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.

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