHL can offer. Those who promote fighting say it's the best way for teams to police each other in what is a very aggressive and physical game; it keeps away the cheap shots and makes antagonists, such as Sean Avery and our own Corey Perry, accountable on the ice. So where do you stand on this issue, Arthur? Is fighting too dangerous and does it take away from the on-ice product?

For the benefit of our readers, I'll just point out that the rule approved at the GM meeting this week was for the NHL to institute a 10-minute misconduct for 'staged fights,' and for the referees to enforce the Instigator Rule more vigorously with respect to fights that start as immediate retaliation for legal hits i.e. an enforcer starting a fight every time he objects to a bodycheck. According to the CBA, these recommendations will have to be approved by the NHL and NHLPA.

Now, I've often heard Michael Wilbon from PTI say that there's no fighting in the Olympics, so clearly the NHL can survive without fighting in its product. That's the common argument of anyone who doesn't really watch or understand NHL hockey. They don't understand that fighting isn't part of the "culture" of hockey; it's part of the basic gameplay of hockey.
Functionally, the only way to get rid of fighting is to get rid of serious hitting. That's the only way that makes any kind of sense and actually approaches the other playable forms of hockey. You can't ask the referees to catch every penalty, and you can't ask every player who has a 5'9" 150lb teammate to look the other way. You'd just have to put a ban on hitting.

Now, people might argue that the NFL survives with hitting and without fighting, but that's not true. The NFL survives with hitting AND rules. Plays don't last that long in football, and each official monitors the amount of physical contact at each level of the game for the dozen or so seconds between whistles. It would be impossible to duplicate that degree of attention when officiating a hockey game. Doug Flutie was allowed to play in the NFL because of rules that protected him-- if you were allowed to hit a quarterback late in the pocket, you'd better believe there'd be fighting in the NFL. Real hitting without fighting basically forces every small and skilled hockey player into retirement, if not the funeral home.

Yes, there's checking in the Olympics, but that's a short tournament. The Stanley Cup is hockey's world championship because the NHL says, 'we're gonna stuff you in a smaller rink, you're gonna chase down every iced puck, you're gonna play a basketball season and four seven-game playoff series of the most physical game you've ever experienced-- good luck.' Every season is a war of attrition.

Don't get me wrong, though. I don't have anything against a less physical brand of hockey. The NHL has worked hard after the Lockout to create a game that emphasizes skating ability and positioning, the cornerstones of the European style of play. But at the professional level, some physical conditioning should be required. Maybe it's archaic, but that's what we demand of professional athletes, to show some physical ability. The NHL has always done that by allowing its players to meet each other at the absolute limit of acceptable physical play and then to police each other when the line is crossed. Without fighting, their product is the hockey equivalent of professional flag football.

As far as the danger in fighting, it's always hard to say that something is dangerous when it's been going on for hundreds of years. Nothing makes fighting more dangerous now than it ever was. I will say that the fight this season between Ryan Carter and Ole Tollefson was dangerous. Carter didn't know what he was doing; he was just trying to keep his job. Then he falls on top of Tollefson, whose head smacks against the ice. A fight is always dangerous if one guy doesn't know what he's doing, but maybe something as simple as a collar extension (like what linebackers wear) could fix that.

First, I'll be honest and say I enjoy fighting. I think it's one of the things that makes hockey tougher than other sports and I think that's a good thing. I think it creates an honor system. Let me use one of your favorite examples, Arthur, the Avalanche of the late '90s and early 2000s. They refused to fight and ultimately created situations that were almost dangerous for the teams they played against because the Avalanche became those pests we talk about in this argument who seem to take an unlimited amount of cheap shots, but it was also dangerous for them, because it probably led to the Bertuzzi-Moore incident. Fighting makes teams accountable to each other.

While I agree that maybe there's a safer way to do this, I think it's most important to make sure that the players stick to the honor code. If the league becomes stricter on Instigator penalties and keeps a better eye on cheap shots I think fighting is fine. But as you pointed out, the bigger problem might be people who don't know HOW to fight getting into fights. I recall a fight on Sportscenter not too long ago where a player had his sweater over his head and the other fighter called in the linesman to break up the fight so as to not injure the other player. This is the approach we need to fighting. Players, and fans alike, need to see fighting as a part of the game and a skill that needs work. Maybe not practice among teammates, but at least some sort of discussion on the dos and don'ts of fighting.

A follow up to this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Stats That Keep The Ducks From Winning

As we post this tonight, the Ducks have edged out a 3-2 lead against Vancouver, going into the 3rd at Honda Center. Hopefully, they can turn around the fortunes of this recent home stand, which opened with losses to two fellow playoff contenders: Dallas and Minnesota. The Ducks seemed to outplay both teams in stretches, but they failed to capitalize on chances and surrendered quick scores.

Ducks fans like to blame close losses on the officiating, but Daniel, you and I are stat guys. So, give me your top three stats that best illustrate Anaheim's inability to finish, and tell me how we turn those around.

The first stat we need to look at is our penalty killing. We're taking just as many penalties as we always do, but our PK used to be so much better. This year, we kill about 80% of of our penalties. Last year we killed 85% and the year we won the cup we were closer to 86%. Of course it's not just the percentage, we've given up more power play goals this year than we did in our cup year, and we're only 5 away from our total last year with a dozen games left. We are going to take penalties, but considering we've given up 64 goals in 67 games, it's hard to win games when you're practically giving up a power play goal every game. We play hard and penalties will come with that, the only answer is to make sure we can keep teams from scoring on the opportunities they are definitely going to get.

Hopefully, improving our PK will help with the other problem we're having which is just overall defense/goaltending. Jiggy has not been himself as his 3.12 GAA can tell you, as well as his .901 SV%. Overall, our team GAA is an astronomical 2.91. While Hiller has been impressive at times and Giguere has obviously struggled, for the most part, we just have breakdowns in fundamental defense. These breakdowns have led to goals in bunches. We were second in the league in GAA last year, giving up only 184 goals.  This year we've already given up 195. We built this team to have timely scoring and keep the puck out of the net. It's what we do. We are a puck control team and if we keep giving up these goal spurts we will not find ourselves playing post season hockey.

Finally, Getzlaf has to get hot. He's had one goal in the past 7 games, and only 2 assists in the past two weeks. Getzie is a prime contributor to our offense and everything goes better when he's hot. Not only are we scoring points, but that top line is great at generating chances by cycling the puck, controlling it down low and wearing down defenses. We need Getzlaf to get hot if we're going to stand any chance. Selanne is a veteran and he'll get his. But Getzlaf is so good at making the players around him better. He and Perry are a new Kariya-Selanne in the making. I think if Getzlaf gets going, our ability to keep teams pinned down in their own zone will grow exponentially and we'll have a better chance at creeping into the playoffs where he have a shot at making some great things happening.

I agree that the penalty killing and defense are failing us.  I do think Getzlaf needs to shoot more, but that feels like an organic, non-statistical observation because his numbers are certainly there.  The East Coaster-ati that don't watch our games would think Getzlaf is doing well based on his paper numbers.

Here are my three culprits

.375 OS%
The dreaded OS% measures a team's winning percentage when outshooting the opposition. Anaheim is tied for last in the league at an atrocious 37.5% with a record of 12-19-1. The 19 regulation losses are tied with Carolina for most in the league when the opponent was outshot.

The Ducks have undoubtedly lost to teams they've outplayed, but that accounts for maybe 5 of these 20 losses. The other 15 games were filled with wasted shots: drives from the point, tips in front and power moves into the crease, but never anyone there to claim the rebounds.

To turn this around, the Ducks need to crash more effectively. They need someone to cash-in the centering passes and the fat rebounds. Most of Dustin Penner's value came from these garbage goals. Todd Bertuzzi lacked the front-of-the-net awareness to replace him, and Chris Kunitz lacked the size. The Ducks need to find a way to get the same results with short passes and quick moves to the soft areas around the net that they once achieved with Penner's brute force.

Surrendered a G in The First 2:00 of Play For 3 Consecutive Games
In the Cup year, Anaheim was 14-15-5, .412, in games where the opponent scored first. This year, they're 7-25-3, .200, ranked 24th in the league.

They say championship teams win when the calls aren't going their way, when their goals are disallowed and when the opponent jumps out ahead with a lucky score. The Ducks have not been a championship team since they won the cup, and worse, they have created more adversity than they would have otherwise faced. This season has been plagued with defensive lapses and parades to the penalty box, and the team can never seem to muster up the energy to come back when playing from behind.

Carlyle has emphasized being "first" lately, and that's really the fix here. You can't teach a squad to handle adversity better; that's something they need to figure out on their own. As a coach, the best you can do is minimize the adversity your team faces. The Ducks need to be the first to win the faceoff, first to land the big hit, first to create a scoring chance and first to score.

Scott Niedermayer (-15) +/-
For the first time in 17 NHL seasons, Scott Niedermayer is on pace to finish as a double-digit minus player, despite scoring 44 points in 67 games. The Ducks captain has only posted two minus seasons prior to this one: last year, playing 48 games at -2, and 96-97, playing 81 games at -4.

The number is a function of Niedermayer's consistent 25-30 minutes of TOI, constantly shifting pairings and a Ducks team that is always playing from behind, forcing Niedermayer to pinch and crash for the entire 3rd period. By acquiring Wisniewski, a legitimate top-four defenseman, the front office had hoped to create solid pairings and alleviate the pressure on its top two blueliners.

It's true that Wisniewski and Niedermayer have some chemistry. However, both men have offensive instincts, and Wisniewski has shown an inability to cover (or to know when to cover) for the Ducks captain, surrendering a goal in each of the last two games. The only conceivable fix for these last dozen or so games is for Wisniewski to play a little more stay-at-home, and for Brookbank and Festerling to step up and buy Niedermayer some more time to rest.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

9: A Problem Like Kariya

In the midst of all the personnel changes, one change might have flown under the radar: Bobby Ryan changed his number from 54 to 9. Perhaps not the worst thing in the world, but Kariya has always been a sensitive subject for Ducks fans. Arthur, you and I have been saying, since before we won the cup, that we need to bring back Paul Kariya. I like Bobby Ryan as much as the next guy, but in my mind 9 will always be Kariya's number. He did so much for the franchise, and I still can't believe he gets booed at the Ponda Center. Is it time for us to welcome Kariya back with open arms, and how do we get him back in a Ducks sweater?

["Off the floor!  On the board!  Paul Kariya!"]

First, let me say that it takes big brass balls to put on the number 9. Howe and Richard made it hockey's most sacred numeral; people used to joke that Wayne Gretzky was so good that he had to paste two of them onto his sweater. Bobby Ryan dons it to honor his hero, Mike Modano, and I respect his desire to take on the pressure that comes with the number, even if I personally feel the number slights a former Duck.

Okay. Paul Kariya. There are two Paul Kariya moments that are heavy on misinterpretation in the Ducks fan community. First, there's the general perception that he held out and always wanted more money, and second, there's the perception that he walked away from the Ducks. Let's introduce some unbiased facts into both of those situations.

THE HOLDOUTS: The notable holdout happened in 1997, when Kariya clashed with then Ducks GM Jack Ferreira. Contrary to popular belief, the actual dollar figure meant nothing to either Ferreira or Kariya. The point of contention in their negotiation was the term of the star forward's contract. Kariya was interested in a one-year contract, while Ferreira was determined to sign him to a seven-year deal. The NHLPA urged Kariya to continue holding out, as they believed they could drive the market price up to 8 figures for other superstar players.

Kariya acquiesced by December in order to begin training for Nagano. He accepted a two-year deal at roughly 9M a year, pro-rated to 5.5M for the holdout year. He donated 2M of that salary to charity, presumably to show that the holdout was not about money. In the summer of 1998, Jack Ferreira was slowly squeezed out of the Mighty Ducks front office until his duties consisted of nothing more than player scouting. Most attribute his unofficial demotion to his performance during the holdout.

KARIYA BECOMES A UFA: Daniel, as you would say to many (or any) of your ex-girlfriends, "Let's not forget who broke up with who here." The Mighty Ducks made Kariya a free agent in 2003, when they declined the same 10M qualifying offer that they had given him the previous year. Bryan Murray, the Ducks' General Manager at the time, stated that Kariya was clearly disappointed, but that the GM intended to negotiate with Kariya, the free agent. He went on to say that 10M was just too much for the organization. At the time, Murray was operating under a self-imposed budget of around 45M. Financial commitments were a touchy subject in the 2003 offseason as both players and managers prepared for the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As a result, a number of inflated one-year deals and uncertain long-term deals were signed.

Now, only Kariya and Murray know why Kariya was "disappointed" (as Murray put it) that the Ducks did not tender the qualifying offer. Both sides admitted to regular phone contact in the offseason, but any "facts" emerging from those clandestine conversations are unreliable. Neither side denies that they talked about moving forward and doing what it took to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, nothing either man said or did during free agency substantiates the popular theory that Murray acted in good faith of a verbal agreement to sign Kariya for less money as a free agent. On July 1st, Murray had told the press that the Ducks were "restructuring," and Paul Kariya had nothing to say, at all.

The Dynamic Duo signed with Colorado where Kariya took a pay cut to 1.2M because, at the time, CBA rules mandated that anyone paid below the league average would enter Unrestricted Free Agency at the expiration of his contract. This guaranteed UFA status for Kariya during the potential (and eventual) lockout. Bryan Murray signed Sergei Fedorov to a long-term deal at the previously unaffordable 10M a year.

NOW, those are the facts.

I've always been willing to welcome Kariya back with open arms. He gave everything for this squad, and I don't blame him for wanting to try a one-year contract (and, presumably, free agency) when they refused to protect him in '97. Don't forget that he came back after the holdout to find himself sustaining yet another concussion in a Ducks uniform. It took that concussion to convince Gauthier to finally buy Kariya some protection by trading for Haller and Grimson.

And I'm supposed to believe that after the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Murray is talking 'pay cut' to an eager Paul Kariya, while the guy is recovering from another major concussion, a dislocated shoulder and various broken bones? I want to see some Ducks fans boo this guy when he's playing with his kids and can't remember their names. The organization took more from Kariya than it ever gave him. He'd have died in a Ducks uniform if he didn't buy that specially designed helmet.

It would be tough to bring him back now. He's still making 6M next season, and he's coming back from surgery on both hips. We couldn't trade straight up unless the NHL institutes salary eating this offseason, and even if the Blues placed him on re-entry waivers, someone else would pick him up before we did. His injury means he's lost some speed, but I'm sure he can still be a powerplay machine. And the man still has the deadliest backhand in the history of the game.

I think fate will decide. It's a bit of serendipity that, like they were in 2003, both Kariya and Selanne will be UFA's at the end of next season.

[Gretzky and Kurri officially passing the torch]

I think a straight trade, Pronger for Kariya, might not be a bad idea. Mostly because whatever you lose in Power Play production you'll be getting back, more so. I also think there's a chance the Blues might void Kariya's contract at the end of this year since they have an option. If that were the case, we could get him back as a UFA this offseason.

More importantly, I'm angry by the way Kariya gets treated when he comes home. The only reason we were a somewhat respectable team early on was because of Kariya. Even when we were still that Mickey Mouse organization starting out, you had to respect the guy's skill. The fact is, we were built on all the work he did, and then the work he and Selanne did together. They were the Dynamic Duo. They needed each other. As has been shown by their break up. They've still been great players, but haven't really reached those 120-point seasons they became famous for in their all too brief tenure out here.

I think Anaheim fans need to suck it up and show Paul the respect he deserves. Anaheim fans are being pouty stereotypical Orange County elitists who think that everyone on their team should do exactly what they want regardless of how disrespectful it is to the person involved, in this case Kariya. I suppose the more I think about it the less I like Bobby wearing 9. It's Kariya's number, and it should stay that way. It should be an unspoken rule. I don't care if it's because he was a Modano fan, in fact that's less of a reason to wear it when playing for our team. If we don't retire Kariya's number immediately after he retires, I might lose all respect for us as a hockey organization. You've got to give credit to the people who shape your organization, and Kariya may not have won the cup here in Anaheim, but he's the reason we were eventually able to do it.

A Follow Up to this post is available here.

A Mailbag response is available here.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

It Happened at 3:30

As news was breaking on the Ducks' last two deadline trades, Bob Murray held a media conference call. Explaining the jettison of two-thirds of the 2007 Stanley Cup Champions' "Shut Down" line, Murray had this to say, "You talk to Travis, Sammy and Husky. They love it here and wanted to stay here, but they all look at you and say, ‘I’ve got to try free agency’. The contract negotiations were going nowhere." Clearly still spooked by the free agency debacle with Dustin Penner, Bob Murray moved all three of the soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agents for whatever he could get, going so far as to trade with the division rival San Jose Sharks.

[note:  the B-roll graphic that introduces the highlight video also features two Bonino goals]

For the consistently tough forechecker Moen and the recently declining Huskins, the Ducks acquire a conditional pick and prospects Nick Bonino and Timo Pielmeier from San Jose. Bonino is a Hockey East superstar sophomore and Boston University's second most productive scorer. Pielmeier was San Jose's third round pick in 2007, and the 19-year old is currently tending goal in the QMJHL to the tune of 29 wins and a 2.62 GAA.

In exchange for Pahlsson, Logan Stephenson and a conditional pick, Chicago ships defenseman James Wisniewski and center Petri Kontiola to Anaheim. Wisniewski was scouted as a scorer in the OHL, but has been unable to reproduce those numbers in the AHL or NHL, while Kontiola has had successful seasons in the AHL but has yet to be truly tested at the NHL level.

Okay Daniel, assuming the Ducks couldn't sign these guys for the market price in July, was Bob Murray right to pull the trigger here? And is something really better than nothing when you improve teams in your own conference in exchange for that something?

First, I have to say that I like the deal we made with San Jose, so he was right in shipping off Moen.  Huskins is pretty solid, but he's still prone to mental mistakes and he was so inconsistent, it was infuriating.  And that "Shut Down" line just hadn't been as effective recently.  Yes, it was a team in our division, one I'm pretty sure all Ducks fans hate, but we got a really good center prospect, who might be going pro soon.  I think if any team has shown how important College players can be, it's us.  More importantly, we got a goalie prospect.  Pielmeier is 19 and is putting up good numbers. The fact is, as much as I love Hiller, by the time Giguere's contract is up Hiller will almost be 30 and we'll need another outstanding backup.  We were so thin in goalie prospects that you almost have to love this move.  We got two solid prospects, and a potential 2nd round pick if the Sharks make the finals, 4th if they don't, for two guys we weren't sure would be here next year.

On the other hand the Pahlsson deal might not have been as good.  We are trading what amounts to, in my humble opinion, one of the best defensive centers in the game for a defenseman who isn't much of a scorer, and didn't do anything that amazing in the game the other night except be a -1.  It'll be nice to have a solid d-man to replace Montador though. Wisniewski might not be as nasty, but he has been a plus player, if nothing else.  I think this becomes a good deal if we can keep Wisniewski at a reasonable rate, somewhere between 1 -1.5M.  He can be a good 3rd pair defenseman.  In the long run though, Sammy was so good for our system and the way we played, not to mention he's severely underrated as an offensive player.  Look at the work he did on that first powerplay unit.  I just think moving a Pahlsson requires a second round pick and a player/quality prospect.  He's a lynchpin type of guy and given the trouble we've already had with the Hawks I don't see this being good for us if we hit them in the playoffs.

I think we did a bad job strengthening Chicago, and not a good enough job strengthening ourselves.  I think we cleared enough cap space that you have to pick up some sort of scoring veteran, just to let the team know you haven't quit.  Yes, this team is good enough to make the playoffs as is, and Christensen might play well on the top line with Perry and Getzlaf, but who knows.  He's been pretty much a bust up until now.  I think adding a Satan or giving Afinogenov a new home would have been great for us.  We would have 2 solid scoring lines, at least a solid D and of course you never know what can happen if Jiggy decides to be his Conn Smythe self.  I'd have to say that after the deadline everything is just a jumble, and Carlyle is going to have a tough time trying to come up with line combinations that make sense right now.

Well, let's be clear that when you're signing an Unrestricted Free Agent, it doesn't matter if the guy finished the season with you or not.  Yes, it's dangerous to let Sammy and Travis sample the players, coaching staffs and front offices of other organizations, but in July they take the offer they want.  If they really want to play for us, they'll say so in July, and then Bob Murray looks like a damned genius.  If they really need more money than the Ducks are willing to offer then it's good that Murray pulled the trigger because these guys weren't coming back.

I agree that the San Jose trade is the better trade here.  I still remember the highlight of Nick Bonino absolutely undressing Thiessen with a wraparound in his Freshman season last year.  The kid's been solid for the Terriers, and he was Reebok's Hockey Player of the Month last month.  He and Colin Wilson are lighting up Hockey East.  Pielmeier is an important pickup because Hiller's two-year renewal expires next year, and he was a starter LAST year.  Jiggy's contract will continue into the 10-11 season.  Hiller seems like a good kid, but if he wants to start somewhere in Jiggy's last year, we can't ask him to sign and wait.

I think the Hawks trade gives us, effectively, nothing.  To me, it literally is nothing. There are teams where Wisniewski could be an effective Power Play quarterback, but he won't see that ice time with us-- this year or next year.  Especially not if Niedermayer chooses Anaheim as the lame-duck team that pays him to play in the Vancouver Games [no pun intended].  Wisniewski's been bordering on "bust" as an offensive defenseman for quite a while now.  And the Ducks have steadily picked up defensive defenseman that deserve his ice time.  He's not the kind of guy whose basic abilities put Brookbank on the scratch list, unless he can improve his defensive game or really establish his offensive game.  He'll help transition because that's all he's been playing in Chicago, but he'll have to score as many goals as he gives up to be valuable, a feat that Mathieu Schnieder barely accomplished as a Duck.  Kontiola's potentially good, but he didn't make much of his ice time as a Blackhawk.  And after playing so many years in the Finnish Leagues, he's now 24, and bordering on busting as a career AHL player.  

I think Murray had to pull the trigger, but I think if you have the San Jose offer on the table, you keep Pahlsson.  You promote Mike Brown, and add the money you were spending on Moen and Huskins to Pahlsson's offer.  What we got for Pahlsson is not worth the risk, however minimal, of letting Sammy get a taste of playing with a great Chicago team.  Remember that Sammy got frustrated when we asked him to produce offensively to open this season, though he warmed to the prospect of playing on the Power Play.  Chicago will ask him to do exactly what he did in 2007, and exactly what almost won him a Selke, nothing more.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deadline Deals: Declaring a Winner

A fairly busy trade deadline today, but no real blockbuster moves, as the biggest name, Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger, stayed in Anaheim. The general consensus is that Calgary, acquiring Jokinen and Leopold from two cellar teams, made out like bandits.

Daniel, who was the real winner today, is there a dark horse team that made itself significantly better, and is there a clear loser?


I'd like to say the clear loser is the Ducks. We gave up a lot of depth for what basically amounts to a hope for a future pay-out. More importantly, the Leafs had a really good day. They shed some assets and picked up some good picks. Burke is going to do a good job up there; I hope Toronto fans are ready for a salary cap mess.

The Flames did do great work. Bringing back Leopold might have been their best move. Let's face it, he's good at moving the puck, and to a team with that much speed up front, not to mention some good creativity going through the neutral zone, it's just one more guy who is going to keep their transition offense in the back of the mind of every defender daring enough to pinch.

My big winner of the day though is Boston. They got Recchi, a veteran forward who already has two rings, and has had a very quiet but successful year down in Tampa Bay. The guy still knows how to finish around the net and can round out a second line for them very nicely. Plus, with Sturm hurt Recchi is an inexpensive replacement that cost a couple of prospects. Then they added Montador in exchange for a Center, who was being crowded out and was not a major part of their game plan anyway. Montador was leading the Ducks in +/- and he brings great character to a playoff team. Montador isn't afraid to get his nose dirty, a trait that'll really benefit a team in the cutthroat Eastern Conference.


Unfortunately, I can't declare the Ducks the clear loser tonight, but I'm factoring in the Whitney trade, Bob Murray's mitigating excuses (which we'll discuss in the next post), and a couple of smart trades that happened before 3:30pm today.

I'd have to call the Avs the losers. Yes, they came into today as clear sellers, but there's an art to selling. If you can't move Ryan Smyth, you don't just move whomever you can for whatever you can get. They only made one deal, and it was a bad one.

For the winner, I'm going to agree it's the Bruins. Mark Recchi's a feel-good story, as he's had trouble finding work since the Penguins waived him. The Bruins basically get back Glen Murray with this move, though Recchi's maybe 10mph faster. And if you factor in Murray's buyout and Recchi's salary, they still saved 1.1M (for this season's cap). The addition of Montador guarantees that one of Boston's babyface defensemen will see more scratch time. And is there anything scarier than a playoff team with dynamic young stars adding Stanley Cup experience and a seasoned blueliner?

Pronger Possibilities

So, the rumors have been flying around for almost a month but the LA Times and OC Register are both reporting that Pronger is likely to remain a Duck. The question for Arthur this morning is easy: Is this a mistake? Given that the Ducks most recent setback, a 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago, can probably be credited to a lack of scoring, is it wiser to let Pronger go a for a quality winger that can play with Getzlaf-Perry and a high draft pick?

First, let's be clear that this might be a negotiation tactic. Yes, the Ducks told Pronger and his agent at the close of business last night that he wouldn't be traded, but we don't really know what's on the table right now.

There were really only two rumored deals of note regarding Pronger. One was with St. Louis, and the other was with Boston. The St. Louis package would have included David Perron, and what I can only hope was their first round pick. Perron's a 30A Center right now and one of the Top 5 young forecheckers in the league, but you can't be sure he'd see ice time in Carlyle's matchup system. The St. Louis pick would position us high enough to draft Jordan Schroeder, the Junior out of the U of M. He's a little guy, but an undeniably dynamic scorer, and he's complemented the Gophers' 6'3" Ryan Stoa very well this season.

The deal with Boston would have included Phil Kessel, and some negligible pick that we could trade for on draft day. This is the deal that I called you about, and just said "two words: Phil Kessel." When I heard the Ducks were talking to Boston, I just assumed certain players were not on the table. Phil Kessel was one of them. I've been watching this kid since he played for the Gophers in 2005, and he's become better and better every year. He won't drop below 30
goals for the next three seasons.

Based on the two best deals-- that we've heard about! --I'd have to say that only one of them could have won the game against Chicago last night, and Boston walked away from that deal. Then again, I can't really say that Chicago exposed our lack of scoring. Yes, that's a team that you need to score 3 goals to beat, but a .600 team could lose last night's game in March, a .500 team has to steal it.

I like either deal if it helps us make another deal. Kessel makes around 2.2M, and Perron a little under 1M. That's enough juice to pick up Satan or make a big move. But at the end of the day, Pronger was the BEST player on the trading block at deadline. You don't move him for someone that can't make us better right now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ducks waive Morrison; Penguins waive Satan

With 24 hours to go before the NHL trade deadline, there's a traffic jam on the waiver wire.

The Ducks have waived forward Brendan Morrison, presumably to make cap room for a move and/or the return of Pahlsson and Beauchemin, whose cap spaces are currently occupied by Ducks rookies. Signed to fill the void left by Andy MacDonald, Morrison had 10 G and 12 A through 61 games this season, but the 33 year-old found that he could not recover the explosive entry-speed he had before his ACL reconstruction last year and Randy Carlyle quickly pulled him from the Center position. His one year 2.75 M contract expires unrestricted at the end of this season.

Also headed down the waiver wire is the Penguins' Miroslav Satan. The Slovakian winger posted 17 G and 19 A through 64 games, but failed to develop chemistry with linemate, Sidney Crosby (23G 56A). The acquisition of Crosby's new linemate, Chris Kunitz, made Satan's one year 3.5 M contract superfluous.

Okay Daniel, you were clamoring for the Ducks to acquire Miro Satan last off-season, CAN they still do it, and SHOULD they?

This is the opportunity the Ducks need to get right back into the mix. Satan might have lost a step, but the guy is still a bona fide finisher. He's always had good hockey sense, and let's face it, anyone who's played in the Sabres organization in the past 15 years would be great for the chase and cycle system we play. Imagine Satan sneaking around the slot while Getzlaf and Perry play catch behind the net.

The Ducks would still have to free up a little bit of space, even after Morrison clears up space by either dying in the minors or being a drain on some other team. Moreover, this is a way to get a top 6 forward, without having to trade away Pronger. This means that the core of the Cup run team is still together, albeit 2 years older. The only way this isn't a good idea, is if Beauchemin is on his way back and we don't know it. Then we need to keep some cap space for him to come back. He and Pahlsson are the two must-keeps this off-season.

I agree wholeheartedly that the Ducks have to keep Pahlsson and Beauchemin. You can’t salvage the dynamic of the Carlyle Ducks without them. So, any salary moves this year have to take their raises into account for next year.

The Ducks were playing with around 500K before they moved Morrison. That means they’ve got around 3M-- that’s maybe just one contract away.  The real question is how many of the teams in the hunt will pass on Satan and his expiring 3.5M contract. The "CAN they" is the bigger problem here.

On the "SHOULD they," of course they should. Satan isn’t just a sniper, he’s a trigger happy sniper. The Ducks desperately need that; they need someone who will shoot without cute passes or open lanes. Satan has the ability to improve an already strong Power Play squad, or to create an equally dangerous second unit. And at 6'3" 200 lbs, he's a big-bodied quality skater who has the potential to stay a Duck.