Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Retirement Threat #1: how do you replace Scott Niedermayer?

(Author’s Note: I HAVE NO NEWS IN THIS POST. I figured I’d best say that up front.)

So with Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne both threatening to retire 'on top of the world', I thought I’d spend today looking at Scott’s on-ice contribution, and deal with Teemu's in a separate post.

Over the course of the regular season and playoffs, the captain played over 2,800 minutes, nearly 400 more than the next highest Duck skater. He led Anaheim defensemen in even-strength minutes, power play minutes, and shorthanded minutes, and total scoring, as well. He was also Anaheim’s top-paid player ($6.75 M/year on a deal that has two more years on it), a Norris finalist, and the Conn Smythe winner to boot.

To help measure his on-ice contribution, though, here are the 5 defensemen signed for next year, and their combined regular-season and playoff totals from last year:



GPES minES +/hrES –/hrES +/–/hr






























What’s staggering here is really the difference in productivity of Chris Pronger from pretty much everyone else (even his regular defense partner Sean O’Donnell). The best goals-for, the best goals-against, and the best differential, all while playing comparable minutes to Niedermayer. I don’t want to knock the captain’s productivity, but Scott is clearly outshined on these metrics.

Power Play:


GPPP minPP +/hrPP –/hrPP +/–/hr


















On the power play, only three defensemen played any significant minutes, and certainly Niedermayer's presence was a huge part. One thing about Niedermayer: he's got a very below-average shot from the blueline, but made himself really useful as a high screen / rover. Again, though, Pronger is the star in terms of net production.

Penalty Kill:


GPSH minSH +/hrSH –/hrSH +/–/hr
























Note that these numbers are inclusive of 4-on-5 and 3-on-5 situations, which partially explains why Niedermayer's production looks bad here. Even so, though, his numbers pale again against Pronger's, who also was a fixture on 2-man disadvantages.

Bottom line: Even though Scott is outshined in the production metrics by Pronger, he still plays a huge role minutes-wise and leadership-wise, and his salary is quite favorable compared to other top-earning defensemen. Should Scott announce his retirement, the Ducks definitely need to figure out who their captain will be, and also find a way to replace his minutes for a pretty similar cost. Unfortunately, I really doubt this can be accomplished with one $6 - $7 M defenseman in today's high-priced market (it doesn’t buy you what it used to); this really is the main reason why I’d really prefer Scott to play out his existing contract.

A key question that still needs to be answered will be the production of defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who has played pretty much his entire 2-year NHL career with Scotty as his partner. Certainly the early play of Frenchie has been promising, but it is somewhat easy to look good when you’ve got the smoothest skater in the league leading your rushes and still covering your back.

If Niedermayer does choose to retire, though, I would guess the best way to go about replacing him would be pretty much to build a traditional blueline around the other Norris finalist, Pronger. Rather than have two defensive pairs play nearly all the minutes, the resulting defense would probably have to spread minutes to the third pairing a lot more evenly, so probably Niedermayer would be best replaced by two capable $3M defensemen, preferably not UFAs signed on July 1st, though—those signings usually signify an overcommitment.

Anyway, Scott’s decision is probably the one key thing I’m keeping my eye on this offseason—I don’t think the Ducks are in horrible trouble either way, but definitely there will have to be a huge strategy adjustment if he leaves. Based on the minutes he plays, I would say he’s a tougher hurdle to replace than Selanne, but we’ll be taking a look at that in a later post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fine, Search Engine Abusers. You win.

So, this being the most boring week of the year, and with little else to do, I figure I'd look over the ol' blog stats. As usual, the strangest numbers come from the keyword analysis, basically the search engine stats. So far, in 27 days of June, this blog was discovered by:

26 searches for "chris pronger skeletor"
OK man, you win. The best I can offer you is the photo to the left.

50 searches for "hedstrom ducks"
This guy appears to be more desperate. You know, the Ducks never faced a must-win game in any round these playoffs, but if they did, I was going to write a post called "Sleek's Bad Idea":

In 2003, after the second round of the playoffs, Anaheim forward Patrick Kjellberg ditched the team mid-playoffs to return to Sweden. The Mighty Ducks responded with three straight shutouts.

In 2006, late in the first round of the playoffs, Anaheim forward Jonathan Hedstrom ditched the team mid-playoffs to return to Sweden. The Mighty Ducks responded with three straight shutouts.
So if it was a do-or-die scenario, as tough as it would be, Sammy Pahlsson would have to ditch the team and head for Sweden; three straight shutouts would be certain to follow. Of course, with Pahlsson being my favorite player, I'd have to blame Brian Burke for not carrying another Swedish forward just for this sort of emergency.

And finally, 68 searches for "mathieu garon salary"
OK, Kings fan(s), we get it. We all know L.A.'s goaltending was desperately bad last year, but you gotta relax on that search engine trigger finger or you'll go crazy. Per nhlnumbers.com, Garon's salary last season was $1.216 M, but he's an unrestricted free agent come July 1st.

So relax, Kings. Your only worry should be two more years of Dan Cloutier at $3.1 M.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A message from Gatorade Canada

Man, I'm such a sucker and a sell-out. Apparently all you need for some good BoC coverage is to send me a congratulatory e-mail, and a note that you are trying to network through hockey blogs. But even though I am a pushover for faint praise, I think the site below is interesting in discussing hydration issues for goaltenders and other athletes, and how J.S. Giguere was able to proactively improve his game stamina.

Hi Earl,

I’m contacting you on behalf of Gatorade Canada – I work for their public relations agency. As the resident Anaheim blogger on Battle of California (congratulations on winning the Cup!) I thought you may be interested in blogging about JS Giguere’s work with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) to tackle his hydration issues.

In the past, Giguere has suffered from cramping and exhaustion which often affected his game, before the 2006/07 season he saw a Gatorade television commercial about a runner who suffered from similar problems. Giguere contacted the GSSI to see if they could offer solutions that could improve his performance. At the GSSI, Giguere participated in rigorous sweat tests and hydration analysis, and they gave him tips to help him overcome his dehydration and perform a Stanley Cup winning season.

An online news release is at
www.gatorade.ca/en/giguere. You can find facts, quotes, photos, videos and logos to share on your blog, if you think your readers would be interested.

I’d also love to know what you think about this news release format, as we built it for bloggers like you to make it easy to share the story.


PS - If you’d prefer not receive news from our agency or Gatorade, just let me know, and we won’t contact you again.
So if you're thirsty, feel free to check it out, and remember: Stay hydrated this summer. As Giguere says: “No matter what sport you’re in, I think hydration is the number one priority you should focus on, along with healthy eating. It gives you energy and helps you recover quickly for the next game.”

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Vignette and Other Musings


(Rudy Kelly is sitting in front of his television, sipping a glass of white wine and watching the draft. His roommate Matt, a Ducks fan, enters.)

Matt: Hey, how’s it going?

Rudy: Pretty much as expected, Kane, Van Riemsdyk and Turris. The Kings are up next. Don’t you love the draft?

Matt: No, the Ducks are good and just won the Stanley Cup, so I don’t give a fuck about the draft.

Rudy: …Fuck you. Wait, here’s the Kings!

Co-Director of Scouting Michael Futa: With the 4th pick in the NHL draft the Kings select, from the Seattle Thunderbirds, Thomas Hickey.

Matt (Laughing): Who the fuck is Thomas Hickey?

(Rudy does not say anything but instead grabs the bottle of wine by the neck and starts drinking.)



Okay, so I was a little melodramatic when I heard who the Kings drafted. To be honest, I hadn’t really read too much on the guys that were rated below #10 because the Kings were drafting 4th. At first I was shocked and pissed and ready to kick someone’s ass (read: Lombardi’s), but with the benefit of hindsight I have come to accept the move. I wish Lombardi would have traded down and then drafted Hickey (and according to the Columbus Dispatch it almost happened), but if he felt he was the right guy then I guess we’ll just have trust him.

You're not helping me by looking like that, Hickey.

There’s no sense in grading a draft right after it has happened, but right now the Kings are taking a beating in early public opinion. I liked the Kings' two 2nd round picks, Oscar Moller (who seems to play like Cammalleri) and Wayne Simmonds (who’s a big guy and not afraid to drop the gloves), but the legacy of this draft will be determined by Hickey. (You can go here and read about the rest of the Kings’ draft picks.) Sometimes GMs can get so enamored with an idea of how they’ll draft that they forget to think about who they’ll draft. I hope Lombardi wasn’t sure he was going to get Hickey in the middle of the first round and then panicked when nothing developed and just took him 4th, but that’s what some people think happened. I don’t know; only time will tell.

Kings fans have shown a surprising (for us, anyway) amount of patience with Dean Lombardi so far in his tenure, but Lombardi has really hitched his star to the progress of Thomas Hickey. I like Lombardi and still think he’s on the right track, but, like in San Jose, there’s a possibility that he won’t be around to see his plan come to fruition. If Hickey stalls in his development, the vultures are going to be out and the Kings may be in the market for a new GM.

(Also, one of the conspirators who attempted to capture George Washington in 1776 was named Thomas Hickey. His was the 1st military execution in New York. This is not encouraging.)


In completely unrelated news, I’m taking a trip. The aforementioned Matt and I are taking a hajj to our personal Mecca: the Hockey Hall of Fame. We’re driving, so we’re going to be gone about 2 weeks or so and will be hitting up Denver and Pittsburgh along the way. We'll be in Toronto a few days and then head back through Canada and check out the Stampede on the way. I haven’t been to the Great White North since I was a kid, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the mountains, the culture, and the denim. Let me know if there's anything I have to see and if there's anything I should know about Canadians.

If Canadians don't all dress like this I'll be very disappointed.

This means I’ll be missing the exciting opening to Free Agency season, so I’m disappointed about that, but I’ll be back for the rest of the summer. Go Kings, and I’ll see all of you hosers in aboot two and a half weeks. (Man, Canada is going to hate me.)

Non-Hockey: RIP Rod Beck

I'm sure many San Jose Sharks fans are also San Francisco Giants fans, and if you followed the team in the 90s, you know that Rod Beck was part of that transition between the Will Clark days and the Barry Bonds (pre-roid rage) days. Even though it's been more than a decade since he threw for the Giants, it's pretty hard to forget his monster 'stache and mullet blowing in the wind or his hearty fist pump when he'd K a guy out to close out the 9th.

It's no secret that Beck lived a pretty hard lifestyle and it's sad that some of his contemporaries are still playing while he's just passed. Bay Area sports fans, take a moment and have a sip of your favorite drink in honor of Beck -- I'm sure he'd want it that way.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Doug squashes Patrick Marleau rumors

For everyone who thinks a Patrick Marleau deal is imminent, please stop the ridiculous rumor-mongering (similar to anyone who thinks Vinnie Lecavalier, Brad Richards, or Martin St. Louis are leaving Tampa). From the Ottawa Sun via Kukla:

San Jose GM Doug Wilson said he's not trying to trade C Patrick Marleau, but admits he's had conversations. "If teams are going to call, it's my job to listen," said Wilson. "I would think that's a compliment to us that people would want our players. But I'm not trying to trade Marleau."

Yeah, that leaves the door slightly ajar, but he's just saying the politically correct thing. Doug's said nothing but positive things about Marleau and calls him one of his most reliable players. He also says that Marleau's talked things over with Ron Wilson and says that he's not worried about his captain at all.

So seriously folks, stop trying to get rid of him.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ducks Draft Day: Lots of little news

Well, lots of random items to cover this Saturday, so let's get to it:

Ducks draft C Logan MacMillan with the 19th overall pick (link).
Burke traded the 16th pick to Minnesota for the 19th and 42nd. I'm as always unsure what to think about the draft: sure it's important but it's tough to measure draft day success. Good luck, kid.

Ducks re-sign D Sean O'Donnell and D Kent Huskins for two years each (link).
This is really good news, as now a majority of the blueline will be back. Both were soon-to-be cup-winning UFAs, and came back for a cheaper combined price, which is good to hear. O'Donnell, who made $1.52 M last year, took a discount and will make $1.25 M per year. Huskins, who made $450k last year, will make $600k this year and $650 the next.

Of course, this would turn out to be FANTASTIC news if Scott decided to play another year or two, because he allows the other blueliners to play less difficult minutes. I'm hoping that the re-signings of these two and Giguere might prompt him to stay.

Ducks trade C Tim Brent to Pittsburgh for C Stephen Dixon (link).
Tim Brent played 15 games for the Ducks this year, mostly in place of an injured Todd Marchant, and was on the ice for 1 goal-for and 6 goals-against.

(Added 3:30) Ducks trade F Ryan Shannon to Vancouver for W Jason King and a conditional pick (link).
Ryan Shannon played 64 games for the Ducks this year, also mostly in a 4th line setting, and was on the ice for 19 goals-for and 21 goals-against. King has played the last three years in Sweden, and signed a contract with the Iserlohn Roosters of the German League last week, so I'm unsure whether to expect him to be available this year.

And while talking about trades in general, I do expect Brian Burke to move G Ilya Bryzgalov, but I'm not sure if Duck fans should get super-excited about the return. After watching both Toskala and Vokoun get moved for draft picks and salary relief, I'm not that sure about the market for goalies (although Breezy has less salary issues). We will see what Burke manages to do.

Earl answers his mail.
And finally, just for kicks, I'll take a stab at one of the anonymous comments: what would earl do if the ducks sign kariya?

The graphic to the right was one I made back in 2003 when both Kariya and Selanne turned their backs on Anaheim and signed for severe discounts to try to win a Cup in Colorado. It remains the one reason why I can't fully apologize to Edmonton fans for stealing Pronger--the same thing had happened to us three years before.

That said, unlike most Duck fans, I have never booed Kariya. Last summer, he was #2 on my list of the 10 best players to wear the Disney duck logo, and I wouldn't really have a problem if he returned (although I get the sense that Nashville, after ditching Vokoun, Timonen, and Hartnell, are preparing to re-sign Kariya).

But I got one stipulation: Kariya, want to ditch your team and sign with a contender? Fine, I won't have a problem, provided you take a salary of $1.2 M, the same price you took in Denver. Sorry, dude. Karmic Justice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Draft Day: Feel the Excitement!

The day Kings’ fans have been looking forward to since the regular season ended is finally here. Draft day. The day when legends are made and spirits broken. I know I woke up with a little bounce in my step. A lot of people like to denigrate this great sport of ours, but I feel no shame in saying that draft day is one of my favorite days of the year. It's like Valentine's Day (but without me crying as much). Rejoice, hockey fans.

Of course, I can't say that my spirits weren't dampened a little bit by today's news that the Sharks traded Vesa Toskala. The Sharks and Ducks are supposed to be getting worse while the Kings get better, but with the Sharks possessing a first-round pick now (and the Lightning giving up a #1 pick to the Ducks for Shane fucking O'Brien), it looks like the Kings are going to be #3 in California for a little while longer.

No matter, though; today's draft day, and I'm still excited. I have a feeling the Kings will do something shocking tonight during the draft. It just seems like it's their turn to set the hockey world abuzz. But first, I wanted to ask a question: how the hell is Greg Oden only one year older than Kyle Turris? I mean, look at them:

I mean come on, Oden’s like 50 and Turris looks like he’s 12.

Anyway, the Kings continue to mystify your noble correspondent, because I have absolutely no idea what they are going to do. It is especially difficult because what the Kings do is dependant on what the three teams picking ahead of them decide. As I am wont to do, I’ll post a few scenarios that are plausible and then my bullshit idea.

The Kings Play it Safe

The Kings hold onto their pick and draft Karl Alzner, the top-rated defenseman in this year’s draft. This is more of a need pick, as it is not believed that Alzner is the 4th best prospect in the draft. However, it would fill a hole in the Kings’ system and give them a solid defensive prospect that could eventually be paired with Jack Johnson. I have a problem with this idea because it seems like the Kings would be wasting a top draft pick on a player that could be picked later. I’m not against drafting for need, but it seems foolish to do so this early in the draft. If you’re just going to play it safe, you might as well trade down. Which brings me to…

The Kings Trade Down

Rumors abound that a number of teams are looking to trade down, including the Vancouver Canucks (who currently sit at 25). As I mentioned before, the Kings have a pretty elite farm system and it could be argued that they don’t really need to improve it. They would be better off improving the current team with a younger, NHL-ready player that could step in immediately. Maybe the Kings could wrangle someone like Kevin Bieksa or Alex Burrows and the #25 pick from the Canucks in exchange for the #4 pick and one of the Kings' many other picks in this year’s draft. The problem with this idea is that there’s always the risk the Kings would miss out on a great talent by giving up a pick this early in the draft. I don’t think I could bear to watch Jakub Voracek or James Van Riemsdyk light up the Kings knowing that they could have been on the team. This brings up my next point…

The Kings Take the Best Player Available

This is my favorite option. I think the Kings would best be served by just taking the best forward they can, depending on who’s taken earlier. I personally think that the best player available in this draft is Alexei Cherepanov, the ultra-talented winger from Russia. I know there are knocks on him, but that’s what makes him so intriguing to me. The Kings could potentially be getting the best player in the draft without having to move up. Here's a video of Cherepanov's exploits in Russia (where he set a record for goals by a 17 year-old):

I know my fellow Kings fans are wary of developing another inconsistent winger from Russia named Alex, but his talent is just too great to pass up. If the Kings draft Cherepanov, I think it would send a clear message to the rest of the league that the Kings are going to do whatever it takes to get better.

I’m going to wait until Monday and then give a run-down of who the Kings drafted, so I hope to see you guys again then. Here's a list of prospects as rated by TSN to reference through the first round tonight. I’m not going to the Kings’ draft party (I have a feeling blogging about the Kings is sad enough), but I’ll be having my own little draft party at my apartment. (It’s not so much a party as me drinking alone, but that’s just semantics.) Have a good time tonight. This is the time of the year when every team gets better; enjoy it.

Report: Toskala to Toronto

...for three draft picks according to Toronto's Fan590. Not sure what the full package is. More details to come...

Update: The Jersey Curse kills Mark Bell. He's part of the package according to Fan590. Salary dump, anyone?

Update 2: John Ferguson Jr.'s on the Fan590. He says the deal is not done and it's premature. Don't know if that means specifics are still being worked on or if paperwork just needs to be filed. I wouldn't be surprised if they're still hammering out the draft picks.

Update 3: Ok, it looks like it's Toskala/Bell for 1st (13th overall), 2nd, and 4th round picks. This clears up about $4 million in cap space. Will offer a full analysis later.

Anyone want to buy a Mark Bell jersey?

Update 4: I did some cap number crunching and assuming the Craig Rivet deal is done for $3.5 a year, the Sharks currently stand at $35 million with Scott Hannan, Bill Guerin, and Mark Smith all unsigned. You figure that Devin Setoguchi will come in at the rookie max plus bonuses, so let's say that it's at about $37 million for now. I don't think the Sharks will push the cap, but I could see them spending to $45 million. Does that mean they'll push for Sheldon Souray or Brian Rafalski to fill out the blueline? A group of Rivet, Kyle McLaren, Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Carle, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic definitely lacks punch.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Four more years of Jiggy

Ah, looks as if my favorite J.S. Giguere graphic will get a lot more play around here (and not from the Kings' guys).

TSN reports a four year, $24 M extension, and I gotta tell you, I'm pretty pleased with the result. There's still a lot of unknowns for the Ducks, but based on my gut feel, I like both the term and the salary on this deal (I had it in my mind that anything less than $6.5 M per year was a good signing).

Thanks, Giguere. We may never know what he passed up by signing this contract today and not waiting for a desperate team on July 1st, but I gotta think he would have landed somewhere upwards of $7 M per year, and he probably could have landed something in the 6-year range. Hooray for ambiguous savings!

So, what does this mean for the future of Ilya Bryzgalov? Stay tuned for further episodes of the Brian Burke show throughout the summer...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Doug Wilson interview & article

A little while back, I asked Sharks fans to send me their questions for my interview with Doug Wilson. The article is now up at FoxSports.com and the raw interview transcript is available at my blog. Nothing too earth shattering, but at least Doug gives very thorough answers.

Ducks Offseason: What the hell do I know?

You know, I’d like to write a really good post this time of year that kind of lays out what the Ducks’ gameplan is for the offseason, but quite frankly, there’s just too many unknown factors at this point to say anything definitively. So I thought I'd just lay out all the questions I don't know the answer to, and then give a few closing thoughts at the end.

Is Scott Niedermayer retiring? TSN reports that the Ducks' captain, fresh off a Norris finalist season (79 gp, 15 - 54 - 69 pts, +6, 34 PP pts) and a Conn Smythe postseason (21 gp, 3 - 8 - 11 pts, +2, 3 PP pts), is contemplating retirement, despite two more years on his contract. Rob Niedermayer has two years left on his contract, as well.

Is Teemu Selanne retiring, and if not, how much will be his base salary? This was more expected, even though Selanne had a tremendous season for the Ducks (82 gp, 48 - 46 - 94 pts, +26, 48 PP pts) and a capable playoffs as well (21 gp, 5 - 10 - 15 pts, +1, 6 PP pts). Selanne led the western conference in goals and the entire league in power play goals. Last year, Selanne signed a one-year deal that was for $3.75 M plus bonuses, and I'm guessing it amounted to something like $6 M, though this is a ballpark figure.

Did Dustin Penner sign a 3-year, $7 M contract? That's been the rumor floating the message boards, but I have not seen any official confirmation. The $2.33 M average would be a significant raise for the kid, as he played for league minimum ($450 k) last year. I'd say the raise is fair—he did pot 29 regular season goals in his "rookie" year.

How NHL-ready is Bobby Ryan? I barely pay any attention to prospects and minor league scoring, but I do know that this kid was the first pick Brian Burke made as a GM in the pick right behind Sidney Crosby. Should the Ducks be saving a spot on the roster for him this year?

Who is Jonas Hiller and why does he have Bryzgalov nervous? Sidearm Delivery provides a translation for Bryzgalov's quote in Sports Express: "I am sure that either I or Giguere will be leaving the club soon, since Anaheim have signed a strong Swiss keeper, Jonas Hiller. Giguere had a nice season, and I think Anaheim can sign him." Maybe another way to ask this question is: How set are the Ducks in net, even without Giguere?

What is the salary cap next year? This doesn't matter so much to the Ducks as spenders, necessarily, but it will impact the number of bidders for J.S. Giguere. While the Ducks do have exclusive negotiating rights with Giguere through June, it does feel kind of a meaningless edge; I doubt Giguere signs anywhere before this cap figure is finally released.

What will the Ducks' budget look like next year? The Ducks last year stayed well below the salary cap, thanks to a bevy of underpaid players. This year Beauchemin, Pahlsson, and Moen will get modest raises while Penner gets a significant one. Next summer Getzlaf and Perry figure to get significant raises, also. All that said, though, the Ducks enjoyed 12 extra home sellouts this spring, 4 of which were series-clinching games. Last summer they also renamed the team and redesigned the uniforms, coercing fans into purchasing all new gear. And by winning the cup, they'll benefit from champion merchandise revenue as well. By my eyes it had to be a monster year for the Ducks revenue-wise; how much of that will make its way into next year's payroll?

So, after all that, what's the right price for Giguere? Giguere went 36-10-8 in the regular season with a 2.26 GAA and a .918 sv%. In the playoffs he went 13-4 with a 1.97 GAA and a .922 sv%. And in terms of top goalie talent in the free agency pool, he's it. Giguere has indicated a preference toward staying in Anaheim, and for sure the fans love him, but what's the most that Brian Burke should be prepared to pay?

Pin the price tag on the goalie

Sleek's thoughts: Even if the Ducks lose Selanne, Niedermayer, and Giguere in the coming weeks, there is a benefit in losing 3 of the 4 highest-paid players on the team: replacement money. Using the $6 M estimate for Selanne, there would be nearly $17 M freed up to help patch the holes, and that's certainly enough money to pay some difference-makers.

At first I was worried that if Selanne and Niedermayer didn't come to a decision by July 1st, the Ducks would be in trouble missing out on first-day free agents. But then I remembered back to July 1st last year, and all the silly deals being handed out on that day, and I reconsidered. Even if there are holes that need to be filled, replacement money needn't be spent frivolously on expensive free agents. Given the choice, I'd rather see Burke fill those holes by trading with cap-tight teams.

Bottom line: there's too many unknowns here for me to do anything but "wait and see", but suffice to say I'm not that worried about the future just yet. Every one of Anaheim's potential "problems" comes with its own multi-million dollar "solution". That said, I really hope Scott in particular decides to stay, as his $6.75 M salary is looking pretty sweet compared with more recent UFA-defenseman signings (Blake, Redden, Jovanovski, Timonen), and I would like to remain spoiled by the Niedermayer-Pronger show for another year at least.

They say that Scott's got nothing left to win in hockey, but I can think of one thing he's never done. He's never won back-to-back Cups; that's gotta have some appeal, right Scott?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The State of the Farm System, Part II

Right Wing: Right wing is probably the trickiest of the forward positions in terms of depth, but that’s alleviated by the plethora of young talent already up with the big club. Mike Cammealleri has ended up being a better player than many are willing to give him credit for and Dustin Brown made important strides in his development last season (especially after Kopitar got injured). Down on the farm the top prospect is Lauri Tukonen, the Kings’ top draft pick in 2004. Tukonen was a celebrity in his native Finland when he started playing in the men’s league as a 15 year-old and ended up becoming the youngest player to ever play for Team Finland in the World Championships. Lately, however, Tukonen has not really produced offensively, although his defensive ability is supposedly excellent. Tukonen is only 20 right now, so the Kings still have time for him to develop, but his penchant for getting injured is a little disconcerting. (He has played about 60 games each of the past two seasons in the AHL.) With Cammalleri’s contract situation looking combustible, I would feel a lot better if I knew Tukonen could be counted on. Next year will be very important for him.

Tukonen, right before he injured something.

The Kings have two other right wing prospects that will probably be NHLers some day: Peter Kanko and Marc-Andre Cliché. Kanko kind of looks like a crazy person and plays like he really has to drop a deuce. (I swear, watch him.) He’ll probably end up being loved like Sean Avery because he’ll take dumb penalties and hurt the team, which means I won’t like him very much. Cliché, on the other hand, projects to be my favorite player on the team. He had a shoulder injury two years ago which killed his stock, but he rebounded last year to post a point-a-game in the QMDESJHL. He’s mostly known for his defensive prowess, and we learned this post-season how important having a defensive stopper can be for a team.

Kanko, before going on stage with Godsmack.

Defense: The defense received a big boost last year when the Kings traded for Jack Johnson. Although Johnson kind of seems like a dick, he should become an elite defenseman in the league and help the Kings for years to come and play similar to Chris Pronger. Also like Chris Pronger, I can’t see anyone liking him except for the fans of the team he’s on. All of Canada already despises Johnson because of a cheap shot during a junior tournament. It should be fun.

I didn't know Jack Johnson was an old-timey boxer. Also, black.

Besides Johnson, the Kings don’t have any more exceptional talent, but they have enough players that are good enough that at least one or two will stick. Richard Petiot probably would have made the team last year (saving us the indignity of playing Mike Weaver), but he hurt his knee playing in a rookie tournament and missed most of the season. Joe Ryan, Peter Harrold, Patrik Hersley, and Johan Fransson round out the list of guys who might make the team some day. Hopefully one of them can end up being a top-4 guy, or else the Kings might be in a little bit of trouble once Blake retires and Visnovsky gets traded. (I’m acting like it’s going to happen, in hopes of either jinxing it or mentally preparing myself for it.)

Goalies: All conversation of goaltending starts and ends with Jonathan Bernier. The Kings’ first-round pick in 2006 played very well with the Lewiston MAINEiacs (Cripes, that’s a stupid fucking name) but will probably stay somewhere in the QMLKJGHDJHL next season for a little more work. He’s very good side-to-side and reminds me a little of Marc-Andre Fleury in style (although maybe that’s because the both wear giant pads). The timeline for Bernier is as follows: next year in juniors, then a season in the AHL, then maybe backing up in the NHL, then hopefully starting. If he’s with the Kings in 3 years, I will be very excited.

This is the most excited I've been to see someone do the splits. Well, second-most.

Okay, I guess all conversation doesn’t end with Bernier. Besides him, the Kings can look to Jeff Zatkoff and Johnathan Quick as options in the future. (Oddly enough, Johnathan Quick was drafted at the same time as defensive prospect TJ Fast. I like to think that Dave Taylor thought that if they had fleet-sounding last names, they must be fast. I was waiting for them to draft NiceSlapshot McSpeedy next.) Zatkoff was drafted last year in the third round, but rumors were that he was the 2nd goaltender on the Kings’ draft board. Knowing about Lombardi’s ability to draft goalies, I’ll just assume Zatkoff will be awesome and leave it at that. Quick is a year older and will probably reach the Kings first, but I doubt he'll be a starter in the NHL. Both of them are playing in the NCAA [Zatkoff with Miami (Ohio) and Quick with UMass], so you can watch them if you have ESPNU or live nearby.

So, that’s a (not so) brief overview of the Kings’ farm system. Overall, it’s excellent, but not perfect. A team could always use more depth because you never know when one of these kids will break their leg off or rob a bank or pursue a career in modern dance. If the Kings were to draft on need, it seems that either wings or defense would be best. Who will the Kings actually draft? To be honest, I have no idea. I’m going to pretend I do though and will bring you that article on Thursday. If you can’t wait, shoot me an e-mail; I won’t answer it, but maybe you’ll feel better.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The State of the Farm System, Part I

(I decided to write a post about the King's farm system; 1,700 words later, I figured that it'd be better if I split it into two parts. The next one will go up tomorrow. Be sure to check out Earl's post below, which is admittedly far better than mine.)

I know Earl could care less about prospects and all that, but when you’re a Kings fan you have to take what you can get. I know I can be somewhat negative (I think I've earned the right), but I’m very optimistic when it comes to the King’s future. The Kings farm system is in the best shape since, well, ever. There is elite talent at every position and good depth in most locations. As such, the Kings are in a unique position for a team in the draft; they are bad, but they do not really have a need because every position is in fairly good shape. (If I had to pick a position that needed help, it’d be defense, but just because there are 6 spots to fill.) I’m going to take a little jaunt through the Kings’ farm and fill you guys in on some of the highlights.

(Note: This is more of an introductory post for those who are unfamiliar with the Kings' prospect system, so if you check Hockey's Future 30 times a day like I do it might not be that informative.)

Left Wing: Patrick O’Sullivan is the top prospect on this side of the ice. O’Sullivan is a little weird for a left winger since he’s not all that defensively responsible and is known more for his scoring ability. (He’s kind of like Luc Robitaille, if you subtracted Luc’s devilish good looks and added a crazy father.) He had a little trouble adjusting to the NHL game, like many young scorers do, but he seemed to pick it up last year after he moved to the center position. It will be interesting to see if he was more comfortable carrying the puck up ice (like he did after Kopitar was injured) or if he’s just better as a center. If he’s not here, the Kings are pretty weak on the left side.

There are a couple of other prospects worth mentioning, like Scott Parse (if he signs like expected) and Matt Moulson. Parse played for Nebraska-Omaha in the NCAA for three years and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker last season. Parse is not generally rated as an elite prospect, but he just seems like one of those guys whose going to make it while more highly-touted prospects flame out. I have no real proof to back it up; it’s just a hunch. Matt Moulson is another college player who has a legitimate chance to make a difference this next season. He ended up with 57 points in 77 games last year in Manchester. Neither of these guys will be elite difference-makers in the NHL, but they are nice guys to have around because if they pan out, great, and if they don’t, oh well. Finally, Danny Roussin is a former linemate of Sidney Crosby who will probably spend the season at Manchester. He has offensive skill, but it appears likely that he won’t make too much of an impact in the NHL. Shay Stephenson is also there, but he sucks, so let’s just move on.

Either the NCAA uses nets that are 9-feet tall or Scott Parse is kind of short.

Center: Even though he’s no longer a prospect, one has to start any talk of Kings’ centers by mentioning Anze Kopitar. I don’t want to spend too much time on Kopitar, so let me just say that he is awesome and I love him. Behind Kopitar, the Kings have two good prospects that could fill that number 2 center spot in the years to come. First is Brian Boyle, a giant of a man who is not really known for much else. He’s not a great skater and he isn’t known for his offense prowess; he’s just fuckin’ huge. There’s talk the Kings might move him to defense, which would certainly be cool, but I would personally like to see him set up in front of the Ducks’ net, battling with Chris Pronger, and I use a lot of commas. Boyle is definitely a guy to keep on eye on, because he could either fail spectacularly or end up becoming as big an impact as Zdeno Chara.

They should have asked the Michigan goalie to join, just to be nice.
The other top centerman prospect for the Kings is Trevor Lewis, who was chosen last year with the pick the Kings received from Minnesota in the Demitra trade. Lewis played in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack and did well, scoring over a point a game. He then played a few games with Manchester and tallied 6 points in 8 games. (Small sample size and everything, but it’s a little encouraging.) Both Lewis and Boyle will likely begin the season in Manchester, but do not be surprised if either (or both) end up in LA for at least a little while next season.

I would feel better about Lewis' chances if he didn't look like Ed Norton in "Red Dragon."

After those two, there is a pretty significant drop-off in talent. The next name is probably John Zeiller, who is 26. He might catch on with the Kings as a 4th-liner and made some fans last season with his hitting, but I don’t really like him that much. He doesn’t really have a point and I think the Kings could easily replace him. There’s also Gabe Gauthier, a California native (and from what I’ve heard a really good roller hockey player), but it’s not likely that he’ll ever be more than an answer to a trivia question.

Tomorrow: The Thrilling Conclusion!

Selke Trophy: Making a case against Brind’Amour

(Author’s note: well, I decided to take a week off posting after a post-heavy playoffs, but I’m back. Rudy has explained nicely how Kopitar got shafted in the Calder nominations here and here, and it’s time I finally stopped procrastinating and wrote about another bad choice—Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour winning the Selke.)

First, let’s look at 5-on-5 play, where most of a player’s minutes are spent. First, though: what are murderer’s minutes? Well, it’s a term I just coined, but I’m using it to mean matching up against the top producer on the opponent’s roster. Playing against the Jaromir Jagrs or the Sidney Crosbys of the league—where in theory the best defensive forwards would be best utilized.

Thanks to Vic Ferrari’s minutes-tracking site, we can track opponent matching for 5-on-5 play, at least. In 4 games against the Rangers, Brind'Amour played in 26 of 62 of Jagr’s even-strength minutes (42%). Compare this against Pahlsson’s 1 game (9 of 13 minutes, 71%) or Pandolfo’s 8 games (103 of 134 minutes, 77%).

Or the same number of games for Crosby: Brind’Amour (14 of 44 minutes, 32%), Pahlsson (9 of 15 minutes, 60%), Pandolfo (94 of 126 minutes, 75%).

At 5-on-5, at least from these two examples, Pahlsson and Pandolfo are taking on more of the murderer’s minutes, whereas Brind’Amour is less rigorously matched.

Gabriel Desjardins’ Behind the Net site aggregates this sort of data and constructs an even-strength quality of opposition metric, a quality of linemates metric, and is able to show scoring rates with a player on the ice and when he is off the ice. These metrics are not meant to be taken as absolutes, but the do serve as an indicator of average difficulty and defensive results:

Even-strength Rod Brind’Amour: 14:41 per game
Quality of opposition: 214 / 676, Quality of teammates: 236 / 676
5-on-5 GAA on the ice: 3.10, 5-on-5 GAA off the ice 3.05

Even-strength Sammy Pahlsson: 12:43 per game
Quality of opposition: 10 / 676, Quality of teammates: 674 / 676
5-on-5 GAA on the ice: 2.39, 5-on-5 GAA off the ice 2.21

Even-strength Jay Pandolfo: 15:20 per game
Quality of opposition: 2 / 676, Quality of teammates 569 / 676
5-on-5 GAA on the ice: 1.95, 5-on-5 GAA off the ice 2.40
TAKEAWAY: Pahlsson and Pandolfo are playing among the toughest murderer’s minutes in the league, accompanied by some of the least productive linemates in the league: a really tough combination. Brind’Amour, by comparison, is playing less rigorous shutdown role alongside more capable linemates—his minutes are significantly easier, on average.

According to the Quality of opposition metric, six Carolina forwards played tougher even-strength minutes on average than Brind’Amour: Vasicek, Adams, Cole, LaRose, Stillman, and Whitney. And yet despite playing the 7th most difficult set of minutes on his team (a team that didn’t make the playoffs and finished in the bottom half of the league in goals-against), the Hurricanes had a better 5-on-5 goals-against rate with Brind’Amour off the ice than with Brind’Amour on the ice.

The real star in these even-strength minutes metrics is Jay Pandolfo, who despite playing very impressive murderer's minutes, still is able to demonstrate a significant defensive impact: The Devils have nearly a half-goal improvement in 5-on-5 GAA when Pandolfo is on the ice.

When it comes to shorthanded play, things become a little more clouded, as some of the same metrics are not available, and there's not always a clear breakdown of 4-on-5 vs. 3-on-5 vs. 3-on-4 minutes and results. All three Selke nominees were important fixtures on top-10 penalty kills, though, and here's what I've been able to amass: minutes played (both overall shorthanded and 4-on-5), a quality of opposition metric, a quality of teammates metric, and a 4-on-5 GAA rate while on the ice:
Shorthanded Rod Brind’Amour: 3:37 per game (3:24 4-on-5)
Quality of opposition: 158 / 395, Quality of teammates 123 / 395
4-on-5 GAA on the ice: 4.96

Shorthanded Sammy Pahlsson: 4:28 per game (4:10 4-on-5)
Quality of opposition: 88 / 395, Quality of teammates 168 / 395
4-on-5 GAA on the ice: 5.10

Shorthanded Jay Pandolfo: 3:03 per game (2:57 4-on-5)
Quality of opposition: 190 / 395, Quality of teammates 201 / 395
4-on-5 GAA on the ice: 6.95
TAKEAWAY: Brind'Amour does look fairly good here, especially in relation to Pandolfo, but considering the number of minutes and the quality of minutes, you gotta give a nod to Pahlsson here; overall he played 65 more shorthanded minutes than did Brind'Amour and 115 more shorthanded minutes than did Pandolfo, all while maintaining pretty excellent results.

At any rate, when talking about overall performance, it's fair to say that Rod Brind'Amour (a) played significantly easier minutes than did Pandolfo or Pahlsson, and (b) despite the easier minutes, did not demonstrate a particularly strong defensive impact in the minutes he played. I think based on the even-strength results especially, he was the least deserving of the three nominees, and in fact, I probably would have given the award to (surprise!) Jay Pandolfo. He, above the others, was able to play the toughest minutes (in a higher-scoring eastern conference) and was able to demonstrably neutralize the best scorers in the league.

All that said, I fully expected Brind'Amour to take the trophy (as he did), because he was more visible, more recognizable, and carried better surface statistics than either of the other two. I'm not upset with the voting results, but I thought I'd lay out some reasons why I think the wrong choice was made.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Someone’s Gotta Make a Stand

The NHL’s weird little award show is on tonight (I’ll bet any amount of money that the Barenaked Ladies are going to be there), but I will not be watching. It’s been over a month since hockey writers made the appalling choice to nominate Jordan Staal over Anze Kopitar as NHL’s rookie of the year, but I’m still pretty pissed about it. SI’s Alan Muir (who I think is fairly solid, if a little weird-looking) agreed, stating, “…the third finalist (for the Calder) should have been Kings forward Anze Kopitar, or even San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic, both of whom earned larger roles with their respective teams.”

What do you mean I wasn't nominated?

As I have written before, I just can not fathom any position that justifies leaving Kopitar off the ballot and the only reason I'm the only one outraged about it is that it’s the NHL and that he plays for a west coast team that was out of contention most of the year. Probably the most annoying thing is that no one cares because it seems so natural. Why wouldn’t the Canadian guy with the famous brother who was on Versus 7 times and NBC 5 get more votes than the Slovenian kid from the team in LA? (In case you were curious, the Kings were on Versus and NBC once each.)

I know Earl’s position on this issue; he argues that he’d much rather get a level of performance worthy of an award than the award itself, and it’s a good point. But what bothers me is that people will look in 15-20 years at Staal’s career and mention how he was a finalist for the Calder trophy, while no one will remember that Kopitar should have been nominated. The problem is that when careers are evaluated, nobody remembers the extenuating circumstances of each season and all the little reasons that someone might have been over- or underrated. Instead, they just look at awards or point totals because it’s easier. The least the NHL could do is make sure those awards are accurate, so as not to deny a good kid like Anze Kopitar what he has earned.

I’m not asking anyone else to boycott these awards (besides, I think I can significantly affect Versus’ ratings by myself), and I know my reaction is over the top, but someone has to make a stand. I guess you could say that this makes me a hero, but I don’t like to think of it like that. I’m just a noble man out to preserve Kopitar’s honor. Okay, I guess I’m kind of a hero.


In other Kings’ news, Hockey’s Future has their Kings’ draft preview out, and it’s a pretty good brush-up on the Kings’ prospect situation right before the draft next Friday. Long story short, they have the Kings taking Karl Alzner, the defenseman for the Calgary Hitmen. (Oddly enough, they had the Kings taking James Van Riemsdyk when the article first went up, but they switched it about an hour later. Weird.) Who do I think the Kings should take? You’ll have to wait… (That’s called a hook, friends!)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Kings Off-Season Preview Mega-Post!

(This post is unnecessarily long, so don't miss Mike Chen's post just below it. He makes me look like a jackass by just asking his GM what he's planning on doing in the off-season rather than attempting to deduce it. Damn you, Chen!)

Now that the hockey season is officially in the books, it’s time to look ahead at what is in store for the Kings in 2007-08. The Kings seem to be very involved with free agency rumors this off-season, which makes deciphering what they will do harder than in years past. If only there were someone with a keen intellect and many hours of free time to think about something unimportant rather than trying to get laid… oh wait, that person exists. It’s me! I’m going to go through some of the major rumors and say whether I’d like them and then give my opinion on whether or not they’re likely. As always, remember that it’s just my opinion and that I’m an idiot. And away we go…

Kings sign a big-ticket free agent forward (Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Ryan Smyth)

The Kings should have money to spend this off-season (though they still have to sign Mike Cammalleri) and GM Dean Lombardi did try to sign Zdeno Chara and Patrick Elias last off-season (or so he says). If the Kings were to sign a free-agent, I’d prefer that they signed a set-up man, like Briere or Gomez, because Frolov and Cammalleri can both put the puck in the net on their own. With that being said, I’m not sure if the Kings will sign a big free-agent forward because we have good young forwards coming up and the money would be better spent on the defense. I can’t see the Kings throwing a bunch of money into one player; I’d rather they spent the money they have improving the bottom lines. The guy killing us last year was not Patrick O’Sullivan on the 2nd line, it was that Tom Kostopolous was on the team at all.

Kings sign a big-ticket free agent defenseman (Sheldon Souray, Kimmo Timmonen, Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan)

The Kings have three defenseman that will make the team barring unforeseen circumstances: Lubomir Visnovsky, Rob Blake, and Jack Johnson. After that, there’s the possibility that the Kings may re-sign Aaron Miller, but that’s pretty much it. (I refuse to accept that Oleg Tverdovsky is a legitimate option to make the team.) The guys in the minors who have a shot at making the team are Joe Piskula, Richard Petiot (coming off a knee injury), and Joe Ryan. It seems unlikely that the Kings will be content with that type of defense, however, and will have to sign someone. The problem with Souray and Timmonen is that they are the exact same type of player as Lubo, which brings me to a terrifying point: with all the rumors that Souray already has a jersey made in LA, could Lombardi be thinking about trading Lubo? We could definitely get quite the haul for him, seeing as he’s only making $2 million this year and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Maybe Lombardi thinks that Souray is better than Lubo and maybe he’s thinking about getting someone like Patrick Marleau or perhaps a collection of younger players for him. I think the idea makes sense, but… he’s so little and adorable! Anyway, I think the Kings would be better off signing a guy like Hannan or Stuart.

How can you trade this face?

Kings sign a big-ticket free agent goaltender (J.S. Giguere)

The Kings had a little trouble with goaltending last season, in case you hadn’t heard about it. Garon is probably gone and the Kings have Jason LaBarbera (who was a man amongst boys in the AHL) and Dan “Goddammit!” Cloutier as the two most likely to suit up on opening night. Signing a goaltender like Giguere would definitely solve a lot of problems for the Kings and probably get them a playoff spot next year. I don’t think this will happen, though, because Lombardi has already signed a goaltender from the Swedish Elite League (the very Swede-sounding Erik Ersberg) and it seems likely that LaBarbera, Cloutier, and Ersberg will all get a chance in net next season. The Kings could always trade for a guy like Manny Fernandez (though he makes a little too much for my taste) or Vesa Toskala (seriously, we don’t need every player from San Jose), but I imagine LaBarbera will probably get the first opportunity in net, and that’s okay with me. I mean, why not? He’s 27 and destroyed the AHL last year, so why shouldn’t he get a shot? Besides, I generally adhere to the idea that goaltenders are needed to take a team over the top, but they can’t make a bad team a playoff contender. If the Kings signed Giguere, it’d be Khabibulin-to-Chicago redux.
Is Erik Ersberg the answer in net? No.

Kings don’t do anything big

Unfortunately for many, this seems to be the most likely option. I see the Kings signing a guy like Scott Hannan to play with Lubo on the top defensive line. I don’t like Scott Hannan, but I have a friend (a Sharks fan) who swears he’s a dependable defenseman and I believe him. (He also swears that Hannan is not really Dominic Monaghan, but I’m still skeptical.)

I swear, am I the only one who sees this?

I also see the Kings signing a dependable set-up man for the top two lines, perhaps pushing Armstrong down a little. I hate to say it, but there’s one guy who I think would be amenable to signing a short contract for around 4 million or so. It’s this little guy:

(Cue murmurs and cries of "Order!")

I know it’s sacrilegious to think of Kariya in black and purple, but it is really the best option. Kariya makes the team better in the short-term but doesn’t hurt their long-term plan. I don’t know if he’d want to come back to Southern California, or if the Kings are even interested, but it seems like a good fit. Plus, it would definitely give the Kings a “splash” signing that would somehow answer the Ducks, or something. I’d never accept him, but I wouldn’t mind if he helped Frolov score 50 goals. If they made these moves, they’d have a line-up like this going into next season:

(Someone, with Ivanans filling in occasionally)-Armstrong-Willsie



There are some problems with this set-up (mostly that I don’t know if Cammalleri would or could shift back to center and I’d like O’Sullivan to play center some day), but I like this team overall. The Kings are basically getting a free agent in Alyn McCauley, assuming he’s finally healthy, and I liked Lundmark last year. Does this team make the playoffs? Maybe. Does this team compete while not hindering the long-term plan? Yes. As guys get injured, the team can plug in Lauri Tukonen or Brian Boyle or Scott Parse if he decides to sign (rumors are that he will). Let me know in the comments what you think (and please, “your gay” is not constructive criticism). I think this is the best path for the Kings this off-season; whether Lombardi thinks the same is anyone’s guess.

Submit your question to Doug Wilson

Sharks fans, don't forget to submit your questions for Doug Wilson in the comments on this blog post. I'll be interviewing him Wednesday afternoon, so make sure to get your questions in before then.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The view from my playoff rally seat

So me and a few friends arrive around 5:30 for the fan celebration, about two hours before the real event starts. My roommate calls me to tell me to meet him at the white inflatable player, which I spot all the way across the crowd (first circle above). We proceed to cross (see me in the green shirt in the second circle), but a bit further we realize there is an impassable aisle and also, thanks to further crowding there is no going back. So we stick pretty much by that sign indicated by the arrow.

Nearby, local TV personality Bill MacDonald keeps taunting us fans with his elevated, spacious TV platform and his inflatable cup. But soon enough, in comes the real hardware, flown in by helicopter and trotted down the aisle. As they gathered up front (yes, ducks in a row), I thought that this ceremony was turning out to be awfully wedding-like.

Another surprise visit from the Governator, who you can see shaking hands with the players (Corey Perry is contemplating whether he should take a dive). Rather than listen to Arnold's "Hasta la vista baby / I'll be back" speech, the blueliners decide to listen to Scott Niedermayer's killer Kindergarten Cop routine instead: "It's naht a too-mah."

When Burke gets up to speak, the crowd goes crazy, chanting "Re-sign Jiggy!" for a near-minute. Note how Arnold is curious to see how the crafty GM will handle this touchy political situation. Finally Burke cuts through it all with a snide, "We'd like to thank Giguere's family for coming out and supporting him tonight," and continues with the usual "thank the best fans ever" speech.

"I will Terminate you all!"

The show concludes with more passing of the cup player-to-player. After the crowd challenges Teemu Selanne with chants of "One more year!", he instead offers only a Matrix-style look at his cup-carrying brilliance. And I had to include a photo of Sammy Pahlsson lifting the cup, despite the blur.

All in all, a pretty fun experience, and a really good showing by the city of Anaheim. Other than the opening act (shall we say "persistently awful"?), a fairly well-executed event.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ducks avoid suspensions on the Tonight Show

Wow. Between Jay Leno's huge chin, Brad May's knack for suckerpunching, and Chris Pronger's head hunting elbows, I'm surprised this segment went off without a hitch.

You can watch the clip here, though I'll warn you, it's nothing worth getting excited over.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ducks take an early lead in the Battle of California

If any Duck fans are interested, I will be at the Fan Celebration tomorrow outside Honda Center. As usual, look for a lucky green shirt in the sea of black and orange, or come find me at Danny K’s before the event.

Fellow blogger Jes Gőlbez seems critical that Anaheim will not be having a (traditional?) parade instead, but I have two questions:
a) As a person who’s been to parades before, why exactly would a pass-me-by parade be preferable than a single-location celebration?

b) Seeing as this is the first cup win for the west coast in 80+ years, what "tradition" are we really talking about anyway?
Maybe Jes can convince me with some glorious tales of the 1925 Victoria Cougars parade.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well, Hell.

So despite having a 25-year head start, the Kings will not be the first team to bring the Stanley Cup to California. We were close once (stupid McSorley, you can’t even shoot, why do you need an illegal stick?!?!?), but other than that it has been a long, tedious journey for us Kings fans. I actually thought I would be more upset that the Ducks are now Stanley Cup Champions, but I had kind of resigned myself to that fact when the Ducks went up 2-0. I guess I assumed that they'd win sooner or later, so I was ready for it. I mean, initially I felt like Ace Ventura when he finds out Einhorn is a man, but now that I've had a day to reflect I'm not too bummed. It's not like they made a miracle run like in 2003 or anything. The picture below, however, makes me want to cry:

Is it possible to give the Stanley Cup to everyone but Corey Perry?

A lot has been written about how this changes the relationship between the teams in California. Thinking about it, though, I’m not sure that this really does change a whole lot. I mean it’s not like all of the sudden the Kings are now pathetic just because the Ducks won; they were pretty pathetic before that. I felt no less shame last year when the Ducks got bounced in the Western Conference finals because they could just have easily won the whole thing last year too. The Kings are still the grandfather franchise, the Ducks are still the team no one likes, and the Sharks... well, they're there, too. There’s not really much we can do but tip our caps to the Ducks and swear we’ll get them next year. (Well, maybe two years…) All I ask is that they spell “Bruce McNall” correctly when they put his name on the Cup under the people who made this possible.

Don't worry Bruce, you still have your looks... oh, wait.

The good news is that now that the playoffs are over, you all are going to get a feast of Kings insights by yours truly! (Hey, where’s everybody going?) I’m planning on posting every Monday and Thursday, probably in the evenings because I’m lazy. Be sure to come back and check out player grades, analysis on free agent signings and which King I think is most likely to be gay. Don’t fret, Kings fans; the great thing about sports is that the next season begins as soon as the previous one ends. Go Kings.

Perfectitude: Thoughts from the morning after

I don’t want to sound too trite here, but seriously. It doesn’t even feel like the season has ended—doesn’t it always end in a loss?

Some bullets, because my head is pretty much everywhere this morning:

  • Full disclosure: I totally cried last night when they showed Teemu’s tears. Sure, I was drunk, but it really struck me how much I love the guy, who showboated and popularized the Mighty Ducks for many years (including my formative years as a hockey fan). Finally, this year, he went ahead and took it a step further, and bled for the Ducks. If you ask me who I’m happiest for this morning, it’s Teemu by a longshot. Sure, others were way more important in winning the games, but Selanne got me hooked on the Ducks, and it’s awesome that he was able to deliver its first Cup / his first Cup in front of the home crowd. I’m totally going to name my daughter Teemu.

  • Looking back, it’s tough to think how well the Ducks dominated some really strong competition. Arguably facing the best four regular-season teams since Christmas, the Ducks dispatched three teams in five games and Detroit (the only team that had home ice against Anaheim) in six. The Red Wings certainly gave the Ducks a battle, but really, the team that I thought was best-built to beat the Ducks got knocked out in the 2nd round again. Next year we finally going to have this Battle, Sharks?

  • As for my current man-crush, Sammy Pahlsson played a whale of a game again last night, picking up an assist and a +3, to boot. Of course it wasn’t enough, as Scotty (my second choice) won his first Conn Smythe. People have been asking me how pissed I am, that Sammy, despite being worthy of both a Smythe and a Selke, is likely to win neither trophy (the Selke votes were in before he got noticed by eastern voters in the playoffs). I tell you the truth—I’m not pissed at all. I’d rather have the trophy-worthy performances than the trophy any day of the week, and really, my hope is that Sammy never leaves Anaheim. He signed a two year extension already this season, but when that runs out, it’ll be easier to re-sign a guy who’s got one less Selke and one less Smythe than he probably deserves.

  • There is a worthwhile saying in hockey: “You have to lose before you can win” (or some variation on that), and it certainly proved true for the players and the team. Six players had been to a G7 of a SC Finals and lost, and to watch them carry the cup around after bitter teases earlier in their career was thoroughly enjoyable. From a fan’s perspective, too, I think this adage holds true. I recall very strongly the bitterness that followed the team’s heartbreaking G7 loss in 2003, but this year I’ve gained some perspective on that. Had the Mighty Ducks won that cup, would this team have ever gone for Scott Niedermayer? For Chris Pronger? Or would I be cursing the lackluster postseason play of Paul Kariya right now? It’s really hard to see at the time where losing gets you, but I can certainly say that blown opportunities in ’03 and last year have really made last night all the more special for me and other Duck fans.

  • Well, as strange as it is not to end a season with a loss, offseason work will begin soon enough for the Ducks (probably after the rally on Saturday). Really, there are three critical questions: 1. Will Teemu retire, or will the thrill of defending the Cup lure him back? 2. Will Giguere re-sign with the Ducks, or will he hit a huge payday with another squad? 3. Has Chris Pronger requested a trade yet? I figure on the last issue, we have about a two-week window until we can breathe easy, so as I’ve been saying at the end of a lot of close games this postseason: GO CLOCK GO!
All kidding aside, it's really tough for me to tell you what this means personally. I know not everyone gets to see their team win it all, and very few get to see their team win it all for the first time. Sincerely, I hope everyone gets this chance, no matter the size of their fanbase. I mean, I guess I always thought that there was a Cup somewhere in the future for the team, but the fact that it's now happened? Well, to reiterate the most-used word last night: Unbelievable.