I had an opportunity to continue the five questions segment this week. I felt it was important to get an opposing view because we don't get to see the Ducks very often. Earl Sleek is one of the busiest guys in blogging and still took the time to help us with this feature. If you are interested in reading Earl's stuff, and you should be , you can check him out at Battle of California and the AOL Fanhouse.
- Last season was a dream season for the Sabres and Ducks although the Sabres season turned into a nightmare while the Ducks were Stanley Cup Champions. If you add to pick the single most important reason for their success last season what would it be?
The single main reason the Ducks were able to be cup-dominant was the ability to throw two Norris defensemen out on separate shifts. I watch hockey differently now because of that squad--now the first thing I notice is who's sent out on the blueline. Don't get me wrong--the forward group was solid enough, but their jobs were made all the easier by a smooth puck transition. Scoring lines were more effective, checking lines were more in control, and the rookie line even got a boost.
- Anaheim played in the last game of the 2006-2007 season and then played in the very first game of this season, a two game series with the Los Angeles Kings in London, England. How much of the Ducks early season struggles can be blamed on the trip to England?
London was of course a rough trip, especially since the Ducks had to then open the North American season with three straight opponent home openers. And while the jetlag was fairly evident throughout that trip, I think the London effect was over once they got back home. The first part of the season was pretty easy to rationalize losses--cup hangover, intercontinental travel, simultaneous injuries; lately it's been tougher to figure out.
The short summer doesn't bother me too much, as the Ducks agreed to London before they had advanced deep in the playoffs. Still, you have to figure that it factored into Scott Niedermayer's cold feet, which has been as hugely detrimental to this team as any of the other factors.
- The Ducks have played this season without two very important pieces of the puzzle, Scott Niedrmayer and Teemu Selanne have both hinted at retirement but have not yet made a decision on their future. What is the likelihood that either player will play this season and what would be the affect on the team?
I'm no insider by any means, but I'm pretty sold that Scott will be returning, probably really soon. At least that's what Bob McKenzie is suggesting. His impact would be tremendous, I'd think, though if a player has to be moved it may be a mixed blessing. I still have serious misgivings about how the team has been managing to lose games, though, and wonder if Scott is enough to rekindle last year's dominance.
Teemu I'm in the dark about; I'd guess that he doesn't play, but I really don't know why he's been indecisive about it. Either player would be huge--inserting top-line talent lets other players fall into more realistic roles and responsibilities.
- The Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks have something in common in that Edmonton Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe signed players from both teams to large offer sheets (more than they deserved). Both organizations were highly critical of Lowe for raising the market. However the Sabres matched the offer to Thomas Vanek while Anaheim did not match the offer to Dustin Penner. Did Anaheim make the right move in letting Penner go to Edmonton?
Absolutely. It was well out of the team's ability to spend for a guy who'd produced in fairly soft minutes. His counting numbers looked good, and for sure Penner could pan out a winner, but he wasn't seeing the opposition's best defenders (that was Selanne) nor their best scorers (that was Pahlsson). The draft picks sweeten the decision, but essentially the Ducks couldn't really afford a $4-M, big-bodied guy on their soft-minute line.
At least that's what I thought before they signed Bertuzzi--which was also a bad call.
- It seems that the Ducks received more production from their young guys than they are getting this season. What guys are playing to their potential and what players are not playing to their potential?
Getzlaf and Perry are really tearing it up this year, though their impressive offensive numbers are nearly offset by their porous defense. The Pahlsson line with Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen have been decent enough--they could score a bit more but they are still stifling top lines.
Underachieving are Andy McDonald, who clearly misses Teemu more than anyone, and to some extent Todd Marchant. Both were outscoring their competition last year, but this year are pulling more pucks out of their own nets. Oh, and Todd Bertuzzi has been pretty terible--sometimes he looks semi-useful, but generally he's worthless. He's played the softest minutes on the team and still has only one goal.
The two most improved players, by the way, are defenseman Kent Huskins and forward-goon George Parros. Neither is anything too much to brag about, but I used to dread when they were on the ice. This year it's gotten a lot more tolerable.
Stay Tuned as tomorrow we talk to a Kings blogger