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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pick the Sharks replacement for Gary Glitter

Ok Sharks fans, here's your chance to actually make a difference (in theory, anyway; I suppose this survey could just be meaningless). The Sharks aren't fans of child molestors, so Gary Glitter and Rock & Roll Part 2 (the "Hey" song are out). What's in? It'll be one of:

Green Day: Holiday -- Um, how exactly is this a celebration song?
U2: Elevation -- (music snob rant #1) Don't even get me started on this piece o' crap. While it had some good Edge guitar work in it, I have NO idea how Bono can go from writing lines like "In my dreams I was drowning in sorrows/but my sorrows, they learned to swim" to the rhyming dictionary copout of "A mole/digging in a hole" that's worthy of butt rock.
Van Halen: Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love -- The Van Halen boys and DLR at their very best. I'm assuming they picked this for the "Hey Hey Hey" part.
Blur: Song 2 -- (music snob rant #2) Damon Albarn and co. are one of my favorite bands and I absolutely detest this song, which, for the record, was essentially an outtake of goofing around during the recording of their eponymous album. I know, I know, most American music fans only know Blur because of this song, but there are so many great songs and it's already overused as a sports anthem. Even though it would be mixing two of my favorite things (britpop/indie rock and hockey), I still can't support it.

Of course, I'm just a whiny music snob, so don't listen to me -- have your pick at the Sharks official site. If you haven't guessed, I voted for Van Halen.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Kings trade for ghosts of Anaheim’s past

From a Duck fan's perspective, the Kings have certainly had themselves quite a bold offseason:

Apr. 21 Hire Dean Lombardi as GM
May 22 Hire Marc Crawford as head coach
Jun 21 Trade Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild for Patrick O’Sullivan and a 1st round pick
Jul 1-4 Sign UFAs Rob Blake, Scott Thornton, Alyn McCauley, and Brian Willsie
July 5 Trade 2 draft picks to the Vancouver Canucks for Dan Cloutier
Sep 27 Negotiate a 2-year extension with Cloutier

And then today, Dean the Machine throws another curveball by trading C Eric Belanger and D Tim Gleason to the defending-champ Carolina Hurricanes for D Oleg Tverdovsky and the rights to D Jack Johnson.

Tverdovsky played for the Mighty Ducks on two separate occasions, and was at least for a few seasons was a good-to-excellent player. Perhaps a return to Southern California sunshine will give him a Selannesque reinvigoration. And even though he was an observer for most of last year’s playoffs, the guy’s got two cup rings now--even if he's lucky that's good enough for me.

As for Jack Johnson, well, his only connection with Anaheim was in the days leading up to the Crosby draft. Anaheim had drawn the 2nd overall pick, and consensus opinion was that JJ was the best available prospect. GM Brian Burke surprisingly passed on Johnson to pick winger Bobby Ryan, and the Canes nabbed him with the next pick. Now the jury will be out on the Ryan vs. Johnson draft decision for several years still, but I think the Kings got a mammoth prospect.

Oleg could be a very nice gamble for the Kings, perhaps, as he is likely to play behind the already formidable grouping of Rob Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mattias Norstrom, Aaron Miller, and Brent Sopel. He’s got loads of experience and an above-average skill set; if motivated he could be a nice player for them. I don’t know if people are paying enough attention, but top-to-bottom the Kings could end up with the best blueline in the state of California. And that is saying quite a bit.

Even Dan Cloutier could be a decent move for them, as the Kings have lacked stability in the net since the turn of the century.

Of course, these statements depend on L.A. avoiding a Final-Destination-style slew of injuries, which is of course a shaky proposition. But still, looking across at what the Kings are doing this year, it feels very familiar. Retooling the front office, replacing older superstars with promising kids and role players, fortifying the blue line, juggling options in net.

There is something very Burke-ish going on at Staple Center. On this site they will certainly be the darkhorses this year, but I’m not so sure their day isn’t coming. The Battle of California may be heating up, folks.

(stolen from a messageboard somewhere)

p.s. One fun note—I caught one University of Michigan game on TV this year, and Jack Johnson was paired up with Anaheim’s 2007 1st round pick, Mark Mitera. Bet they’re going to have a fun year paired together this year, knowing that they’re soon-to-be cross-town rivals.

New Ducks blogger, and oh yeah, drafting is for suckers!

Duck fan Finny has started a new blog, Girl with a Puck, which already looks awesome. She’s already got me beat, in that she’s actually attended Duck practices, and has put together a compelling argument about why newcomer Ryan Shannon should make the club over enigmatic returnee Stan Chistov. Go check it out!

I’m not that worried about being replaced in the Califhockeysphere so much as I’m worried that she will put a restraining order on me once I start stalking her. What can I say? I’m a sucker for females who know what a forecheck is.

Ryan Shannon, by the way, appears to be a smaller version of Andy McDonald (if you can believe it) and has had a tremendous preseason, mostly playing on a line with Todd Marchant and Dustin Penner. Finny also correctly notes that when Selanne left last game to get his face stitched up, it was Shannon who picked up the top-line ice time. A strong vote of confidence from Coach Carlyle, no doubt.

Q. What do the following players all have in common, aside from a strong likelihood of being in the Ducks’ opening day roster? (Preseason stats included)

Andy McDonald, 4 GP, 4-4-8
Chris Kunitz, 4 GP, 2-0-2
Dustin Penner, 5 GP, 2-6-8
Ryan Shannon, 4 GP, 1-5-6
A. Surprisingly enough, none of these four forwards were ever NHL-drafted, but signed with Anaheim as undrafted free agents. This preseason, these four have combined for 9 goals and 15 assists in a combined 17 man-games played.

Anybody remember the last time a preseason cup favorite used 4 undrafted players among its top nine forwards?

(NOTE: Crap. Kings have made a big trade with the Hurricanes. More to come on that.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Teemu takes another stick to the mouth

Well, the Ducks managed to hold off the Desert Dogs in yesterday’s preseason action, 3-2, but the real story was that super winger Teemu Selanne caught a Tyson Nash stick to the mouth 3 ½ minutes into the game. Teemu, who likes to equate scoring to ketchup, took 20 stitches to the mouth area and did not return to game action.

I haven’t yet been able to find any photographic evidence of last night’s blood-spilling, and I only heard it on the radio, but here’s how I pictured it:

Of course injuries during preseason suck, but maybe in Teemu’s case this is what he needs to get inspired for the regular season. If you recall, the Finnish Flash got some teeth knocked out during last year’s Olympics, but apparently they were the teeth that were slowing his game down.

Regular season stats only:

Before losing teeth: 54 points in 55 games
After losing teeth: 36 points in 25 games
Feel better, Teemu.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pattern Recognition: can Phoenix rise from the ashes?

Not to take anything away from James’ great pacific predictions (and no, I don’t have any beef with picking the Sharks; they’re my pick also), but there was one note I thought I’d share for all the pundits out there.

The prediction: Phoenix Coyotes will not only finish 6th in the west, but also will make it to the Western Conference Finals.

The justification: Recent history. The last three Western Conference Finals have featured a 6th-seeded team that finished the previous year at 12th in the west. Amazingly, twice in three years that 6th seed was the higher seed in the WCF, but in all three years the lower seed has taken the series to advance to the cup finals.

Here are the last three 6th seeds in the west, their WCF result, as well as their previous year’s finish:

2006 6th seed - Anaheim, lost to 8th-seeded Edmonton, previous year 12th
2004 6th seed - Calgary, beat 2nd-seeded San Jose, previous year 12th
2003 6th seed - Minnesota, lost to 7th-seeded Anaheim, previous year 12th
And of course, the Phoenix Coyotes own that infamous 12th seed from last year. Enough to give a Yote fan some hope? Not really, but if history does repeat itself you heard it here first.

Incidentally, if the west want to stop sending 7th-game Stanley Cups to the eastern conference (another 3-season pattern), maybe we should send someone higher than our 6th seed. The lowest the east has sent in those three years is their 2nd seed.

Just a thought.

Fuel for the fire

I think everyone should read the latest National Post article by Mark Spector. Here's a snippet:

There's plenty here, as you'll see come April and May. The Anaheim Ducks may be the popular choice out west right now, but this season, the NHL will play out just like one of Marlon Perkins' contrived meetings between two rare wild species.

The Ducks will be good, but the Sharks will be better.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pacific Division Preview

Is it fate, or just coincidence that allowed the Battle of California to take genuine relevance not even a year after this blog was created (in jest)?

Either way, the Pacific Division is as talent-rich and competitive as any in hockey, even including the brutal Northwest Division. In little more than a year, three bonafide superstars discovered the California Love: Scott Niedermayer, Joe Thornton and Chris Pronger.

Whatever way you slice it, this year’s pressing question won’t be which team will finish runner-up to the Dallas Stars. Hell, this year’s question might just be: which one of these teams will raise the Cup at the end of the summer?

Cue the “Art of War” font and Black-eyed Peas; it’s time to get this preview started!

1. San Jose Sharks

For regular season dominance, it’s hard to imagine anyone topping the Sharks.

The NHL’s resident Peyton Manning doppelganger Joe Thornton will once again put up mind numbing stats before his brain retires to the golf course a couple weeks before his body joins him. When he’s not boozing and providing the feel-bad story to Jon Cheechoo’s Disney special, Mark Bell will probably take up the role of being physical and taking bad penalties (once Big Bird duties).

If it wasn’t enough that the Sharks added Ted Nugent look-alike Ville “The Villain” Nieminen, the Sharks added another elbow grease guy who can score in perennial failed breakaway artist Mike Grier. Hell, throw in Curtis Brown just for the PKing hell of it.

Add Patrick Marleau and the Sharks have the all-growed up version of Crosby-Malkin.

Their defense took a hit this off-season with the loss of Tom Preissing, but overall they’re solid. Evgeni Nabokov should do a nice job of backing up Vesa Toskala and wiping his tears away with the Benjamins he’s getting from his bloated $5 million contract.

Once the playoffs roll around, Thornton, Naboksala and Co. will be just weak enough to fall short of a Cup. Consider the Sharks the next generation of first round flopping Red Wings, only with ridiculous team sweaters.

Playoff Prediction: See Ottawa Senators vs. Buffalo Sabres, 2006 playoffs …

2. Anaheim Ducks

A lack of non-Finnish top end goal scoring will hamstring the Ducks in the regular season while Pronger and Niedermayer adjust (Pronger’s adjustment: feeling less manly due to lack of Lightningbeard; Scott’s adjustment: walking on egg shells in order to not offend the Yoko Ono of hockey).

Thankfully, at least Selanne protected the Ducks from typical European underachieving by signing a one-year contract. That should keep him motivated to push the green forwards to overachieve, which will be nice since Andy McDonald is coming off his first big year and his first payday … not exactly the most comforting combination.

Once the playoffs start, the Ducks will be an easier-to-hate version of last year’s Oilers. They have the best two D-men since Lightningbeard skated with Scott Stevens. Their goaltending is strikingly similar to the Sharks’: a starter whose name is extremely difficult to pronounce and spell with a backup whose gravy days dried up with the rules changes.

The Ducks will be a playoff force, but something tells me they won’t be champs. Maybe it’s the nightmarish image of Emilio Estevez drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup. Maybe it’s their lack of oomph from forwards not named Teemu. Or maybe it’s their goaltending. Hell, maybe it’s because the trendy Cup pick never works.

Playoff Prediction: The Flames will exact revenge on the Ducks, this time in the Western Conference Finals, 4-3 series ending in a heartbreaking 7-overtime IV-fest.

3. Dallas Stars

After another crushing playoff defeat, the Stars bounced back by … signing Eric fucking Lindros? Yikes.

I cannot blame the Stars for letting Bill Guerin or Jason Arnott go, as both of those guys go from towering power forwards to wall flowers once the playoffs come around. Guerin’s underachievement is nearing Yashinian levels. That being said, the Stars roster just seems kind of bland scoring-wise.

How many seasons do they expect to squeeze out of super-bachelor Mike Modano? When is Marty Turco going to show up in the playoffs? And will the Big E play more than 40 games in the Big D?

Even a perceived strength – their deep D corps – is deceiving. Yes, the Stars have a lot of defensemen, but quantity doesn’t always amount to quality. (Plus, I just don’t trust Sergei Zubov. Maybe it’s a Penguin thing …)

Playoff Prediction: The Stars squeak into the No. 8 spot, fight valiantly, Turco will finally have a good playoff series, but the Stars’ O will be too feeble to make anything of it.

4. Phoenix Coyotes

Arizona might need to be renamed “The Desert of Misfit Power Forwards.”

Seriously, after looking at their roster, I have to ask: did they cry when the Stars nabbed Lindros? In video games, the Coyotes won’t be half-bad, but in reality they have the potential to frustrate more fantasy hockey owners than any team in recent history. Even the Kings might not be able to keep pace with their injuries. Here’s a list of the Coyotes’ injury-prone players:

Owen Nolan
Ladislav Nagy
Mike Comrie
Ed Jovanovski
Nick Boynton
Shane Doan
Jeremy Roenick

I liked their new jerseys and, hell, I even grew a liking for JR over the past few years. I’ll even admit that Cujo is a great fit for this team, as he can play the underdog role he savors.

But it’s almost insultingly obvious what’s going to happen: Gretzky’s Guys are going to be plucky for most of the season and then finally come down to earth when their medical staffers bankrupt the team when they turn in their overtime hours.

Playoff Prediction: Good start, followed by catastrophic run of injuries, followed by too-late playoff run.

5. Los Angeles Kings

I’m not going to lie: this hurts. But the Kings are clearly in rebuilding mode.

Sure, they upgraded their coaching hair and now their goaltender can open a major can of whoop ass. Despite reports, it also looks like they retained their player who banged Elisha Cuthbert. With the tragic loss for comedy that is the absence of Valerie “Mr. Candace Cameron” Bure, Avery’s presence is a godsend. I think we all let out a breath of fresh air on that one.

Still, there’s not a whole lot to be optimistic about. The signing of Rob Blake didn’t hurt, but losing Pavol Demitra was a kick in the pants to Kings fans and bloggers everywhere. It might not be a bad move two or three years from now, but the short term certainly blows.

It’s going to be a rough first year for Marc Crawford.

Playoff Prediction: To quote former Colts coach Jim Mora, “Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?”

PPreseason PPower PPlay PPost

I had to scrounge around boxscores from all sorts of sites to pull this together, and it probably is not 100% accurate, but here’s what I’ve tallied thus far:

65 preseason games played outside of Puerto Rico (can’t find a boxscore on that one)

381 total goals (5.86 per game)

174 power play goals (45.7%)
16 shorthanded goals (4.2%)
184 even strength goals (48.3%)
7 empty-net goals (1.8%)

Of course it is only preseason, but you have to be a real special-teams enthusiast to get excited when half of NHL scoring happens on special teams. Remember when 5-on-5 play mattered quite a bit? I wonder which coach will be first to have a true ‘PP specialist’, one who sits on the bench only to play during PP time. These percentage numbers suggest it wouldn’t be that bad an idea.

For reference, last year power play goals made up a little more than 1/3 of overall scoring, both in the regular season and playoffs. I don't have any stats on last year's preseason, though.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I make a lot of boasts about the Sharks' 1-2 center punch with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but let's face it -- two badass centers are much more common than two badass defensemen, let alone two of the best defensement of their generation. Just checking the box scores today, I saw this:

Anaheim11:12, Andy McDonald 1 (power play) (Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer)

I still haven't totally fathomed how unstoppable the Anaheim blueline will be. I mean, it's not like one's great at offense and one's great at defense -- they're both awesome at both ends of the game. Pronger's got reach, Niedermayer's got speed, but they're both so god damn effective, it just makes me shake my head.

And that's the ONLY props I'll give to the Ducks (at least on this blog) for now.

NHL '07 review, complete with Pink Taco joke!

Sorry for the lack of posts, mayhaps a quick game review could mend a fence or two? No? You don't care what I think about this game? Oh...well...uh...here it is anyway...

Any sports fan thinks this at least once in their video game playing lives: “I can do it better.” We watch in disgust as Alexei Yashin shrinks from pressure, Sidney Crosby flops like a Junior Forsberg and Eric Lindros gets his 5,000th concussion.

Mere seconds after my friend fired up “NHL ‘07” for the X-Box 360, I realized this wouldn’t be one of those games. The introduction of the “Skill Stick” is not necessarily a completely smooth one – for one thing, it’s really freakin’ hard to get used to. But that doesn’t change it from being the most immersive innovation in nearly a decade.

Honestly, I used to think that the “2K” series did a swell job of capturing the “feel” of hockey, but EA nailed the essence of hockey harder than the Pink Taco guy on Lindsay Lohan. I haven’t had the chance to play the newest 2K game … from what I gathered, it’s quite excellent with one caveat: it plays pretty much the same as the ones I buy year-in and year-out. Being that I score at least 3 goals per game because I know exactly when to shoot against AI goalies that go post-to-post slower than Joy Thibault...let's just say that's a little bit of a letdown.

NHL ’07 is the most realistic hockey game I’ve played, sometimes to a fault. You know all of those failed breakaways that were one precise pass away from a highlight reel? Yeah, there’s about a million of those in this game.

Passing is so bad, I pull a Pavel Bure and only do it when I absolutely have to. I was stunned by how robotic the checking is. I read about canned animations, but it’s absurd. I thought I experienced my last “magnetized check” in the PS-One days. And I’ve played a bunch of games so far, but I’m still not completely convinced the poke check works.

When I play 2K7, I can give an honest comparison, but this much I do know: no hockey game after this year can exist without a similar shooting mechanism to the Skill Stick. Obviously, the EA games need to improve defense and passing, but the sensation when everything feels right with the Skill Stick … it’s a beautiful thing.

The graphics are beautiful, the crowd effects and atmosphere raise plenty of goose bumps, the Skill Stick is sweet and everything else is pretty much a mess. I don’t think it’s worth a purchase, but I’ll certainly have my eyes on next year’s version.

Rating: C+

(I might share my predictions regarding a certain Pacific Division later this week...)

Ducklings get fed to the Sharks and Canucks

As the middle part of their four-games-in-four-nights preseason marathon, the Ducks lineup lost 4-3 decisions in Fresno and Vancouver this weekend.

I could make excuses about the lineup, but I'd rather just imply it through imagery.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Niedermayer and Pronger, initial icetime results

Two and a half months ago, when the Ducks first acquired Pronger, I put a post together wondering how Carlyle would juggle the Norris blueliners in terms of ice time.

Well, through yesterday we have seen two games thus far where both Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger were dressed, so I thought I'd give the question an early visit.

I’ve been contemplating whether to exclude the last two periods of yesterday’s romp on the first-shot-goes-in Canucks, since the Ducks were already up 3-0 after the 1st period and there were signs that Carlyle was playing the ‘mercy’ card (i.e., a forward combination of Pahlsson, Moen, and Genoway on a 5-on-3 early in the 2nd), but hey, data is data, so I’ll just use the whole 120 minutes from the ANA-SJ and ANA-VAN games. It should be noted that both were home games, thus Carlyle had more control over situational matchups, and the Ducks never trailed in either game.

SituationTotal MinutesSN OnlyCP OnlySN and CPNeither player

Even Strength


27:22 36.9%21:25 28.9%00:24 0.5%25:03 33.7%

Power Play


00:20 1.4%01:55 8.1%09:33 40.1%10:41 50.4%

Penalty Kill


04:32 20.7%08:33 38.9%00:33 2.5%08:19 37.9%

2 Game Total


32:14 26.9%31:53 26.6%10:30 8.7%45:23 37.8%

As you can see, Niedermayer and Pronger don't get to see too much of each other, except when they team up to man the points on the power play. As this strategy seems to be working out swell, expect the team to continue this trend once the lineup gets finalized. I will continue to track this, however, to see whether things change should Anaheim find itself trailing in a game.

Incidentally, last night was the first of four straight for the Ducks (last night in Anaheim, tonight in San Jose Fresno, tomorrow in Vancouver, and Monday in Los Angeles). Per message boards, expect a different "B" team to handle the assignments in Fresno and Vancouver, while last night's "A" team is expected to resume its preseason Monday in L.A. How about that for preseason scheduling, eh?

From Wednesday's San Jose game, here's a rare moment with all the veterans on the bench.

Crap. Who's playing defense now?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Behaving in the Sin Bin

Man, oh man. My buddy Damndaze gave me a CD tonight with all the pictures he took, and there's a bunch. Some are a bit distorted, as we are amateurs, but I figure I'm using these pics to center my posts around for a little while. Today's theme: Ducks in the penalty box.

First off, we have rookie hopeful Shane O'Brien, who arrived after a spirited shark-wrassle.

O'Brien proceeded to yell profanities across to the Shark penalty box as he dressed. Note how stunned the NHL officials are at his AHL foulmouth tactics. A shame, Shane. There are children sitting by that Shark box.

Why not take a tip from veteran box-sitter Todd Fedoruk?
Fedoruk knows he's doing a job, and prepares himself to go out there and do it again. He's not concerned with getting the last word in, and he acts like he's been here before. He's a real classy guy, that Todd, and indeed, I am looking forward to a Laraque rematch when Phoenix rolls around.

Then there's the comical Ian Moran.
Actually, this time the official is not so stunned by Ian so much as by me, pleading Ian to resurrect his blog and to sing us all a national anthem. Moran tries to play it cool, but how can he?

Like Sleek, he is a goofball at heart. God love ya, Ian.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More photos from SJ/ANA

Pronger in game action. I guess this guy is growing on me, though I still have to catch myself from saying "You suck!" everytime I mention his name. He was as good as advertised last night, although he did break two different sticks trying to shoot pucks on net.

Some good seats for a prime battle between Todd Fedoruk and Scott Parker. This was towards the end of the second period, so he went straight to the locker room. I didn't notice at the time, but does it look like Fedoruk got cut in the forehead in that first picture?

Generally, Vesa Toskala was not too excited to give up 5 goals in a little more than 7 minutes during the second period. A lot of looking to the heavens and cursing the porous defense. "Where's my boy Joey Thornton?"

Frenchie Beauchemin was definitely excited that he will continue to play with Scotty Niedermayer this year. One time in the 3rd period he really went for a vicious hipcheck but really got caught out of position. If we still had Vishdog, then we could leave this sort of aggressive defense to the experts.

Meanwhile Dustin Penner looked really good re-teaming with Todd Marchant. Penner tallied the first two goals and assisted on an improbable Marchant goal later in the period.

These are the best of what Damndaze sent me last night, but he took a lot more. Likely, though, these represent the better-quality pics, but I'll see if he doesn't have any more gems. Enjoy!

Sleek picks the correct preseason game to attend! Ducks 6, Sharks 3

Boy oh boy did I have fun last night, I got so drunk I couldn't even post. My pal Damndaze took a lot of cool pictures from our Row B, so I'm sure I'll put a few posts together with those.

This guy sure looked grumpy that he had to wear a helmet, but despite our pleading, he never called a penalty on our new boy Mr. Pronger.

On the other hand, though, we did get some nice penalty box visits from Ian Moran and Todd Fedoruk. Moran in partciular seemed very surprised when I encouraged him to continue his blogwork, and Fedoruk was the only one to grant me an 'interview':

Sleek: "I'm really looking forward to your rematch with Laraque."
Fedoruk (dead serious): "So am I."

Other fun highlights:
  • Todd Marchant scoring a goal immediately after I finished telling my section how Marchant cannot score outside of PS2.
  • Shane O'Brien and Grahame Mink getting into a cursing contest across the penalty boxes after a fight. I think I counted eight mentions of the word "pussy".
  • Our repeated consoling of out-of-place defenseman Bruno St. Jacques: "Oh, you should have a great time in Portland this year."
At any rate, it was a really great time. Uniforms looked pretty good, and I did notice something interesting about the Duck PP, but I'll throw that into another post.

Nothing like a little shark-spanking to bring out the SJ boys, eh?

Welcome to California Chris, make sure to stay out of the water

In the Earl Sleek "Battle of California" tradition, here is one of my own cartoons to welcome Chris Pronger to the left coast.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Anatidaephobia. The fear San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson has that somewhere, somehow, a Duck watching you.

Screw you Sleek, and your non-Mighty Ducks too

So, the first volley has been fired in the true Battle of California (at least for this season -- sorry James, but the Queens aren't ready...yet), and Sleek's probably on his way back from the Pond, erm, the Non-Disney Center ready to gloat about seeing Chris Pronger in all his lanky jackass glory. Yeah, yeah, yeah, 6 to 3's a pretty good beatdown. Well, before you get to high on your non-Mighty Ducks, let's do a quick comparison of the lineups. Most notably, let's look at the defense.

Now, I've been a pretty harsh critic of the Sharks defense as it is. But the scoresheet's +/- says it all for this intense preseason tilt between the Sharks and the Quacks:

Doug Murray (5/6 dman): -2
Josh Gorges (5/6 dman): Even
Scott "I wear 28 in tribute to Nils Ekman" Ferguson: Even
Garret Stafford (AHL lifetimer): -1
Derek "Who the hell am I?" Joslin: -2
Christian Ehrhoff (3/4 offensive dman): +1

Up front, the Sharks were the Patrick Marleau line (+2) and no one else. Now, let's look at the arsenal the Ducks threw on the ice...

Defense: Chris Pronger, Scott Neidermayer, and some other guys who don't matter
Forwards: Selanne, Perry, Getzlaf, McDonald, Marchant, Chistov

So, Sleek (and his legion of Ducks fans), you see, your boys smacked around the minor league Sharks + Patrick Marleau. And when Marleau's line was on the ice, they couldn't contain him.

The preseason may be meaningless (check out my other blog for that rant), but there's still pride on the line. Still, don't get too high on your Quackers; things will look MUCH different when the Joe Thornton joins the party and the Sharks throw out a mediocre defense instead of a ridiculously bad defense.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ducks forget to dress Pronger for his debut

Yee-ouch. Ducks opened up their preseason with a stinker, losing 7-1 to the Kings. Thank goodness it was radio-only, as that may have saved me from clawing out my eyes.

On the main stats that mattered, Kings went 4-7 on their PP while the Ducks went 0-8 (generating a pitiful 4 PP shots).

Scoring per my notes:
8:02 1st L.A. Avery 1 (Pushkarev, Norstrom)
11:47 1st L.A. Dallman 1 PP (Armstrong, Moulson)
0:58 2nd ANA Getzlaf 1 (O’Donnell, Melin)
7:55 2nd L.A. Moulson 1 PP (Armstrong, Dallman)
13:00 2nd L.A. Dallman 2 (Armstrong, Brown)
7:25 3rd L.A. Willsie 1 PP (Avery, Sopel)
16:40 3rd L.A. Belanger 1 (Thornton, Willsie)
18:47 3rd L.A. Pushkarev 1 PP (Weaver, Dallman)

Note that Leighton and Garon played the first thirty minutes and Bryzgalov and LaBarbara finished off the game.

Anaheim roster:
G – I. Bryzgalov, M. Leighton
D – F. Beauchemin, S. O’Donnell, J. DiPenta, S. O’Brien, B. Salcido, K. Huskins
F – R. Getzlaf, C. Perry, D. Penner, R. Niedermayer, S. Pahlsson, T. Green, R. Shannon, B. Melin, K. Stewart, S. Thornton, T. Gillies, B. Ryan

L.A. Kings were notably without D. Cloutier, R. Blake, C. Conroy, A. Frolov, A. McCauley, A. Kopitar, and P. O’Sullivan.


I know preseason doesn’t count for anything, but here’s a little tip, Ducks.

A fair amount of people (thank god I wasn’t one of them!) paid regular-season prices to see what might have been Chris Pronger’s first game in the Duck uniform (against the cross-town rivals, no less!). Instead they paid regular-season prices to see a prospect squad half-ass its way to the team’s worst individual-game result since the lockout.

If you want to generate some local excitement about this year’s chances , if you want a fanbase of repeat customers who will pay to attend games, try not to fuck ‘em on the first day of school.

They may be fake games with apparently fake hype, but it is not fake money we’re spending.

See ya Wednesday for a better effort,


[EDIT: Though I appear to have lost the ability to comment there, Duck's Blog has some firsthand reaction to the game. Also, Dan Wood of the OC Register has begun his own MSM Ducks blog today--that has some promise.]

[EDIT2: Another entry on Mr. Wood's blog indicates that tomorrow's lineup against SJ will feature J.S. Giguere, S. Niedermayer, C. Pronger, F. Beauchemin, T. Selanne, A. McDonald, R. Getzlaf, C. Perry, D. Penner, T. Marchant, T. Fedoruk, and S. Chistov. I sure got lucky in picking which preseason game to attend!]

Stupidity on my Garage Wall, Part 2

Here’s pretty much the other highlights from my garage wall, this time (mostly) non-hockey-related.
From top left spiraling clockwise, we have:
a) Crab playing goalie
b) Spiderman vs. Juggernaut
c) Mario and Yoshi (no, not THAT Mario)
d) Magneto
e) Hannibal Smith
f) Optimus Prime and a Prius-based Autobot
g) Korean Ninja Turtle
h) Cookie Monster
i) Disco Stu
j) Abraham Lincoln riding an AT-AT

As I mentioned before, this really become a “dead” project once the lockout ended, but should a revival kick in, I’ll keep you all posted.

On a side note, my roommate picked up NHL 07 for the PS2 yesterday, and here’s my initial reaction: YAWN. The only thing that appears to have happened is that every action from NHL 06 has been assigned to a new controller button. Also, for some unknown reason, it takes about 5 times as long to simulate a season. I’ll write a fuller review later, but my initial advice from about one hour’s worth of gameplay—don’t buy it. You’d be better served to randomize your controller settings from NHL 06; just as confusing and just as rewarding.

Plus NHL 06 has the NHL ’94 emulator, whereas NHL 07 compensates by simply offering a shorter main menu.

Magic 8-ball, will I get two minutes alone with Chris Pronger?

SoCal NHL hockey will be kicking off this evening with an opening pre-season tilt between the Ducks and Kings in Anaheim. This will be a radio-only tilt, and per the OC Register:

League rules mandate that exhibition lineups include at least eight players who appeared in a minimum of 40 games the previous season or have at least 100 games of NHL experience. The Ducks planned to meet that requirement tonight with a combination of centers Ryan Getzlaf, Travis Green and Samuel Pahlsson, right wings Corey Perry and Rob Niedermayer, and defensemen Francois Beauchemin, Sean O'Donnell and Joe DiPenta.

Among those not scheduled to play tonight are newly acquired defenseman Chris Pronger and captain Scott Niedermayer, right wing Teemu Selanne, center Andy McDonald and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

This is good news for me, as I got tickets to Wednesday’s exhibition game vs. San Jose, and now have a better chance of seeing our big-money players, particularly Chris Pronger’s first visit to the home penalty box.
Four times a year (not counting postseason) I get these awesome Row B seats right next to the Ducks’ box, including this SJ game, so if anyone has any particularly inspired questions or messages for Mr. Pronger, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to pass them along.

Sure it’s a longshot he’ll respond, but hey, I’ll be drinking and exuberant with the return of hockey. Who knows how things could turn out?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On the eve of camp...

Training camp officially opens tomorrow, and Sharks fans already have a pretty good idea about what their team will look like. Barring any unforeseen changes, the line combos should work out to something like this:

Forward Lines:


Up front, Goc and Brown are interchangeable, but there are no guarantees for Patrick Rissmiller or Mark Smith to be on the fourth line. Brown can also play the wing, so there's a chance that Smith may re-take the center position, leaving one wing open. Devin Setoguchi impressed the hell out of a lot of people last season, and Lukas Kasper wowed people at the rookie tournament this year, so it looks like there will be some competition for those roster spots. You've got a bunch of forwards in the queue and only two spots available:

Mark Smith
Patrick Rissmiller
Ryan Clowe
Devin Setoguchi
Lukas Kasper
Scott Parker
Grant Stevenson

I have a feeling that if Setoguchi or Kasper make the squad, that'll bump Ville Niemenen down to the fourth line to try and get the new kid a little bit more offense. Minus Setoguchi and Kasper, the battle for the fourth line is really just a mix of grinders. Smith has heart and speed but no hands, Parker's a defensive liability and a pretty lumbering skater, and Stevenson simply isn't an NHL caliber player. My prediction: the Sharks will keep Smith in the active roster, take one of Setoguchi/Kasper to offer some flexibility. That means Rissmiller and Parker watch from the press box while Stevenson and Clowe disappear to Worcesheshesheshesheshter where they belong.

On the back end, it's anyone's guess after the top four. There certainly are arguments for Josh Gorges being penciled in, but there's no reason for that to be certain. In essence, you've got a replica of what's happening to the forward lines: two spots for a crapload of players...

Doug Murray
Josh Gorges
Rob Davison
Jim Fahey
Mathieu Biron
Marc Vlasic
Ty Wishart

Wishart was just drafted this year, so even though he was a first rounder, don't expect him to compete for a spot. Here's one telling sign -- the Worcester Sharks have Rob Davison as part of their web page. Another telling sign -- Doug Murray was assigned a normal number (3) instead of the goofy training camp number he wore through last season (41). As funny as Jim Fahey is on Shark Byte, he seems to have earned a second career as press box pizza boy, which, considering how much he gets paid, may be the easiest job in the world, but also kinda sucks. Fahey's big chance was several years back and he blew it; the best thing for him would be to A) grow five inches and 30 pounds of pure muscle or B) get traded and hope he can get a fresh start somewhere else.

Biron's a total wildcard. Here's a giant dude who was drafted high and hasn't done crap except earn the title of "Worst Player Ever" by some disgruntled Washington Capitals fans. He's not a reclamation project because he never really amounted to anything, but maybe yet another change in environment can get his head out of his ass and actually motivate him to utilize his talents. He's got some offensive upside, but his biggest asset is his wingspan. One thing to note -- Biron's only played on crappy, losing teams, and maybe putting him in a culture of winning and accountability will change his attitude.

Gorges had problems last year with getting pushed off the puck, especially by the Oilers. If Murray can regain the form he had prior to his shoulder problems, he should be a perfect fit as a punishing #5 dman. The last spot is a crap shoot, though considering the fact that Ehrhoff's only in his second real season and Carle and Murray are still technically rookies, I'm leaning towards going with someone who has more NHL experience than Vlasic. I'd gamble on Biron as long as he's not a total training camp disaster, and stick Gorges in the press box.

Of course, everything could change when one of the goalies gets dealt. It's just too bad that Mike O'Connell isn't still around to be fleeced, and there's no one on the Islanders roster worth tricking Garth Snow for.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The OC, all about image, baby!

Well, finally the big-money boys decided to suit up and show off the home jerseys.

Of course, I had to doctor the background, but all in all, it's not a bad look.

It's growing on me, at least. But I'm probably buying a sweatshirt or something.

Don't want to get burned again (sniff, sniff)...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dipietro gets 15 years (by my math, about the lifespan of 23 GMs) and other news

(Alternate title: Longing for the days of rational Yashin contracts)

Well, apparently Charles Wang couldn’t stand sharing the “Joke of the Offseason” award with the Florida Panthers, so he went and raised the stakes. Rick Dipietro, who I assume will have his number retired soon, has signed a no-I’m-not-kidding 15-year contract at $4.5 M per year.

Despite the fact that this is entirely Wang’s agenda, I still encourage all readers to devote a night and a bottle of their favorite liquor for an impassioned e-plea to new-GM Garth Snow, who already is the second-shortest-tenured GM in NYI history. Even though this is (and forever will be) Wang’s beast on the isle, Snow still is the GM and should answer for this lunacy or make-like-Lafontaine and resign. Plus he gave out his email address, so he’s fair game.

James Mirtle (who’s a surprisingly strong fantasy drafter, by the way) writes a really good summary and points out that length aside, Dipietro is the wrong guy for a long-term deal. I’m going to take it a step further and just say that I think that goalie’s the wrong position to tie long-term money into.

Yes, goaltending is the single most important position on the ice in hockey, or at least close enough. However, when we talk about cap-limited-budgets, you must consider the marketplace of available talent. There are more than enough quality goaltenders to go around in this league; remember how hard Manny Legace had to work to find a place to play net? Recall how GMs in Buffalo, Anaheim, and San Jose have been trying to give goaltenders away?

Or look at the playoffs last year. Who were the big goaltenders? Cam Ward, Ilya Bryzgalov, Vesa Toskala, Ryan Miller, and (d’oh!) Jussi Markkanen weren’t the highest paid or the most experienced goaltender on their rosters. Goalies are breaking out all over the place, baby!

TSN quotes an eastern GM who I agree with. He points out,

''Let's just say DiPietro takes off and he becomes a star and a top-five goalie and you have to pay him $7 million a year. Let him go to another team if you can't afford him because you can get a pretty damn good goalie at $4 million every year.”
Silly Islanders, you’ve tied your own hands for the next fifteen years on a plentiful asset with questionable shelf life.

Oh, and in BIGGER news (if you can believe it), ol’ Bobby Clarke tried to pull a fast one on newbie Dave Nonis and sign Ryan Kesler for a one-year $1.9 M contract, forcing Vancouver to pay more than they preferred for the young center. Had the RFA larceny been successful, the cost to Philadelphia would have been one lousy second-round pick.

While this is a bit humorous in that I don’t particularly care about the specific player or the teams, it certainly is a disturbing omen of things to come. This ability for RFAs to gain leverage in holding out will certainly make it more expensive to hold young talent.

Oh, and the third biggest news was that another offseason question of mine was answered—what would Joffrey Lupul sign for? Answer: Lupul signed a 3-year deal averaging at $2.31 M.

A little steep, but not terrible. Maybe if he skated harder I’d throw in another dozen years.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Stupidity on my Garage Wall, Part 1

(Alternative Title: Sleek acquires a digital camera and uses it for this?!)

So my roommate and I, both Duck fans, also somewhat share a weird artistic side. As such, we had made it one of our 'projects' to paint a mural on one wall of our garage. Actually, it started with pencil drawings, then things escalated during the lockout.

Mostly the stuff is a collection of weird jokes or tribute pictures to favorite stuff of ours, and a lot of progress happened when we were drinking--as such, it could probably be used in a court of law as proof of insanity.

Right now it sort of sits a dead project; nothing new has happened in months. But here's the extent of the damage thus far:
In part one exploring this wall, we will focus on hockey-crossover, some of the nutty junk my roommate and I put on our wall that to some degree has to do with hockey.

Miyazaki hockey (all coming from the must-see Spirited Away):
Featured: Noh-Face holding the cure for Hepatitis A (hello, Elias!)
Dust sprite with hockey stick
Kamaji the multi-tasking goalie

Star Wars hockey: Featured (notably): Obi-Wan Kenobi--"These aren't the seats you're looking for... Move along."
Storm Trooper to Jabba the Hutt--"Maybe we should switch goaltenders... Vader is breathing pretty hard..."
Jar-Jar to Chewbacca--"MEESA TEAMMATE"
Lucky Luc Robitaille, "Luc, Luc, Use the Force..."

D.C. Comics Hockey:

This is one of the best things on the wall. It really was a strange collaborative effort, in that my roommate drew Wonder Woman before I drew Lindros. If this mural ever gets finished, this would be the centerpiece.

So hopefully this inspires you also to deface a part of your house for self-entertainment. It's not only fun, but it's also endless!

Another post later with some non-hockey wall highlights.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Draft like the pros

Well, I don’t know if this is supposed to be a big secret or if I’m spoiling any great intro, but I did my first Yahoo draft today, as part of Mirtle’s monster league. This league might get some publicity, as it involves many ‘celebrities’, like Kukla, Golbez, Spector, BoA, Covered in Oil, Puck Update, etc., etc. I’m sure someone’s going to do a comprehensive post somewhere.

Some short specs on this mega-league, though:

20 teams head-to-head
Positions: C x 3, LW x 2, RW x 2, Util x 2, D x 4, G x 2, Bench x 4, IR x 3
Categories: G, A, +/-, PIM, PPG, PPA, SHP, GWG, SOG, W, GAA, SV, SV%, SHO

So a long draft, 380 players deep. Well, here’s what I did, getting the #2 pick:

Rd – Pick – Player
1 – 2 – M. Kiprusoff, G CGY
2 – 39 – T. Selanne, RW ANA
3 – 42 – T. Bertuzzi, RW FLA
4 – 79 – J. Giguere, G ANA
5 – 82 – A. McDonald, C ANA
6 – 119 – A. Frolov, LW LOS
7 – 122 – R. Getzlaf, C ANA
8 – 159 – F. Beauchemin, D ANA
9 – 162 – D. Cloutier, G LOS
10 – 199 – P. Sykora, RW EDM
11 – 202 – M. Carle, D SJS
12 – 239 – E. Lindros, C DAL
13 – 242 – D. Penner, C ANA
14 – 279 – O. Nolan, RW PHX
15 – 282 – D. Brown, RW LOS
16 – 319 – T. Fedoruk, LW ANA
17 – 322 – J. Madden, C NJD
18 – 359 – K. McLaren, D SJS
19 – 362 – A. Kopitar, C LOS

C – McDonald, Getzlaf, Lindros, Penner, Madden, Kopitar
RW – Selanne, Bertuzzi, Sykora, Nolan, Brown
LW – Frolov, Fedoruk
D – Beauchemin, Carle, McLaren
G – Kiprusoff, Giguere, Cloutier

Strengths: strong goaltenders for a 20-team league, top-line Anaheim scorers
Weaknesses: logjam at center, not enough defensemen, too many Ducks
Solutions: a) I am fairly certain that Penner will get LW eligibility to ease the problem at center.
b) As for defensemen, I immediately will have two spots freed up, as Yahoo! Has whimsically allowed me to put Lindros and Cloutier on the IR. I got a month until the season starts to straighten out the blueline.

At any rate, I did my best to represent the BoC, and I even ended up with a player from each Pacific team.

Critiques? Opinions? Trade offers?

Friday, September 08, 2006

L.A. Queens, caught in the middle?

I gotta admit, I do like the way things are brewing in the Staples Center, and I don’t mean the megaplex structure they’re constructing next door which I pass every morning on my drive to work.

Rather, the Lombardi-Crawford rebuild looks a lot like the Burke-Carlyle model of yesteryear.

A stripped down team with some good, young players, a strong UFA-boosted blueline, and some decent options in net. Plus a GM and coach that are seeing eye-to-eye, I guess nowadays that is getting rarer. This team has a bright outlook, especially because I think L.A. still has money it can spend.

But the main problem that L.A. faces is that they’re in a pretty tough state to play in.

Since Jan. 1, 2006, the Kings went a combined 2-8-2 against the Ducks and Sharks, getting outscored 26 – 48. Their PP clicked at 13.7%, and their PK was a mean 68.6%. Clearly, to make the playoffs L.A. will need to put up better instate numbers than that.

According to the pundits, though, both the Sharks and Ducks have gotten better this offseason (certainly better than the start of last season).

Will the princess in the middle step up and make a name for herself?

L.A. opens its preseason in Anaheim on Sept. 18, and opens its season in Anaheim on Oct. 6.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Breezy’s back, baby!

The offseason is now complete, the Anaheim Ducks signed playoff phenom Ilya Bryzgalov to a very modest two-year, $1.18 M per-year contract (salary cap value).

This, of course, is fantastic. Not only does Anaheim get a great contract in net (about $1 M per year less than I thought it would be!), but its best off-ice quote is coming back for more nonsense. I remember reading about Breezy when he was a new prospect in Cincinnati, straight after his arrival from Russia. I believe the interview went something like this:

Q: “So, how do you like living in Cincinnati?”

Bottom line: You got to hand it to Brian Burke. When he made noise that Vishnevski was over-rewarded at $1.55 M, he traded him away and promptly signed 'Franchise' Beauchemin to a two year, $1.65 M-per-year extension. With this even cheaper deal in the books, Burke has at least demonstrated to this humble Vish-fan how a million-and-a-half bucks could be better spent.

Make no mistake, the pressure is squarely on J.S. Giguere now. His hefty $3.99 M contract (the only major contract Burke didn’t negotiate or acquire) can be managed on this year’s payroll, but with the bargain Breezy signed for, J.S. better be awesome. You have to think that barring a great year or a massive pay cut, this could be Jiggy’s curtain call in Anaheim. And if that’s the case, Burke might be tempted to Roloson him out at the trade deadline, if not earlier.

I think it's still too early to tell (Bryzgalov has only played in 44 NHL games, counting the playoffs), but the question in Anaheim has shifted from "Which goalie do we trade?" to "Do we trade Giguere or not?"

Incidentally, it turns out that with the departures of Salei and Vishnevski, Giguere is now the 3rd-longest tenured Duck--by a margin of less than two weeks:

First appearance for Anaheim:
Andy McDonald—November 12, 2000
Samuel Pahlsson—November 24, 2000
J.S. Giguere—November 25, 2000

I guess I should say ‘continuously-tenured’ Duck, since Teemu Selanne played in all those games and Travis Green was already an ex-Mighty Duck by then.

Teemu Selanne—February 10, 1996
Travis Green—February 7, 1998

Blogger Power!

David Singer, Tom Benjamin, Bill Houlihan, and others have been chiming in on the role of the hockey blogger, and how that might interact with the motivations of an NHL team. Should bloggers be given press passes or locker room access?

It’s a tricky question for sure.

From my perspective, I don’t think that player access is really something I’d want. It’s not that I’m that conscientious about ‘selling out’ or that I can’t be bought, rather it’s more that as a fan I am quite unimpressed by the bland locker room commentary that NHL regulars have all learned to spit out. For better or worse, professional sports stars are becoming more delicate in their responses than politicians; I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle just to have someone tell me how playing a full 60 minutes one game at a time is preferable to some lazier alternative.

What I would much rather see would be an NHL team allowing JavaGeek to access its stats database rather than making him re-construct it himself from marginally usable sources. Heck, I’d love Gary’s statboys to even take his data wishlist into serious consideration.

I would find that infinitely more interesting and revealing than having another robot interviewed.

Back from the road trip

Well, that was a pretty fun weekend in Michigan, though I ended up spending all my time in Dearborn and Ann Arbor rather than Detroit. I was pretty much tied up with family activities, but one of the strangest/most rewarding treats was an odd phenomenon known as Whirly Ball, which is a whimsical combination involving bumper cars, basketball, and lacrosse.
Quite fun, actually. Might be a good game for Mark Bell to look into.

Speaking of getting bumped, the big news was in Florida, where GM Mike Keenan was Bertuzzi’d out by Panthers ownership.
Like the woeful Islanders up north, Florida has fired a GM after allowing him to commit all available salary to the free agent market. Neil Smith and Mike Keenan will leave significant fingerprints on an offseason (including a draft) that has yet to see NHL ice.

You know, the first time it’s funny, the second time it’s pathetic.

Tom Benjamin had done some math to show the per capita revenue disparity between U.S. and Canadian fans, and I don’t care enough to check the math. But one thing that should go into that equation is that by and large, the Candian six are a decent-run bunch compared to some of the nutjobs down here.

I wouldn’t begrudge an Islander or Panther fan who stayed away from the rink this year. How much can you invest in a team where the owner has already given the intergalactic vote of 'no confidence'?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

That's not good

So, um, hold that thought on the whole Cheechoo/Thornton/Bell line. Mr. Bell has gone and done something quite stupid:

San Jose Police confirmed to NBC11 reporter Susan Siravo Tuesday that a member of the San Jose Sharks was arrested over the Labor Day Weekend on suspicion of driving under the influence and allegedly causing a collision.Police told NBC11 one person was hurt in the crash, but their injuries were considered minor with cuts and bruises.Police said Sharks player Mark Bell faces felony hit-and-run and felony DUI charges. Police said Bell rear-ended a car at an intersection and then got out of his car and walked away. Police said they found him sitting on a curb not far away and arrested him.Bell is out on bail.

Way to ingratiate yourself into the community, Mark. He could plead that he was doing his best Mel Gibson impression. Bell will probably have to do community service and all that crap, and chances are he won't face any jail time other than getting a stern talking to in Doug Wilson's office.

I just think it's funny that he just walked to a curb and sat down. Perhaps he was contemplating all of the universe's many mysteries after he rear-ended that car.