Monday, August 21, 2006

Back on this Horse

Except for Lowetide the Oilogosphere has been pretty quiet recently but lately there have been stirrings of life. Or is that my groin?

Nah, its the internet.

Anyhow, James Mirtle had the Hockey News predictions posted last week.

I understand why they do this but my God, talk about opening yourself up to second guessing. Just in the past week Malkin looks to be coming to Pittsburgh, Stillman had surgery and looks to be out until Christmas and Zherdev may play in Russia rather then sign with Columbus.

In other words, training camp has not even started and we have three teams with situations that may impact them significantly.

To pass the time until training camp begins lets take a look at each team in turn and what issues they may face. No predictions per se - just a quick look.

Today - I give you The Hockey News choice for first place in the West - the Anaheim Ducks.

Wait, I think I read that wrong.

No, there it is. Jeez, even Earl Sleek doesn't believe this one.

While anything can happen my guess is either Detroit or Nashville will pick up enough points off of the patsies in the Central to ensure that one of them will win the conference this season.

The Ducks finished sixth in the conference last season with 98 points. They had a pretty good draw in the playoffs and earned a trip to the conference finals.

They have depth in goal.
They have an amazing one-two punch on D.
In Teemu Selanne they have one of the top offensive players in the league from last season.
They have a whack of grinders - Marchant, Pahlsson, Rob Niedermeyer and now Travis Green who do a lot of the little things right and are hard to play against.
I think in Sudbury Wolves alumnus Randy Carlyle they have a terrific coach.


They were six points out of ninth place so its not like they were free and clear. Of course few teams were.

We know Beauchemin can play. Or at least when paired with Niedermeyer he is effective. But remember Pronger played with a pretty good Dman in Jason Smith in the Oilers' playoff run. While Pronger would probably enjoy playing with himself the fact is the Ducks said goodbye to their 3-4 guys in Salei and Vishnevski. So who plays with the big baby?

Where's the depth on D now? Does Sean O'Donnell have enough left to play the Smith role?

More to the point, after Teemu and Andy MacDonald who scores? Does Chistov have what it takes? They have to replace Lupul's 28 goals as well and this team didn't score a lot to begin with.

I was on edge all last playoff run with one exception, when Todd Marchant sent Rob Niedermeyer in all alone.

As some wag said, he may as well be wearing skates on his hands.

The key to the Ducks' season - can the kids, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner - do something offensively for this team?

I presume they can pick up a fourth defenceman.

But even if Selanne has another big year (why not?) and Chistov produces, if those kids can't get it done then this team squeaks into the playoffs on the basis of a lot of 2-1 wins, maybe gets a round or two based on that strong team defensive game and then so long again. One line teams are not very successful, as a rule.

If the kids all grow up in a hurry then this team may be one to be reckoned with.


Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading the rest of these.

Earl Sleek said...

bdhs, sorry to take so long to reply, but y'know, the day job...

Your take on the Ducks is pretty good, except I think we have a little more leeway than the "6 points out of 9th spot" suggests.

That really was a function of early-year struggles; had we put together two 'second-half' performances, the margin would be a lot wider (same goes for SJ, for that matter).

Yeah, Lupul's goals will be missed, but I'm not sure how bad that will be. Can the 'blueline experiment' create enough scoring opportunities for the young forwards?

As I've said before, top eight is the only real concern for me. Beyond that is gravy.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Hey Earl, wondered where you were.

You're right - top eight is what matters. Higher is better but not necessary.

And you are right about their first half last season being a drag on their overall season.

I think the Ducks will be in the top 8. The only teams I see threatening to break in this year are the Canucks and the Wild and it won't be at the Ducks' expense.

They are a playoff team but whether or not they can really make some noise depends on those three kids.

Or they're the Calgary Flames redux

Anonymous said...

Their record wasn't indicative overall of their team. After the Olympic break they racked up points at a break-neck pace.

Those 3 young guns are looking more and more solid. Perry is damn shaky though and worries me at times, but indications are they will all be solid next year. That's 1 elite scoring line, a good 2nd line, horrible to play against 3rd and 4th lines. The D basically means that Pronger or Neidermayer will be out at all times. 2 Norris D-men to control the flow of the game, and on special teams they will be deadly. Beauchamin seems to be a player, especially the way he played against the Flames, but the jury is still out on if he can consistently play like he did last season. And they can pick up a 4th D (hell with Pronger they could just plunk down a decent stay at home and be happy), O'Donnell still has enough gas to be a decent 5-6 guy with a young'n' on the last pair.

All in all I really don't get why so many in the Oil nation seem to underestimate the Ducks. They played damn well against the Flames. And against Colorado they were just scary. They are very very very very good. Against the Oil their inexperience showed, and man, I didn't think the Oil could pull if off but they just did it on pure grit and work.

The Ducks gained a tonne of experience in the last season stretch drive and especially the playoff. Will they dominate the West like all the hockey 'experts' are pontificating? No, I agree with you there, I highly doubt they place 1st. But I can easily see them 6th or higher, and I will be genuinely and greatly surprised if they have too much difficulty making the playoffs.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

anon - agreed - they make the playoffs pretty easily I think - not sold on those kids yet though - the signs are there - especially with Penner - but I'm not sold on them yet

Earl Sleek said...

especially with Penner

Actually, Penner is a guy I feel the Anaheim faithful are heavily over-rating (or expecting a bit too much out of).

Sure, he put a great playoffs in. But a lot of those points were just passes to Lupul in his money game*, and really, we're looking at about a 10-game stretch, which is very little to base a season on.

Maybe he's got it, but I'd like to see it a bit more before putting a lot on his shoulders.

* How much does a team need to pay for a four-goal playoff game? I eagerly await the Oil answering that question.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

You're right Earl - a lot to base a season on but you'll note that some are.

I think Penner's upside is less then the other two guys but its closer to fruition - if that makes any sense.

As for Lupul it will be interesting to see what he gets - unfortunately for him he joins the team when it has its best collection of offensive talent in years - I doubt they will play hardball - not Lowe's style.