Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated August 31 at 4:23 p.m.
When it's August, you look for anything you can find to get you excited about hockey. With that in mind, this is what was going on at Honda Center today.
Updated August 26 at 3:48 p.m.
- I just recently moved (to a place in Newport Beach), and for the time being I don't have DirecTV hooked up -- which, if you know me at all, is an absolute disaster. So for the past few days my television watching has been relegated to DVDs and whatever was saved on my DVR before the move. Last night I got into something that was auto-recorded off NHL Network several days ago -- the Anaheim Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup Champions retrospective.
I've already seen the thing a number of times, but it somehow never gets old. And even though I own the DVD, I haven't watched it for a little while. There are at least 185 goosebump moments, a handful of misty-eyed moments, and even a few laughs. That includes the moments of Brad May mic'd-up audio, including the classic piece of trash talk that has been mentioned more than a few times in this space. In Game 1 of the Final series against Ottawa, May is checked into the wall near the Ottawa bench and you can faintly hear an unidentified Sens player sarcastically yell to May, "Watch out for the boards." He turns 180 degrees, looks at the guy and calmly replies, "Who the [bleep] are you?" Best piece of trash talk I think I've ever heard.
Or how about when May nearly loses his mind with glee when he sees Arnold Schwarzenegger dropping the ceremonial puck before the Game 1, saying things like, "He was sick in Commando." But as soon as we get closer to puck drop in that game, May puts on a serious face, leans forward to look down the bench to the young guys and says, "Hey ... hey. Take it all in."
Man, I miss that guy.
There are so many other moments that gave me chills all over again last night:
- Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne's goals in Game 5 at Detroit (two goals that have been rehashed countless times in this space and need no further explanation).
- J.S. Giguere's heroics at the end of the clinching Game 6 against the Wings, followed by a handful of players being interviewed for the video and talking about how amazing he was that entire postseason, especially considering the stress he was enduring with the birth of his son. It's just another reminder that it wasn't that long ago that Giguere was completely dominant that entire Cup run.
- A mic'd Ryan Getzlaf scoring a huge third period goal in Game 1 of the Final, than leaping against the glass with a "whoohoohoohooo!"
- Samuel Pahlsson scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 Game 2 victory, then being greeted in the locker room postgame with high fives from his teammates, followed by a poignantly long hug from Teemu Selanne. (And they say Finns and Swedes don't like each other.) You had to see the relaxed expression on Sammy's face during the embrace to truly appreciate this moment.
- Andy McDonald scoring two ridiculous goals in Game 4 in Ottawa.
- Selanne making a gorgeous pass to Dustin Penner right on the doorstep, who chipped it into a shockingly wide open net for the game-winner in Game 4.
- The sheer magnitude of Scott Niedermayer's and Todd Marchant's playoff beards.
- The slap shot goal by Francois Beauchemin with a minute and a half left in the second, an absolutely missile that tinged off the post and when in to give the Ducks a 4-2 lead in Game 5.
But here's the tragedy of last night's viewing. With Game 5 just about to go into the third period, the video stopped and the dreaded "Would you like to delete this show?" popped up on the screen. That's right, somehow the recording didn't make it until the end of the show. And even though I had the thing downstairs on DVD, I let out an expletive that probably woke a couple of neighbors.
It's a shame. I'd love to know what happened at the end.
- - -
The three Ducks taking part in the Team Canada orientation camp in Calgary were among those pulled aside for on-camera interviews just before the start of camp (you can watch those here). Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf's clips were pretty revealing. Getzlaf's was because he commented on how he's there right now just to observe as he recovers from sports hernia surgery and probably won't start skating until next week. He also said that although he expects to be ready for training camp, he'll probably not play for a good part of the preseason.
“I think we’re going to try and play the last two exhibition games,” Getzlaf said. “Things have been going really well, so there’s no reason to think otherwise.”
Niedermayer's sound bite was compelling not for anything he said, but for just how freakin' tan he is. It's just a reminder of how good the summers have been to Niedermayer since he moved to SoCal in 2005 and took up surfing. Here's Scotty right after that first summer:
Yeah, the hair's a little different too.
Speaking of Niedermayer, there has been talk that he is among the favorites to captain the Canadian team at the Olympics in February.
Head coach Mike Babcock, when asked about the likelihood of either Sidney Crosby or Jarome Iginla captaining the team, said, "I think Scott Niedermayer’s got a pretty good shot, too. There’s going to be an environment and a climate that expects success. I think the same guys that have been through this before have a chance to calm you down … I think the guys that have been through it before are going to be a stabilizing force.”
Oddly enough, despite being the only guy in hockey history to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, World Championship, World Cup, Memorial Cup and World Junior championship, Niedermayer has only played in the Olympics once. That was when he helped Canada to the gold in 2002. He was injured during the 2006 Olympics.
Whether he'll write about his nighttime television watching ... probably not.
Updated August 18 at 3:23 p.m.
A handful of thoughts for a Tuesday afternoon (t-minus 26 days until training camp) …
- Hopefully by now you’ve noticed the new look of the website, and we’ve gotten some very good response on it so far. If you haven’t noticed yet, you’ll see some nice upgrades to the photo galleries as well as some more user friendly navigation on the home page. You may also notice that we don’t have a poll right now, but that’s because we’re working out the bugs to get the polls to work on older versions of Internet Explorer. Stay tuned for that. I’d love to hear your comments on the new site, so send me an email.
- I don’t know if anyone noticed it, but I was watching “Entourage” on Sunday night and nearly spit out my drink when I could have sworn I saw Dustin Penner in the background of the scene where “E” walks through the management agency where he’s looking to land a job. I hit rewind on the DVR and sure enough, it’s Penner and our own Joffrey Lupul as extras walking through the offices. Check your DVR or one of the re-runs of the episode and you’ll see it around the 20-minute mark, right after the scene with Steve Nash. Lupul talks about being on the show and other topics in a Duck Cast interview I did with him this afternoon that will be on the site soon. And strangely enough, while the interview was going on, Lupul announces that Paul Kariya pulled up to him at a red light and yelled at him to learn how to drive.
- Bobby Ryan is in the middle of USA Hockey Camp in Woodridge, Illinois and did this interview with the folks at NHL Network. When asked at the end if he feels he’s past the point where he has something to prove, the always-poignant Ryan says, “No. I think you’re always at that point, especially in the NHL. I’ve had my share of ups and downs in the last few years, so I feel like I’ve got plenty of ways to go.” And then there’s this: “I’ve got one more year left in Anaheim and hopefully I’ll sign on to do something longer there.” That would be nice. One more thing about that interview. Where can I get one of those shirts? Bobby? I’ve got a birthday coming up. I can trade you for a very nice Bobby Ryan Iowa Chops bobblehead, if you’re interested.
- Jonas Hiller changes masks about as often as you and I change shoes, and apparently he’s having work done on another one. This article on The Goalie Guild website leads with the line: Jonas Hiller fans everywhere are foaming at the mouth for more info on his newest mask …
Well, I don’t know if “foaming at the mouth” is exactly accurate, but sure, we’re interested. Apparently, the brand new high-tech mask made by the Swiss-based company Aixess is called the Tornado Proton, which sounds kind of like a Michael Bay movie. The construction, which has been in effect for the last several weeks, and involves a comprehensive process that includes taking “an MRI of Hiller’s brain to form the safest mask possible.”
- We’re at that time of year when so-called experts start predicting the order of finish in each conference, and apparently some of the major prognosticators aren’t quite as excited about the Ducks as we are around here. Either that, or the Western Conference is REALLY good (which it definitely is). Sports Illustrated has the Ducks ninth-best in the NHL, fifth in the West in their first power rankings of the season. And writer Allan Muir notes that for Anaheim, “A serious Cup run isn’t far off.” San Jose, which has been relatively quiet so far this offseason (aside from stripping Patrick Marleau of his captaincy yesterday) is ranked second in the NHL by Muir.
Ross McKeon of Yahoo! also has the Ducks ninth in the NHL, fifth in the West and one ahead of the Sharks. The Hockey News has been revealing its predictions on a day-by-day basis, but just uncovered Anaheim at sixth in the West. The top two are yet-to-be-revealed, but they will be San Jose and Chicago. A message boarder named “OilersFan” points out how inaccurate these predictions can ultimately be. Here was The Hockey News’ picks for the West last season:
1.Detroit (Finished 2nd)
2.San Jose (1st)
13.Los Angeles (14th)
15.St Louis (6th)
- More from Sports Illustrated, which recently had a feature on the Best NHL Goalie Masks of the ‘90s in which former Sharks netminder and current Ducks TV analyst Brian Hayward earned the top spot for his mask that looked “as though he is peering out from the jaws of a great white.”
- Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer made the list of NHL.com’s best over-35 players. Saku Koivu, it should be noted, doesn’t turn 35 until November.
- Former Duck Todd Bertuzzi just signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings, his second stint in Detroit after playing eight regular season games and 16 playoff games in 2006-07 (that’s the year the Ducks beat the Wings on their way to the Cup, in case you forgot). Another former Duck acquired in the 2007 offseason, Mathieu Schneider, remains a free agent.
Updated August 13 at 5:11 p.m.
The Ducks got bigger and tougher today, but in the process had to say goodbye to one of the good guys.
The acquisition of Evgeny Artyukhin from the Tampa Bay Lightning fills a need for “size, sandpaper and grit,” as Bob Murray called it, which he said the Ducks had lost a little bit of since the trade deadline. “We have been trying to find a way to patch that for a little while,” he said. And in Artyukhin, they have done just that. The 6-4, 254-pound winger is a bruiser, leading the Lightning last year in hits (249; also eighth in the league) and penalty minutes, including seven fighting majors. He’s got some skill too, having tossed in six goals and 16 points last year.
Murray said today he was looking at Artyukhin for a long time, having talked to the Lightning about him at the trade deadline and the draft, but they couldn’t work out a deal. “We decided now was the time to make it happen,” Murray said.
Ducks fans will like the fact that Murray compared the 26-year-old Artyukhin to a popular former Duck, saying “If you recall Travis Moen, when we got him he didn’t play very much that first year. It took Travis a little while to figure out exactly what Randy wanted. When Travis did figure out what Randy wanted, the rest is history. This is somewhat a similar situation. I know I like the raw assets of this guy. We’ll see what develops from those assets.”
Early indications are that Artyukhin would be a great fit for the Anaheim checking line, though a fourth-line roll is also possible. Most importantly, he’s a guy who can step up and crack some skulls if anyone is looking to make trouble with the likely Lupul-Koivu-Selanne trio.
Watch this brawl last year between Artyukhin and one of the few guys in the league taller than him, Zdeno Chara (although I think the linesman got the worst treatment in this one). Artyukhin was a lot more dominant in this fight with another new Duck, Nick Boynton. (I’m wondering if their first meeting at training camp might be a little aw … kward.)
Whether he drops the gloves or not, Artyukhin gives the Ducks a more of that, as Brian Burke once said, “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence” that has been a staple in Anaheim for the past four seasons.
The only unfortunate consequence of the trade is that the Ducks were forced to part with Drew Miller, who though he spent much of the past few seasons in the minors, was an asset to the Ducks in more ways than one. Miller first burst onto the Ducks scene by playing three games during the 2007 playoff run (including Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final), his first NHL games of any kind, and ended up getting his named etched into the Cup. The following season he was up for 26 games, and it was during that time that he earned himself a fan for life.
Take a look at this story on Miller’s relationship with little Haili Todrick, including the time he spent with her over Christmas at CHOC after she became seriously ill. Warning: You will not get through this story without tearing up. I’m not kidding. You will cry.
As a writer, I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that we just traded one of the league’s easiest names to spell for one of the hardest. Evgeny Artyukhin? It’s like an eye chart.
And after the Ducks make two trades in three days (in a time of year when nobody in the league does hardly anything), Murray acknowledged that he’s probably done dealing for the summer. “Now, I think we’re in a position where we go to camp,” he said. “I think we’ve created an atmosphere where there is going to be competitions for jobs, competitions for ice time and in different roles. I think that is healthy. I always think competition from within is good. I think you’re going to see there is going to be a lot of spots out there where there is going to be competition for ice time. As a player, that is what you want. You want ice time. You want to play. I think we’ve created a good competition here at the moment.”
Training camp starts exactly one month from today.
Updated August 10 at 3:32 p.m.
Yes, the Ducks traded for a goaltender today. No, it's not a sign of another trade to come.
Anaheim's acquisition of Justin Pogge from the Toronto Maple Leafs isn't an indication the Ducks are ready to make a deal involving Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and Ducks Senior VP of Hockey Operations David McNab made that clear in his post-trade comments this afternoon.
"No, it’s not a precursor," McNab said. "You have to have three goalies. Your third has to be somebody that the organization is comfortable can play and can win. That is what we think we have in Justin. This has nothing to do with leading into something else. This is strictly to get depth at a position that you have to be strong in."
And while the 23-year-old Pogge hasn't yet quite come into his own at this level -- he was 1-4-1 with a 4.36 goals-against as a rookie last year and spent most of the season in the minors -- the Ducks have high hopes for him. Pogge showed much of his promise by helping lead Team Canada to the gold at the 2006 World Juniors by putting up some ridiculous numbers: 6-0-0 record a 1.00 GAA, .952 save percentage and three shutouts. He was named the tournament MVP.
He was also very good in the WHL, where with Prince George and Calgary (Ryan Getzlaf's former team), he went 79-44-7 record with 20 shutouts, a 2.29 GAA and .911 SV% in 151 games. Another thing the Ducks like about him is his size -- 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds -- which fits well with the style of your typical netminder in today's NHL.
There has been some chatter that Pogge felt the pressure of living up to the label of "Leafs goalie of the future" and had some struggles while with the big club and the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. McNab addressed that today: "It seems like Canadian goalies sometimes, who were the big stars in the World Junior tournament, they become instant celebrities. Maybe there was added pressure in that situation."
The school of thought is that the expectations will be significantly lessened in the Ducks organization, especially because Anaheim is set with Giguere and Jonas Hiller, and Pogge is being brought in as a No. 3 guy to pull up should one of those two go down with an injury. Said McNab, "A lot of times people look at an organization and say ‘Well, you have to have two good goalies in case you have an injury.’ But should you get an injury, the organizations that are well-prepared are the teams that still would have two good goalies. Should something happen and one of our two guys go down, this would still allow us to bring up someone from the American League, who is capable of playing in the NHL we feel and can win games ... He’s a guy that the coaches will have confidence in and can help you win games, not just play in the games."
And to move Pogge between the minors and Anaheim, the Ducks won't have to worry about clearing him through waivers, which leads us to this week's edition of Things I Didn't Know About the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here's McNab again: "The way that the Collective Bargaining Agreement works is that the skaters – the forwards and defensemen – get three years of pro hockey before they need waivers to go to the minors. But because goaltenders take longer to develop, the CBA is written in such a way that goaltenders can go to the minors for four years before they need waivers. He does not need waivers to go to the American League. He’s in year four."
So there you go.
Now, exactly where that minor league destination will be -- well, that's still undecided.
"We’re still working on exactly where he’ll be playing," McNab said. "But we’re comfortable that we’ll figure something out and he’ll play plenty."
And to answer one other burning question regarding this trade: It's pronounced POH-ghee.
Updated August 6 at 3:51 p.m.
Whether you loved him or hated him, you have to admit the NHL said goodbye to one of the remarkable personalities in the game when Jeremy Roenick announced his retirement today after 20 NHL seasons. Roenick's polarizing personality shouldn’t overshadow the fact that he was one of the best players of his generation. The fact that there is even debate today about Roenick being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame is laughable for a guy who racked up 513 goals and 1,216 points during his career, third-highest among American-born players.
But he brought so much more to the game during his time with Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Jose, some of it not always welcomed with open arms. Roenick was never afraid to speak his mind, and while that didn’t always produce the best results, Roenick remained an entertaining character we just don’t have enough of in this game. In a day and age when clichés like “I’m proud of the effort we had tonight” or “We need to create more chances,” a player who shoots from the hip (even if you don’t always agree with him) is incredibly refreshing.
The Hockey News website has a great list of Roenick’s best quotes. Among them is the gem he threw at Patrick Roy during the conference semifinals between Chicago and Colorado in 1996, when he said that in Game 3 Roy “was probably getting his jock out of the rafters of the United Center.” Although, it was Roy’s retort that has become even more legendary: “I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.” It was a heck of a dig at a guy who is regarded as one of the best players never to win a Stanley Cup, which is an unenviable compliment, kind of like being the coolest guy in your high school never to have kissed a girl.
Today, Roenick said he’d like to be thought of this way: "I want to be remembered as a warrior, as a guy who gave everything on and off the ice, who could hurt you on the scoreboard or in the corner. I want to be remembered as a guy who hated losing more than he liked to win."
Roenick’s legacy in the game stretches even to marginal hockey fans, as he goes down in history as one of the greatest video game athletes of all time (along with Madden ’05 Michael Vick and Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s Punchout). Roenick’s virtual player in the mega-popular NHL 94 video game for Sega Genesis was nearly unstoppable, a fact immortalized in the movie Swingers during a classic scene in which two guys battle it out in a Blackhawks-Kings matchup.
“It’s not so much me as it is Roenick,” says Trent, played by Vince Vaughn. “He’s good.” (That’s just before Trent makes Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed after sneakily taking the game off pause while his buddy wasn’t looking.)
Someone even put together a YouTube compilation of great Roenick NHL 94 goals set to music. It’s entertaining at a glimpse, but if you watch this whole thing, there’s something wrong with you.
Something else occurred to me when Roenick’s retirement was officially confirmed today – how old sports can make us feel sometimes. It’s hard to fathom a guy calling it quits at the age of 39 when you distinctly remember him lighting the rink on fire in his mid-20s. I wrote about it earlier in the week, but it’s tough to take when Scott Niedermayer hints at retirement, and he was born four days after me. And it certainly doesn’t help every spring when his playoff beard has as much grey in it as it does black.
On my way to work this morning, a sports talk show host was saying that “the ageless John Smoltz has been showing his age lately.” I can remember when Smoltz was a rookie with the Atlanta Braves.
And it’s not just sports that make me feel old. On my first day of work here, I met a girl on the Ducks staff, and after a few minutes of talking we discovered we both went to the same high school. I asked her when she graduated. “In 2000," she said. I nearly spit out my coffee.
I’m friends with people who were actually born IN THE ‘80s. One female friend told me she was born in 1984, to which I immediately thought of how well I remembered watching the L.A. Olympics. You know, Carl Lewis, Mary Decker, Mary Lou Retton, a young Michael Jordan. She wasn’t even alive yet for that.
I’m watching the NHL Entry Draft and see kid after kid walking up to that stage with early-‘90s birth years listed on their bios. 1992? That was like yesterday, wasn’t it?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take my pills and see if Matlock is on.
- - -
I neglected to mention this earlier, but you’ll recall that the FanHouse sports website is doing a ranking of the Top 50 NHL Players in which they’re counting down from 50 to 1 and divulging two players per day. Scott Niedermayer made the list at No. 41 and they reveal another Duck on Monday – a little early if you ask me. Ryan Getzlaf came in at No. 19, somewhat surprising for a guy who last year finished sixth in the league in regular season scoring and the only guys who had more playoff points were either a Red Wing, a Penguin (hence more games played) or an Ovechkin. Writer Adam Gretz does acknowledge: If I were taking into account age and long-term upside, and compiling a list of the Top 50 players I'd want to build my team around for the next 10 years, Ryan Getzlaf would definitely be in my top-10, probably in my top-five. As it stands right now, I have him at No. 19 overall, and No. 6 among centers.
Okay, then. I guess he should be in the top 10 then, right?
Oh, one other question – does it really matter?
- - -
Former Ducks (and current Sabres) defenseman Joe DiPenta is writing a blog for The Hockey News website, and in his first installment, he offers an interesting insight into his one year in the Swedish Elite League. Here was his take on the different style of play in Sweden:
Another defining difference is how much less structure there is in terms of teams playing rigid systems. It’s much more run-and-gun there; I can’t count the times I chuckled to myself on the bench thinking, ‘If you made that turnover in the NHL, you’d be sitting for a week.’
- - -
Someone on the Ducks message boards found this Finnish website with a photo gallery of Teemu Selanne. This picture of Selanne sporting an unfortunate mustache while posing in front of Honda Center was apparently taken earlier this offseason, before he headed back to Finland for the summer.
I’m wondering if Teemu is bringing the ‘stache this season. Somehow, I kind of hope not.
Updated August 4 at 3:14 p.m.
There are a few milestone dates that pack special meaning for the Anaheim Ducks and their fans. June 6, 2007 needs no explanation. October 9, 1993 was the first game in Ducks history. Henry and Susan Samueli bought the team on February 25, 2005.
And then there is the one that occurred four years ago today. On August 4, 2005, the Ducks signed Scott Niedermayer to a four-year contract, the biggest free agency signing in franchise history. You could make the argument that without that date in Ducks history, there is no June 6, 2007.
That signing came relatively late in the calendar year because the NHL free agency period didn’t begin until August 1, coming out of the 2004-05 lockout. Niedermayer had been intrigued by the Ducks for the chance to play with his brother Rob, who signed a four-year deal with Anaheim that very same day. Here was then-GM Brian Burke’s quote that day: “Scott Niedermayer is one of the top defensemen in the game today whose skating, puck-moving ability and leadership qualities make him a great addition to our team.”
Little did he know how right he’d be about that.
Less than two years after coming to the Ducks following 12 seasons in New Jersey, Niedermayer led Anaheim to its first Stanley Cup crown, the fourth for him in his career. And while Niedermayer’s elegance has come so often on the defensive end in those four seasons, if not for the goal he scored May 20, 2007, there also may have been no 6-6-07. It’s a goal that has been mentioned in this space seemingly a hundred times, but yet I never get sick of it. In Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against Detroit, Niedermayer tied the game with this goal with 47.3 left in regulation, sending a desperation shot from the slot off the stick of Nicklas Lidstrom, the puck fluttering tantalizingly over the shoulder of goalie Dominik Hasek. And ironically enough, one of the most graceful skaters in the history of the game raised his arms to the rafters while balancing on one knee, then just before his teammates arrived to mob him, he fell flat on his face.
The Ducks would go on to win that game on a Teemu Selanne goal 11:57 into overtime to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in the series. They then won Game 6 at home and 15 days later beat the Ottawa Senators for the Stanley Cup, with Niedermayer taking home a well-deserved first Conn Smythe Trophy.
Since then, Niedermayer has flirted with retirement each of the past three offseasons, including this summer when that original four-year contract had expired. But he ultimately re-signed with the Ducks on July 1 for one year, accepting a slight pay cut to better fit into Anaheim’s salary cap plans.
Niedermayer turns 36 on August 31 (four days after I do the exact same thing) and still remains one of the best skaters this game has ever seen and is still among the best defensemen -- heck, the best players -- in the NHL.
Whether 2009-10 is his last season or not, he’ll take another shot at leading the Ducks to the promised land.
And a chance at another anniversary we’ll never forget.
Updated August 1 at 9:28 p.m.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so this is a pretty appropriate way to describe the way I spent my Saturday.
Yes, it was the annual summer holiday known as Power Player tryouts, but just the second one for me. And it was within seconds of arriving at Anaheim Ice at around 9:45 this morning that I realized things were looking a lot different than last year. Granted, the Power Player wannabes were again dressed in the recommended “uniform” of white tank tops over black spandex pants. But there was so much more of it this year than last.
This year’s tryouts drew close to 100 girls, a record number, which made picking the standouts that much harder.
The true magnitude of the number of girls was first evident when they were led from their gathering place outside Anaheim Ice into the building. That’s where they got puzzled stares from kids leaving their hockey games – and their parents – wondering why they were suddenly surrounded by a hundred cute, 20-something girls all wearing the same outfit with numbers pasted on their backs.
Soon those girls were led into the rink, where they were given an ice-cleaning demonstration set to music by a handful of the half-dozen Power Players from last year’s team in attendance. Then the auditioners hit the ice, where they skated around the rink numerous times to the tune of pop songs like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” or Britney’s “Circus.”
A few of us – including members of the Ducks staff and Skylar Cuarisma from Ducks TV and the Element – used that time to jot down our first impressions of the girls as they skated by. Among the categories in which we scored girls on a 1-through-5 scale were “personality” and “appearance” in addition to “skating ability.”
While I’m sure I was supposed to give a grade to nearly all the girls, somehow I just jotted down scores for the ones I thought were cute. I left the real judging to the real judges. That continued as the skating portion of the auditions got more serious, starting with a starting-and-stopping drill held for five girls at a time. Some girls were great – you could tell the former figure skaters/hockey players – and others … not so great. I made the joke that some girls looked “like a baby deer being born,” to which Skyler responded, “Yeah, that wasn’t funny when you said it five minutes ago.”
You go through life and you never imagine you’ll someday be judging pretty girls on how well they scoop up snow with giant shovels. But that’s exactly what we were doing when they proceeded to the drill involving the exact thing they’ll be doing if they make it as on-ice Power Players. Two-by-two, the girls would gingerly dig up the snow as they skated around cones, handing off the shovel before gliding back to their place at the back of the line. Some of them clearly used the shovel to serve another purpose – as a cane to keep them on balance.
Finally, the ice segment of the day came to a close, and the girls were asked to wait patiently (if not scared to death) as the judges locked themselves in a room and discussed each girl. That included perusing their questionnaires, which included a 10-question Ducks quiz that included questions like “When did the Ducks win the Stanley Cup?” or “Who is the Finnish Flash?” One girl answered the question, “What is the name of the Ducks’ general manager” with the answer, “Boss Man.” I think that was the same girl who answered, “Which Duck was nominated for Rookie of the Year last season?” with the sneaky response, “The first-year player who deserved it the most, of course.”
Eventually, the judges settled on the 25 girls that would move on to the interview portion.The lucky girls’ numbers were posted in order on a list and handed to Ducks Entertainment Manager Chris Brown. He gathered the girls together, no doubt reveling in the fact that nearly 100 attractive 20-somethings were hanging on his every word. He thanked everyone for coming, assured them that they were not judged solely on their skating ability, taped the list on the wall behind him and then scrambled out of there as they all swarmed to get a closer look.
Six dozen girls walked away from the rink disappointed, while 25 waited patiently to be brought into the interview room. And that’s where things got really entertaining. To keep things moving, each girl was asked to tell a little about themselves before being asked two questions: 1. Why did you want to audition to be a Power Player; and 2. How did you prepare for today? They were then asked to pick one of 10 random questions cut into strips and placed in an upside-down hockey helmet.
And it was during those quick interviews that things got entertaining:
- One girl said that if she could be any character in fiction, she would choose one of the characters in “Happy Feet,” which in case you didn’t know, is a movie about animated penguins.
- One said she played hockey for 12 years, while another said her sister played at Boston University and gave her the skates she used today. That same girl said if she could be any superhero, she’d be Wonder Woman, “because she’s girly but badass.”
- One girl admitted she brushed up on her skating by looking for instruction on YouTube. She also said her pet peeve is people who use the word “literally” improperly. (Girl after my own heart.)
- A former player at the University of Delaware said she moved here from Philadelphia two weeks ago and is already having cheese steaks shipped out here.
- The girls who said they looked at AnaheimDucks.com to brush up on the Ducks before the audition definitely scored points with me. That was especially true for the girl who said she “read Ducks Blog a lot.”
- One said she likes how the Power Players “are going places in life, and they’re not just interested in getting ‘discovered.’”
- Speaking of going places, one auditioner had a degree in biochemistry from UC Riverside. Yikes. Another was a chemical engineer for the Southern California Gas Company and is working on her MBA. Another speaks Italian and French in her job as a translator for an export company.
- One girl said one of the highlights of her day was getting to hug Wild Wing, and that she bought her skates on Ebay for $5. (Unfortunately, “ability to find bargains” is not one of the criteria for Power Player hopefuls.)
- Asked who she would trade places with for a week, one gal said “Michael Jackson, just so I could see what really happened.”
- A dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe said she moved here from Northern California and switched from being a Sharks fan to a Ducks fan (“and my dad is not happy.”)
- Our last girl of the day gave us possibly our biggest laugh. When asked how she prepared for today she said she practiced her skating, read up on the Ducks and … brushed her teeth. “I brush my teeth a lot,” she said, before pausing and nervously adding, “I don’t know why I told you that.”
We were still shaking our heads about that one when the interviews ended and we commenced talking about the girls behind their backs. That was a good 5 1/2 hours after the day had commenced with close to 100 anxious hopefuls ready to show their stuff.
Now that group will be whittled down to the handful of girls who will be called back for second interviews, the best of whom will be chosen for the remaining spots not taken up by those chosen to return from last year’s squad.
Heck, it’s just like picking a hockey team – aside from the bare midriffs, the spandex, the shovels and …
Okay, it’s not like that at all.
Updated July 31 at 3:09 p.m.
A few thoughts for a Friday afternoon:
- While the announcement that Ryan Getzlaf underwent surgery on a sports hernia surgery on Wednesday had some Ducks fans worried, all signs point to him being ready by training camp. Getzlaf aggravated the injury during offseason workouts and it didn’t get better in time, so surgery was recommended by Ducks doctors. With a little more than 40 days until training camp opens in September, Getzlaf has plenty of time to recover, and should be at full strength come training camp.
- If I can put on my Ducks marketing hat for a quick second, if you’re not already a season seat holder, tomorrow is your first crack at tickets for 2009-10. Half-season and mini plans go on sale at 9 a.m., and there are seven different packages to choose from, including a new 15-Game Pick ‘Em plan that gives you some more flexibility. With the discounts on each ticket and a bunch of other benefits, it’s a great move if you’re planning on seeing a handful of games next season.
- Speaking of tomorrow, it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Power Player tryouts will be held at Anaheim Ice starting at 10 a.m. We’ll have photos from the auditions and my commentary, hopefully by tomorrow afternoon.
- And ALSO tomorrow, NHL.com will start its feature entitled “30 Teams in 30 Days” in which each day they will feature a “state of the team” story complete with video highlights. Meanwhile, the NHL Network is running a televised piece on each team in conjunction with the NHL.com feature, at 3 p.m. Pacific. Up first, alphabetically, is your Anaheim Ducks, so tune in tomorrow afternoon. (Although, the listings aren’t showing it right now, so we’re just going to have to trust them.)
- Yesterday was the four-year anniversary of the Ducks taking Bobby Ryan second in the NHL Entry Draft. It took a little while, but I think that turned out pretty well.
- Almost as exciting as the start of the 2009-10 NHL season is the release of the new NHL 2010 video game from EA Sports, the latest in the series that is by far my favorite video game on the planet. (I’m 35 years old. Why do you ask?) This year’s game promises to be better than ever, with advanced player movements, new first-person fighting, more authentic board play and increased fan interaction, including fans banging on the glass. Best of all, the new version allows more mixing it up after the whistle, which I always thought was lacking in last year’s version of the game. (I want to really blast a guy who has the audacity to take a shot after the whistle, and apparently the new version allows that).
Anyway, there is a trailer for the new game that has both good and bad elements for Ducks fans. Good: Mike Brown face-washing Joe Pavelski of the Sharks and Ryan Getzlaf ripping a slapshot. Bad: Getzlaf getting drilled by a check from Christian Erhoff of the Sharks and the montage at the end of the trailer that shows players from the Bruins, Predators, Devils, Canucks, Hurricanes, Blackhawks and even the Oilers lifting the Stanley Cup – but no Ducks. No respect.
- Opening night is not for another 64 days. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pull out a few more eyebrow hairs.
Updated July 23 at 3:28 p.m.
Since the 2009-10 NHL season is 2 1/2 months away, the guys on the hockey side of the FanHouse sports website have gotten bored and come up with a ranking of the Top 50 NHL Players. They're counting down from 50 to 1 (also undoubtedly known as Alex Ovechkin) and revealing one per day. Today was No. 41: a Ducks defenseman named Scott Niedermayer. It's a seemingly low ranking for a guy who is a surefire Hall-of-Famer, a defensive savant, one of the best skaters in the game, a guy who has won four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe and a Norris. If he's ranked there because he's turning 36 next month, let's not forget that he's scored more points in each of his last three full seasons than any other campaign of his career.
If there are 40 players in the league better than Scott Niedermayer, I'd love to see them. But then again, maybe I'm biased.
I would imagine the Ducks will have at least one more guy on this list as they count down to No. 1.
Niedermayer's attributes are delivered on this page, the best part of which is the video at the bottom that shows him scoring a coast-to-coast goal in Game 2 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Final against the Red Wings, in which he literally skates around all five guys. It's actually funny to watch him skating that hard, since he doesn't really move that way anymore. These days, he seemingly covers that much ground that fast in about three strides, his heart rate remaining at the same level as when he's eating a turkey sandwich.
Also, notice the double fist-pumps on the post-goal celebration in that video. That's been replaced in the later part of his career by a suble "yeah-I've-done-this-a-million-times" nod of the head, like on this overtime game-winner against Vancouver earlier this year. (This video is also a good look at the difference in skating styles.)
Here's something else you probably won't see from Scott Niedermayer anymore. And I think that's probably a good thing.
Updated July 22 at 3:43 p.m.
A few random thoughts for a Wednesday afternoon:
- Holy lord, has it really been six days? My apologies.
- A few people have written that the Ducks should form a second line of Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Petteri Nokelainen and call it "The Finnish Line." Not bad. But probably not gonna happen.
- Got to like the Pacific Division right now if you're a Ducks fan. The Coyotes are a mess. The Sharks have done little to improve themselves, aside from re-signing Rob Blake and Ryane Clowe and bringing back Kent Huskins for an outrageous $3.4 million over two years. The Stars have remained relatively quiet and very old. And the Kings have made a minor splash by trading for Ryan Smyth and signing Rob Scuderi away from the Penguins. Found this cartoon from the Battle of California blog that pretty much sums up the summer activity of the three Cali teams.
- When I go from my car to my office (and back) over the past week, I walk past giant elephants, two types of tigers, horses and other assorted animals. It's kind of surreal. And smelly. This never happened when I worked at Jack in the Box. Well, sometimes I would walk past kangaroos.
- Remember that rumor when you were younger that Jack in the Box used kangaroo meat in its burgers? That never made sense to me. Why would you use kangaroo meat when cow meat is drastically cheaper? I think that ranked up there with the rumor that the "Mikey Likes It" kid died from mixing Pop Rocks with Coke.
- Speaking of Jack in the Box, would that restaurant even exist without alcohol? How many times have you visited a Jack in the Box when you weren't drunk at 2 a.m.? Ever?
- Mark Whicker of the O.C. Register has a nice feature on Joffrey Lupul and how much he loves living in Newport Beach. I liked this quote from Lupul on his return to the Ducks: "I've been thinking about it a lot," he said. "I want to make a breakthrough. I've always been the secondary scorer, the guy who's been pretty productive but hasn't really taken a lead role. I want to change that this year, to go up a notch."
- FYI, Lupul will wear No. 14 next season, Saku Koivu will wear 11 and Nick Boynton will wear 4.
- I can't tell you how thrilled I am that "Entourage" has come back, even though the first two episodes of the new season have been about a B to B-minus at best. Still, has Sloan ever looked hotter? And this last episode they introduced a new love interest for "E" who is cute, but so odd-looking she could legitimately be anywhere from 14 to 24.
- I can't help it. I've watched the last four episodes of "The Bachelorette." I don't know why. I think it's because I'm trying to figure out if Jillian is actually good-looking. I know I'm not the first person to write this, but she literally goes from "cute" to "yeesh" from one camera shot to the next. Still, I’m rooting for Ed, because he looks a lot more like me than the other (pretty boy) finalist. And you have to wish good things on a guy whose, um, inability to perform has been broadcast to a national audience.
- Still, the best thing on TV this summer remains reruns of "How I Met Your Mother" and new episodes of "Rescue Me."
- Tom Watson, why did you do that to us?
- First Michael Jackson and now the "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" dog? This is almost too much to take.
- Black Eyed Peas. I just don't get it. Nickelback? I really don't get it.
- Marian Hossa apparently has an injured right shoulder that could require surgery and may keep him out until December. I can't quite think of the word that applies to this, but I think it rhymes with schmarma.
- Del Mar had its opening day today. Definitely a good thing.
- Boy, how Todd Fedoruk's career has taken an odd turn the last few seasons. You'll recall that after spending the entire 2005-06 season with Anaheim, he was traded back to Philadelphia (where he has family) by Brian Burke 10 games into the 2006-07 season. Seven months later, his former Ducks teammates won the Stanley Cup. That offseason, he signed with the Dallas Stars, but played limited minutes before being put on waivers and claimed by Minnesota. Following that season, he signed with Phoenix, where he seemingly fit in well and played 72 games. And just today, he was traded to Tampa Bay with defenseman David Hale for winger Radim Vrbata. His nickname his entire career has been "Fridge," which is ironic because refrigerators are really hard to move. Seriously, does Fedoruk even bother unpacking his boxes anymore? Has any player been with more teams over the past four years?
- The Islanders have reportedly signed former Flyers No. 1 goalie Marty Biron to a one-year deal worth $1.4 million. That's after they inked 39-year-old former Oiler Dwayne Roloson to a two-year deal during the monster free agent signing day. It all makes you wonder about the future of Rick DiPietro, who missed all but five games last year with knee problems and has had major problems with his other knee and hip. DiPietro is poison for a potential trade, since he is entering the fourth season of a 15-year, $67.5 million contract. But the Islanders needn't worry, since they can let him go to free agency ... in 2021. That's the same year that Sidney Crosby is scheduled to move out of Mario Lemieux's house.
- I happen to like Facebook, but I also think it’s made a lot of people forget that no one really gives a damn about their lives. How much do you think people care that “Stacy is going to bed” or “Ryan is eating a burrito”? Enough already.
- The two great things about the movie "Funny People" opening on July 31 is A.) It looks like a funny movie; and B) We won't have to watch the trailers anymore. That also applies to "The Ugly Truth" with Katherine Heigl, which doesn't look funny at all.
- Seventy-three days until opening night. Good God.
Updated July 16 at 3:31 p.m.
We tend to poke fun at people with too much time on their hands, but more often than not, we appreciate the substance that time has produced.
A recent example comes from a writer named Dirk Hoag from the On the Forecheck hockey blog, who has quickly come out with his NHL Super Schedule for the 2009-10 season. Through a highly detailed spreadsheet, Hoag examines the schedules of each of the 30 NHL teams, including the travel distances between each NHL game, days elapsed since the previous game, etc.
And just as we would have suspected based on their far western location, the Ducks are near the top of the league in travel distance. Next season they are scheduled to log 49,068 miles (not counting that pain-in-the-neck drive to LAX), trailing only Calgary (55,331), Dallas (51,182), Phoenix (49,707), and Edmonton (49,191). Of those five traditionally far-traveling teams, only two made the playoffs last year, and the Ducks were the only one to make it past the first round.
The Ducks will have a slightly tougher road than last year, as they'll travel 1,158 miles more (they ranked seventh in the league in mileage last year). The league average is 40,782 miles, with Buffalo having the easiest path with just 25,911 planned this season, thanks to relatively frequent and quick flights to places like New York, New Jersey, Boston and Toronto. Although, that didn't help the Sabres last year, as they missed out on a playoff spot by two points.
The Ducks, you might recall, leapt into the postseason thanks to a 10-2-1 finish to the regular season. Not coincidentally, that was during a stretch where, aside from one trip to Nashville, they never traveled further east than Colorado. That's pretty typical of the final handful of games in most teams' schedules, as again this year the Ducks play all Western Conference teams in their final 12 contests of the regular season.
The Ducks get a bit of a break with one fewer set of back-to-back games this season (17 versus 18). There was some grumbling within the organization about the number of back-to-backs the Ducks faced last year, as their 18 was well above the league average of 15.1. But they didn't lead the league, tying with New Jersey and Philadelphia (18) and trailing St. Louis (19) and Columbus (a whopping 20). More irony, all five of those teams made the playoffs.
Next season New Jersey will be faced with 19 back-to-backs, tying with Chicago for most in the league. Ottawa and Edmonton somehow escape with just 11 (but those two franchises need all the help they can get).
Hoag lauded the NHL for somehow managing to decrease the number of hated back-to-backs despite jamming the Olympic break into the middle of the season: How'd they do this? Well, there are many more games on the total schedule which have one day off in between (1,359 in the upcoming season, as opposed to 1,250 last year). Just as games after 1 day off have gone up, games after 2, 3, or 4 days off have gone down by a similar amount (682 to 581). So basically the NHL took those longer breaks and compressed down quite a bit, while avoiding a rash of back-to-backs. Kudos to them on that score.
Along those same lines, I have a tremendous amount of awe and respect for the NHL schedule-makers, despite complaints in this space in the past. How they manage to weave together an 82-game schedule for 30 teams while dodging arena conflicts like concerts, family shows, other sporting events, etc., is beyond me.
That being said, one team that can really cry foul is the Vancouver Canucks, who did some campaigning with the league to have their travel distance cut down, and they got a decrease from 51,206 miles last year to 48,221 this year. But that probably isn't all that pleasing to the Canucks, considering they face a brutal 14-game road trip around the Olympic break that sees them play zero home games in the month of February.
One of the teams getting a well-deserved break in travel this year is San Jose, having 9,696 miles cut off their travel from last season. They led the league with an eye-opening 56,111 miles logged last season, but it obviously didn't hurt them too much as they racked up the best regular season in the league.
Of course, they seemingly ran out of gas again come playoff time, as they were eliminated in the first round by ...
... um ...
... I can't remember. Let me get back to you.
Updated July 15 at 2:16 p.m.
With all that has gone on so far this summer, Ducks fans have been eagerly anticipating the start of next season.
And with today's release of the 2009-10 schedule, we know exactly how it will map out.
The Ducks open the regular season at Honda Center on Saturday, Oct. 3 in a highly intriguing rematch with a San Jose Sharks team that Anaheim dispatched in the first round of last year's playoffs. That Saturday game represents some new ground for a Ducks regular season schedule. First of all, it's the first time the Ducks have ever opened on a Saturday at home. In addition, that game is one of six Saturday home games the Ducks will have this season. Believe it or not, they've only had eight in their previous 16 seasons in the NHL.
That influx of Saturday games is a direct result of fan input, as many of you have indicated you would like to see more Saturday games on the schedule. Now the Ducks have a fairly even balance of five Friday home games, six Saturday home games and seven Sunday home games. The club will hear input from fans again this season on how that all works out and make a decision going forward on future regular season schedules.
After the season opener, the Ducks have Saturday home dates with St. Louis on Oct. 17, Columbus on Oct. 24, Phoenix on Nov. 7, San Jose on Nov. 21, Phoenix on Dec. 19. That last one is a 1:05 p.m. start, while all the others are 7:05 p.m.
(We're currently working on making the schedule downloadable to your Outlook calendars, so stay tuned for that.)
Just like with last year's schedule, which thankfully incorporated fewer intra-divisional games and more games against the Eastern Conference, the Ducks will play six games each against Pacific Division teams, four against each of the other Western Conference teams and 18 against the East. The Ducks play each NHL team at least once.
Three of those games against the East come pretty much right off the bat, as the Ducks follow that opener at home with a four-game road trip that starts at Minnesota and continues on with Eastern stalwarts Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. That Flyers game on Oct. 10 holds some extra cache because it will be the first time the Ducks will see Chris Pronger as an opponent since 2005-06, while the Ducks will counter with former Flyers Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa.
That trip is followed by a stretch from Oct. 14 through Nov. 7 in which the Ducks play nine out of 10 at home, the only road match being on Halloween night at Phoenix. Granted, the Ducks weren't especially great at home for most of last year, but that run looks like a golden opportunity for Anaheim to establish itself early as the class of the league.
Among the highlights of that stretch is a Oct. 26 date with Francois Beauchemin and the Maple Leafs, for which I'm assuming their general manager will make the trip with the team. Then on Nov. 3, the defending champion Penguins come to town, the first time they've been to Honda Center since 2006-07. The Ducks will play home and road games against the Penguins, Bruins and Lightning and take on every other Eastern Conference team just once.
The Ducks have another delicious first-half homestand starting in the middle of November, when they play seven in a row at Honda Center. That leads into a month-long run starting Dec. 3 in which Anaheim plays 12 out of 16 games on the road. In each of the five seasons since I've been here (since the lockout), there have been two certainties about the schedule. One is that Anaheim always plays at home in the afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving (this time Nov. 27 against Chicago on 1:05) and the other is that they're on the road over Christmas (this time at Colorado, Phoenix and San Jose over Dec. 22-26).
Anaheim's other lengthy homestand comes in March, where Saku Koivu's first game of his life against the Montreal Canadiens comes March 7 and kicks off seven in a row at home through the 21st.
This season's Ducks schedule starts six days earlier than we kicked if off last year. That's partly to account for the break the NHL takes for the Olympics in Vancouver, in which the Ducks don't play a game between Feb. 14 and March 3.
Oddly enough, the Ducks don't battle the Kings at home until Dec. 1, and then not at Staples Center until Jan. 14. Other home wins (I mean, games) against L.A. come Feb. 8 and April 6.
Down the stretch during a critical time when the Ducks might be playing for a division title, they play at L.A. on April 3, at home against the Kings on April 6, then Dallas and St. Louis back-to-back on April 8 and 9 before closing the year at home against Edmonton on April 11. On paper, that looks like relatively smooth sailing to close the regular season. Then again, on paper, Columbus and St. Louis didn't look like playoff teams last year.
Really, there's no sense in looking that far ahead just yet. It all starts Oct. 3 at home against the Sharks, a night that can't get here soon enough.
Updated July 13 at 3:36 p.m.
It's funny how things can change over such a short period of time.
Who would have thought as recently as four months ago that Ducks fans would be thinking to themselves, Thank GOD we re-signed James Wisniewski. But with the departures of Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin over the last couple of weeks, and a handful of new guys scheduled to fill their voids, the return of Wisniewski became more and more vital.
Today's signing, for a significantly higher amount than the $900,000 Wiz made last year, was somewhat surprising by the indications Bob Murray had given last week. While discussing the state of the Ducks following the Saku Koivu signing, Murray suggested that all signs pointed to the Ducks going through with the scheduled arbitration hearing with the 25-year-old Wisniewski.
"Guys are coming out of their first couple of contracts, when they have arbitration rights, you’re seeing those built-up numbers," Murray said, referencing Brian Burke's prediction of exactly that after the Dustin Penner offer sheet fiasco. "As a result, you have people thinking that they are worth a lot of money before they have proven they are worth a lot of money. With Wiz, I’m not going to jump and give him a lot of money and a lot of term until I am damn sure he can prove what he can be. We’re probably going to end up at arbitration and arbitrations are ugly, but that’s where we are headed right now."
Indeed, arbitrations are ugly, and it's thankful things didn't come to that with Wiz, since it's basically a session of the team trying to sign you publicly pointing out why you're not worth the money you're seeking. Needless to say, that leads to some hard feelings, even if you do bring the guy back. Instead, the Ducks and Wiz agreed on a one-year deal over the weekend, and even though he would have preferred something long-term, he conceded it was fair.
“Sometimes it’s rough coming off a bunch of one-year deals,” Wisniewski said this afternoon. “But I can understand where Bob and the Ducks are coming from. They want to see my play a season of injury-free hockey. Hopefully after that, I can become a Duck for a really long time.”
In four NHL campaigns, Wisniewski has yet to play a full season. He tore his ACL in March of the 2006-07 season and missed the rest of the year after playing 50 games. He missed the beginning of last season after having knee surgery and played 48 games between the Blackhawks and Ducks. But it was after coming to Anaheim at the March 4 trade deadline that Wisniewski proved his worth. Ducks fans quickly fell in love with his tenacity and gritty play, never more so than in the postseason.
Wisniewski was carted off the ice on a stretcher during a very scary moment in Game 3 of the Detroit series, having taken a puck to the chest and then an elbow to the face from Tomas Holmstrom. Wisniewski was diagnosed with a lung contusion and was forced out of Game 4. The morning of that game, Wisniewski stood in front of a gathering of reporters asking him about the incident. And he spat out the stuff that the Ducks are often thinking but rarely say publicly.
"I had to look at the replay and see it. I didn't know I was skating around for another 10 seconds after taking the initial blow. I was kind of out of it the whole time I was skating around. I remember getting hit in the face and that was pretty much about it. I look back and I see that it was a blatant elbow. I was hunched over, coughing up blood and I got a blatant elbow. That shows a little bit of a gutless play by one of their players, not mentioning any names.
"If it was Chris Pronger, I think all you media guys would make a biiiig deal about how dirty the Anaheim Ducks are. But since it's the Detroit Red Wings, I guess it's all okay."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the day Ducks fans fell in love with James Wisniewski.
The personality has always been a bonus you get with Wiz, as partially evidenced by this video he did while with the Blackhawks in which he serves as a mulit-faceted hotel employee while donning full uniform and equipment. Sure, the guy can't whistle to save his life, but this is some good stuff.
I did think it was a little over the top that after signing the contract, Wisniewski proclaimed, "Nobody beats me because I'm the Wiz!" But to each his own.
Things will be different for Wiz in Anaheim from this point on. He goes from a guy who could hide behind the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin to the guy who is now the third-highest-paid defenseman on a team that prides itself on its defense.
Of course, that defense-first mentality has softened a bit in the wake of the Ducks' offseason developments, but it hasn't changed all that much according to Randy Carlyle. In a conversation with the O.C. Register's Dan Wood, Carlyle said that despite Anaheim sacrificing some d-men to bring in more scoring, “What we’d like to do is remain focused on defense as much as possible. That’s not going to change. That’s how we have to play. What it boils down to is our competitiveness night in and night out."
In other words, we may have lost some talent on that blueline, but if the guys we have bring it every night, we're still strong back there.
“We feel with the moves we made," he continued, "we won’t have to create as many scoring chances to get rewarded, but the game is still won by defense.”And that defense got a lot stronger this morning.
Hard to believe, but we're a little more than two months away from hockey coming back here, as the Ducks' preseason schedule was released today with the Ducks playing the first of four consecutive nights starting Sept. 16 at home against Phoenix.
We're expecting the regular season schedule to be finalized in the next few days, and while it's not official yet, it looks like you can expect a few Saturday home games this year.
Updated July 10 at 3:42 p.m.
The signing of defenseman Steve McCarthy won't exactly set this place on fire, and certainly not in the wake of the Saku Koivu signing of two days ago and heck, even yesterday's Nick Boynton deal.
But it's a nice piece of insurance for the Ducks to bring in another veteran blueliner, especially when Anaheim looks like it will have a battle for its last d-man spots among a group of guys without a ton of NHL experience. That includes Brett Festerling, Brendan Mikkelson and Brian Salcido, not to mention the fact that 19-year-old Luca Sbisa (acquired in the Lupul-Pronger deal) looks poised to vie for one of the top-four spots. And keep in mind, James Wisniewski is still scheduled to go to arbitration with the Ducks, who hope to re-sign him, but may be forced to walk away if the abitrator's decision is a salary the Ducks can't afford.
So bringing in a guy like McCarthy at $575,000 is a depth move by the Ducks, and time will tell whether he'll play himself into a spot in training camp. McCarthy has played 302 NHL games with the Blackhawks, Canucks and Thrashers, but spent last year out of the NHL and played 18 games in the Kontinental Hockey League for UFA Salavat Yulayev (by far my favorite KHL team).
“He has something to prove,” said Bob Murray of McCarthy. “He can add some depth, and you can never have too many defensemen.”
McCarthy was taken 23rd by Chicago in the 1999 draft, coincidentally two picks after Boynton was selected by Boston. Those two add to what has become a staggering list of first-rounders on the Ducks roster.
That includes all of the projected top-six forwards (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selanne, Koivu, Lupul), a defensive unit that includes the two new guys with Niedermayer, Whitney and Sbisa and a goalie named Giguere (Hiller was undrafted). What does all that mean for the Ducks? Well, not a whole heck of a lot. But it's still interesting. Kind of.
By the way, you know how many guys we have left from the '07 Cup team? Eight. That's right, eight. Weird.
- - -
Every once in awhile something happens that makes me truly appreciate how unique it is to work in this place. I got another reminder with an all-staff email I just received that included this line:
For those of you interested in the elephant walk on Monday, it is tentatively scheduled for 12:30, but we will pass on additional info as we get it.
Explanation: The circus is coming to the arena starting next week. But seriously, how many of you get a work email like that?
- - -
I'm a little late in mentioning it since it no longer affects the Ducks, but the Iowa Chops franchise has been suspended by the AHL for the 2009-10 season. The shame of this is not just that there will no longer by a minor league hockey team named the Chops (at least for the next year), but that there will no longer be ice girls called the Baby Backs.
- - -
One of my favorite writers on the planet is Bill Simmons (a.k.a The Sports Guy) on ESPN.com. Every so often he writes a "mailbag" column in which he answers questions sent in by readers. He got one in his latest column about the fact that Sidney Crosby has lived with Mario Lemieux ever since he was drafted by the Penguins and continues to live there to this day even though he's now 21. Here is the reader question and Simmons' response, which I am pasting in here because it's a very funny take on just how unique our game is:
Q: I still can't get over the fact that Sidney Crosby has been living with Mario Lemieux since he was first drafted. Can you imagine any other sport in which the No. 1 pick would go and live with his team's owner?
-- Darren Low, Toronto
SG: Couldn't agree more, and I have been thinking about it ever since it was mentioned during the finals and I said, "Wait a second, he's STILL living there?" I always thought hockey differentiated itself from other sports with the Canadian connection, playoff beards, fighting, the Cup, coming back into a game 10 minutes after taking 50 stitches in the face from a slapshot and everything else of that ilk. But you're right -- Crosby/Lemieux should be the first thing mentioned in any "Why are hockey players different than all other types of athletes?" conversation. If Matthew Stafford moved in with the Detroit Lions' owner, we'd think it was the weirdest thing that ever happened and make him a running joke every time he threw an interception: Look out, Matthew, you're gonna get grounded! Uh-oh, they're gonna take cable out of your room! That kind of stuff.
In hockey? You could tell me any story about an NHL player, and I'd believe it. You could tell me Crosby and Geno Malkin share a condo, a bedroom and a bunk bed … I'd believe it. You could tell me the Maple Leafs soak their hands in deer urine before games because it makes their knuckles stronger … I'd believe it. You could tell me Chris Chelios is still playing at age 46 … I'd believe it. (What? He is?) You could tell me all NHL teams travel by bus and not plane … I'd believe it. Hockey players are a different breed. That's why we love them.
You know how I started the Tyson Zone for athletes who pass the point of craziness and eventually you'll believe any story about them? I'd argue that there's also an NHL Zone -- you could pick any NHL-related story, real or made up, and tell another sports fan that story, and they'd have no choice but to believe it. Why? Because of moments like, "Yeah, the captain of the Stanley Cup champs still lives at his owner's house even though he's 21."
Updated July 9 at 4:14 p.m.
To give you a better idea of the guy we're getting in Saku Koivu, the former Canadien took part in a nearly half-hour conference call with Montreal media yesterday afternoon. That was soon after he had already taken part in a call with local and national reporters who will be covering him in Anaheim.
"The man, husband and human being I am today are because of the experiences I had in
"I have a special thanks," Koivu continued, stopping in mid-sentence to seemingly regain his composure, "for all the Montreal Canadiens fans in the province of Quebec. I want to thank them for the support I got from them. For all these years, especially the year I went through my cancer treatments.
"I think and I know that I'm a better person after these years. I've learned a lot from Montreal and I will never forget the years that I spent there."
Koivu's mention that playing in Montreal is "not an easy place always" to play clearly comes from the scrutiny that Habs players endure from fans and media in that city. Having been the captain the last 10 years, he took it more than anyone. One of the criticisms thrown at him over the years -- if you can believe it -- was that he never became fluent in French.
"In an ideal world I would have loved to speak French fluently, and for myself it would have been an unbelievable gift," Koivu said yesterday. "I think sometimes the criticism went too far with it. I came to
I'm sure if he doesn't utter the word "dude" enough in interviews while he's in Orange County, fans and media will bury him.
"In one way it's going to be easier in a place like
Boy, is he going to love it here.
You can hear Koivu's entire conference call at www.habsinsideout.com. To get to it, you'll have to scroll past a few Koivu tributes that will give you some indication of just how much he'll be missed in Montreal. There is this touching YouTube video put together by a fan and set to the tune of "The Scientist" by Coldplay (a song that always works for something like this). You'll also see a farewell feature written by Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette in which he writes: Koivu formally exited the Canadiens with the hallmark dignity and class that he’s displayed during 14 years in Montreal, a city that more than once did not deserve him ... Anaheim doesn’t yet realize the quality of the man they’ve just signed. Montreal knows full well what it has lost.
Just think how it would affect Orange County if Teemu Selanne left Anaheim for another team and multiply it by a thousand. That's how Koivu leaving has impacted Montreal. We've gathered together some snippets from stories written about Koivu in the past couple of days to give you an even better idea of his impact as a player and as a man. Check them out.
The 30-year-old Boynton is a physical defenseman, a good skater and puck-mover and extremely reliable in his own end. Think Sean O'Donnell, but with the ability to put up a few more points than OD. He had five goals and 21 assists while averaging 16:35 of ice time in Florida last year, where he arrived as part of last offseason's trade that sent Olli Jokinen to Phoenix. And he was a bargain for Anaheim at one year, $1.5 million. Boynton spent two seasons prior to that with the Coyotes, where he saw the Ducks plenty of times as a divisional opponent.
"I played against the Ducks for several years in Phoenix and they’re a great team," Boynton said today. "I couldn’t be happier to get a chance to play with them. I have a lot of respect for a lot of guys on that team and I’m really looking forward to playing for them."
And how good is Boynton's week going? He's been on vacation in Maui with his girlfriend all week, and today he had to take a break from that vacation to sign with the Anaheim Ducks.
Boynton's got a nice history too, having been a first round pick of the Bruins in 1999 and an NHL All-Star while with the Bs in 2004. He was the first to admit he had his struggles last year in Florida, where he missed some time with a concussion and was suspended three games after clashing with rookie coach Peter DeBoer after a game in which he didn't think he was seeing the ice enough.
“That night, I might have played two shifts,” Boynton said. “All I did was go to the coach after and ask him what the deal was. He had said that his door was always open, and I didn’t do it in front of anyone else. Maybe it was poor timing, but I don’t know what the right time is.
“For what I did, I come off looking like a bad guy and whatever. It just got blown way out of proportion.”
He called last season "a year I’d like to forget." Looking back on that year and those two seasons with a bad team in Phoenix, he added, "Things haven’t gone so well for the teams I’ve been on in the last few years and it’s been a bit of a struggle at times. I just look at this as a fresh start and with the skill level of the players on this team, it’s a great opportunity and I want to take advantage of it."
This officially marks the first and last time you will see the words "Mom Blog" appear in this space.
Updated July 8 at 4:24 p.m.
Happy Koivu Day, everybody.
The signing of longtime Montreal captain and center Saku Koivu is a major move for the Anaheim Ducks, one that addresses a glaring need this offseason -- a second-line center. But Anaheim's acquisition of the remarkable Koivu is one that in the last few days appeared to be a longshot and little more than a rumor.
After all, the 34-year-old Koivu appeared poised to ink a lucrative long-term contract elsewhere after the Canadiens indicated they would not re-sign him earlier this offseason. It also appeared he was bound for Minnesota, where he would join little brother Mikko. Instead, he opted to sign for just one year at $3.25 million with the Ducks, where he will join longtime friend and Team Finland teammate Teemu Selanne (a major factor in his deciding to come to Anaheim).
“The first thing for me was to find a team that is going to be competitive and has a realistic chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Koivu said to reporters via conference call this afternoon. “I loved my time in Montreal, there’s no doubt. But one thing I felt I needed is a new challenge and a new environment to get the best out of me in the last few years of my career. I think at this point of my career it’s the perfect fit and something that I wanted."
In Koivu, the Ducks are getting so much. They're getting a terrific playmaker, a guy who scored more than 50 points each of the last six seasons, someone who takes pride in his defense as well. Just as importantly, they're getting a born leader who had one of the toughest jobs in hockey -- captain of the Montreal Canadiens -- for the last decade, as long as anyone in the 100-year history of the team.
You hear the term "character guy" thrown around a lot in sports, and Koivu may be the cover boy for that expression. Never was that more evident than when Koivu was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in September of 2001 and was expected to miss the entire season while undergoing treatment. He came back on April 9, 2002 to a thunderous and emotional ovation from more than 20,000 at the Molson (now Bell) Centre that lasted a jaw-dropping eight minutes. Watch this video to see just half of that ovation. Even though it's not the best video quality, just try not to get chills.
If you've got the time, there is more compelling Koivu material on YouTube that gives you a better idea about the man. There is this feature on Koivu's battle with cancer and his efforts to bring the first PET scan machine to Montreal through his foundation. And there is this segment on him and his family in which he's described as, "At the rink, all-business, competitive, can't stand to lose" but his wife says he's the opposite at home ("a really easy person to be around.") He describes himself in the segment this way: "I think I'm a very happy person. I love having a good time. I'm a good friend. I'm a person you can trust. And ... um ... I don't know, a very good-looking person."
This is how Koivu kicked off that media session this afternoon: "Good evening from Finland. I guess it’s lunchtime in sunny (hopefully) California. It’s been an exciting day and an exciting last couple of days. After being in Montreal for the last 14 years and not experiencing anything else in the NHL, it’s the first time for me to become a free agent. When that happens there are a lot of question marks and you’re not sure what’s going to happen and where you’re going to end up. Now with me coming to Anaheim, my family and I are extremely happy and extremely excited about this new challenge. If it were up to me, we’d start the season next week."
I'm sure Ducks fans are feeling the same way right about now.
Koivu covered a handful of topics during the call, including his surprising decision to sign a one-year deal when multi-year offers were reportedly on the table. "We’re going from one extreme in Montreal to a very different lifestyle, different weather and hockey not being as big as it is in Montreal," he said. "Being an older player, at this point in my career I felt I wanted to have control of our future. Obviously I’m hoping and I’m confident that things will work out and I’ll play many years in Anaheim. But I thought it was an easier decision to take one year at a time at this point and see how everything works out. We’ll see how we like it there, and if everything works out well, we can spend many years there to come."
He also showed his pensive side when he explained why he didn't opt to go to Minnesota and play with Mikko, even though he admitted his little brother was excited about the possibility. "I kind of felt Minnesota was Mikko’s place in a way, and I wanted him to have his privacy and make his own name there for his career," Koivu said. "I can’t deny, if you think about only the positive side, it would have been a pretty exciting thing. I looked at it, I guess, in a more negative way, and thought, what if this happens and what if things don’t work out? Right now we have such a good relationship and I was afraid to challenge that. You never know what’s going to happen. I thought for me this was the safer option and I felt more comfortable.
Koivu must have called his new home some form of "sunny, beautiful California" at least three times, including when he talked about his buddy Selanne and his failed attempts to get the Flash to come to Montreal when he was a free agent a couple years ago. "Teemu and his family love the sun too much and love California and Anaheim too much to get me to get him to come to Montreal," he said with a laugh. Koivu revealed he and Selanne spoke a few times over the past several days about Koivu coming to Anaheim, but that Selanne "didn't want to push" (sure he didn't).
With the chemistry the two have shown while playing for various Finnish national teams (including the 2006 Olympic silver medalists), Koivu was obviously enthusiastic about the possibility of playing alongside Selanne in Anaheim. But, he said, "at this point in July, I’m not going to start making lines. I’ll let the coaches do that job. It’s a different environment than the Olympics, but I don’t have any doubts that if we play on the same line that it will work."
There's no telling exactly what the top two forward units will look like come the fall, but this right here is pretty exhilarating:
I think I just got chills again.
Updated July 8 at 10:15 a.m.
Breaking news: The Ducks are expected to announce the signing of former Montreal center Saku Koivu later this morning.
More on that later.
Updated July 7 at 4:34 p.m.
After having to endure the loss of veterans Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin over the last week and a half, Ducks fans got a nice piece of news today with the signing of Todd Marchant to a two-year deal.
The numbers don't tell the tale of the impact Marchant has had since he came to Anaheim via waivers from Columbus in November of '05 (coincidentally, just a few days after the Ducks got Beauchemin from the Jackets). He's an incredibly versatile player who has dabbled in nearly every forward position on nearly every line for the Ducks, notably on the penalty kill and as an anchor on the checking line after the Ducks lost Sammy Pahlsson.
He's also unquestionably been one of the Ducks' vocal leaders, something that is even more vital now that Pronger is gone. And he leads as much by his work ethic on the ice as he does in the locker room. That work ethic was never more on display than during this past postseason, when Marchant fought through every game like it was his last, despite limping around away from the rink with what would later be diagnosed as a broken foot. (Marchant had surgery on that foot last month and today said he is confident he'll be healthy in time for training camp.) And we won't soon forget the goal from the left wing to win Game 2 against the Red Wings in triple overtime.
Today's signing is also refreshing since there was hinting around here not too long ago that Marchant was as good as gone. Marchant himself acknowledged he was close to packing his bags when he spoke to reporters this afternoon via conference call from his offseason home in Williamsville, New York. "We certainly had discussed leaving, my wife and I and my agent," Marchant said. "It was pretty close, to be honest."
The stumbling block was the two-year deal Marchant was searching for, while the Ducks were offering just one. Marchant let the Ducks know he was receiving two-year offers from other clubs and wanted the same thing from Anaheim. "I maintained all along that Anaheim was my first choice," he said.
Ultimately, the two sides came to an agreement in which Marchant, who will turn 36 next month, will make $1 million this season and $1.25 million the next. He had been pulling $2.5 million a year as part of a long-term deal he signed with Columbus in 2003. You have to believe he could have gotten closer to that figure this time around if he had gone elsewhere, but Marchant refreshingly maintained that he wanted to stay in Orange County.
"Part of this whole deal is, my family loves Southern California," Marchant said. "I have four children, three in school and they all love it. My wife is very involved in the community as well as the Ducks organization and we felt we wanted to be part of that family."
That line is just another example of Marchant's other admirable quality as a player -- he's a great quote. Here was his take when he was asked if it's hard to put a value on a player like him, since his contributions aren't illustrated in goals and assists: "There are certain people in this game where you have a hard time putting a value on them. They do so many things. It’s easy to put a value on someone who scores 30 goals, scores 60 points, plays on your power play and all that. Someone like myself, on paper, blocking shots, killing penalties, being a leader in the dressing room day to day doesn’t show up on the scoresheet. Successful teams all have players who fill those voids. I’m thankful that the Anaheim Ducks recognize that."
Marchant got a good laugh when he was told that some fan reaction has been that the real bonus of this deal is the Ducks hanging on to his young son, Tim Marchant, who has been a reporter for "The Element" the last couple of seasons. (I myself got a couple emails expressing just that.) "My son, who gets as much airtime as I do these days, was very excited to find out we’re coming back," Marchant said. "And who knows, maybe we’ll see him do some more reporting next season."
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The latest edition of Mike V's blog has a segment in which he talks about his cameo role in the phenomenal movie, "The Hangover" (he's the guy throwing tuxes to the guys out of the moving van on the highway near the end of the film.) I know it doesn't have anything to do with hockey, but I asked him to write about it since I found it interesting how he got involved with the movie.
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By that age, he might not be 6-foot-6 anymore.
For those of you who don't know, Twitter is a social networking website in which you can send and read updates from people, companies, sports teams, etc., that are 140 characters or less. The updates are displayed on users' web pages and delivered to other users who subscribe as "followers." Followers can also receive updates on their cell phones via text messaging if they choose.
The Ducks have had a Twitter account for some time now, in which we post Ducks news and other information. It's previously been maintained by one of our Ducks marketing people, but I've been asked to take it over from now on (since, you know, I'm supposed to be the web guy around here). So, I'll be posting Ducks news and other info, as well as an alert every time this blog has been updated. If you're a Twitter subscriber and want to get updated instantly on such things, go to www.twitter.com/anaheimducks.
Meanwhile, we've launched today yet another way to get your Ducks and Honda Center news instantly with the new Desktop Alert application. You can get updates (via a flying Ducks puck or rising Honda Center marquee) right on your computer's desktop, and you're able to choose specific categories for which you'd like to receive news. You can also change your preferences if you don't want the sounds or animations going off while you're at work. (Although, everybody knows that you would never download something personal on your office computer.) And just like Twitter, you have the option of having updates sent to you via text messaging.
Click here to register and install the Desktop Alert
Updated July 6 at 3:40 p.m.
We all saw it coming, but it's still not easy to stomach -- Francois Beauchemin's days with the Anaheim Ducks are officially over.
Beauchemin today signed a three-year deal with Brian Burke's Toronto Maple Leafs worth an average of $3.8 million per season. It's a tick lower than the reported $4.5 million per year Beauchemin was reportedly being offered elsewhere, but still far out of the Ducks' price range for the 29-year-old defenseman.
Looking back 3 1/2 years ago, it's hard to believe a guy once (incorrectly) considered a throw-in in a trade that brought him to Anaheim from Columbus could blossom into one of the most coveted free agent blueliners on the market. Beauchemin was part of the deal in which the Ducks also got forward Tyler Wright in exchange for Sergei Fedorov. Wright was supposed to be the big acquisition in the deal, but he only played 25 games for the Ducks before being sent down to the minors later that season. He never played in the NHL again.
Beauchemin, meanwhile, was put through a rigorous weight-loss program immediately after he arrived in Anaheim, and soon after was flourishing on the Ducks blueline alongside Scott Niedermayer. He set a Ducks rookie record for defenseman in that first season with 26 assists. And as much as he shined as a puck-mover with an occasional rocket for a slap shot, it was for a few heroic acts that Ducks fans will remember him the most.
First and foremost was the fight he had against Calgary captain Jarome Iginla just more than a minute into Game 6 of the 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Beauchemin didn't hesitate to take on the centerpiece of the Calgary franchise, fooling Iginla into thinking he was a righthanded puncher until the very last second. That's when Beauchemin dropped Iginla with one left cross, but Iginla bravely popped back up, only to take some more punishment before being flipped to the ice by Beauchemin.
The Ducks' backs were against the wall in that Game 6, but fueled by the momentum of that fight, they went on to win that game 2-1, and they pulled off a major 3-0 upset in Calgary two days later to take the series.
It's not all that far-fetched to look at that fight as the turning point in Anaheim's franchise history, a moment that helped send the Ducks on the road to a Stanley Cup title. Following that series, they would go on to sweep the Colorado Avalanche in the second round before being taken down by the Edmonton Oilers and hot goalie Dwayne Roloson in the conference finals. Despite that defeat, they had built the foundation and the confidence of a Stanley Cup contender, and 11 months later they were champs.
And it was during that run that Beauchemin continued to prove his worth. He joined Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Sean O'Donnell to form one of the toughest defensive top-fours in the league. He had two goals in a Game 2 victory over Minnesota in the first round of that postseason, and had a huge one in the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5 against Ottawa.
Beauchemin was struck by a puck late in Game 3 in the first round of those playoffs versus the Wild and suffered a cracked jaw, a lost tooth and an inch-long gash on his chin. He was forced to miss Game 4 after having a plate surgically inserted into his jaw, but came back in Game 5 with a protective device on his helmet. That didn't stop him from playing more minutes than anyone on the ice that night, and he didn't hesitate to throw down with Wild forward Marian Gaborik after he took exception to Gaborik knocking him in the head midway through the second period. After that game, Randy Carlyle said of Beauchemin, “He’s proven to us night in, night out that with his pain threshold, he can take a lot more than some other individuals. He’s a special hockey player. This is just another example of that.”
Yet another example came this past season after Beauchemin went down with a torn ACL injury on Nov. 14 and was supposed to be out for at least six months.
He came back in five.
Beauchemin played the last two regular season games for the Ducks and all 13 playoff games against the Sharks and Red Wings. His one-sided decking of Wings forward Tomas Kopecky was one of the few highlights of a Game 4 loss at Honda Center, and it knocked Kopecky out for the remainder of the postseason. In fact, it was the last game Kopecky would play, since he just signed with the Blackhawks last week.
As admirable as it was that Beauchemin fought back from that knee injury to return to his team before the season ended, in retrospect he was battling for his hockey life. Knowing he was a free agent at the end of this season, the difference between coming back to play in 2008-09 as opposed to missing the duration of the campaign could have meant millions and millions of dollars for Beauchemin and his family. (Who knows which teams would take a chance on a guy who hadn't played since November.) That's some serious motivation to rehab, and it all paid off for Beauchemin this afternoon.
So, good for him, bad for the Ducks and their fans, who will truly miss the quiet, unassuming French-Canadian who was undoubtedly one of the hardest-working guys we've ever had here.
All the best, Franky.
The Ducks' focus now turns to keeping another young defenseman, James Wisniewski, who was among the 20 NHL players who filed for salary arbitration before today's deadline. Essentially the move means Wisniewski would like to remain a Duck, but for a higher salary than the qualifying offer made by the Ducks, which was at least the required 5 percent more than the $900,000 he made last season.
Arbitration hearings will take place starting July 20 in Toronto. If it gets to that point, the two sides will present a contract figure and argue their cases before an arbitrator, who can choose one or the other or any amount in between. If the Ducks don't agree with that number, they have the right to walk away, which would make Wisniewski a restricted free agent.
However, the Ducks would love to come to an agreement with Wiz before a hearing becomes necessary, since the process can become kind of ugly and teams usually try to avoid it. The last time a Ducks player went to arbitration was in 2006 with Vitaly Vishnevski, whom the Ducks traded to Atlanta less than a month after his arbitration hearing went in his favor.
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The daily Helsingin Sanomat quoted Selanne as saying, "The next season is without doubt my last. This time my decision will be kept."
But a Ducks PR guy, wary of Finnish newspaper reports after what the Ducks went through during Selanne's delayed retirement decision two seasons ago, sent a text to Selanne asking him if this report it was accurate. And in no uncertain terms, he said it was not.
Selanne just turned 39 last Friday, and the paper also quoted him on how a player his age fits into today's NHL. "It is a forum for young boys," Selanne allegedly said. "But the right diet, rest and muscle care help to prolong a career. Personally I am injury-free, I feel young at mind and pursue a lot of activities."
Doesn't exactly sound like Teemu Selanne, but the Finnish-to-English translation can apparently produce some doozies.
Pronger was introduced to the Philadelphia media in a press conference held today, in which he wore an orange tie we assume was left over from his days in Anaheim. Pronger announced that he will wear No. 20 in Philadelphia since 25 already belongs to d-man Matt Carle. It's partly because his dad wore 20 in senior hockey back home in Ontario. Pronger was asked is he got some of his hockey skills from his dad and he said, "I hope not" with a laugh. "You obviously haven't seen him play. I took his number, not his game."
Earlier Pronger was asked how he'll defend the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, since he'll face those guys in the East more than he has in the past. With a straight face, he said, “I think you know the answer.”
Updated July 2 at 1:51 p.m.
If you'll allow us a little pat on our own back today, ESPN The Magazine released its seventh annual Ultimate Standings for MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams, and once again, the Ducks did very well. Out of 122 professional sports franchises, the Ducks ranked 11th overall. Over the last three years, the Ducks have ranked an average of first in the NHL and fourth in all of pro sports.
The Ducks were the top NHL team in last year's standings, but this year finished behind Carolina, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington and St. Louis, as seven NHL teams were among the top 10. The Angels ranked first overall, while the Kings were, um, 95th.
Based on a poll of more than 50,000 fans, the study analyzes how much teams “give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them.” Categories evaluated include: Bang for the Buck (wins the past three years per revenues), Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Stadium Experience, Players (effort on the field and likability off it), Coaching and Title Track record (championships won and expected to win in a fan’s lifetime).
The Ducks received their highest rankings in Title Track and Fan Relations. You can see where they ranked in each category by clicking here, which also has this explanation for their ranking:
The Ducks know all about preventing potholes from becoming pitfalls. Need a young sniper to eventually replace aging franchise face Teemu Selanne? Draft relatively unknown Bobby Ryan with the second pick of the 2005 draft, show patience and enjoy the eventual rewards (31 goals, Calder finalist). So don't think that fixing last-year's second-lowest category rating -- Affordability -- was merely a coincidence. In February, the team became the first in the NHL to announce that prices for tickets, and concessions and parking would stay flat in 2009-10. And the Ducks don't stop there. As VP/COO Tim Ryan says, "Keeping tickets affordable for our fans, especially in light of challenging economic times, is very important." So say hello to the $18.50 ticket-dog-soda Track Pack, free programs and fan-friendly contests with a prize list that includes road-tripping with the team and watching a game with the GM in his personal suite. Anaheim also has on-ice talent, winning 11 of its final 15 games before upsetting the No. 1 seed Sharks and pushing the Wings to a Game 7. All of that could make a return trip to the Finals as simple as fixing another pothole.
Incidentally, the Ducks have the 10th-lowest average ticket price in the NHL.
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It appears the Kings are finally deciding to get off their duff in this free agency period, as word has it they have signed defenseman Rob Scuderi, the Game 6 hero for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final. You'll recall that with seconds left in that game, Scuderi made two huge saves in front of the net when Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was out of position, preserving a tense 2-1 victory over the Red Wings.
With the way the Kings' situation in net has been the past couple of years, they may need Scuderi to play second goalie fairly often.
Kings fans have apparently been frustrated with their team's lack of action yesterday -- missing out on guys like Hossa, Havlat and Gaborik -- but GM Dean Lombardi put a pretty good spin on it. “When you’re under the gun and you’d like to do something, that's when you go out and do something that you really don’t like, that you regret, and then you get buyer’s remorse,” he said.
I'm sure a few teams will be feeling that way after some of the deals that were made in a rush yesterday. But for now, all Kings fans are feeling is just plain remorse. Lombardi was incredibly candid in a talk with Rich Hammond of Inside the Kings when talking about the Hossa dealings:
"I got permission to talk to Hossa at the draft. There were three teams, us and two others. Detroit gave me permission, and we started the dialogue at that time. Detroit, if he got signed, they would get compensation. We met with his agent there, at that time, and he was interested in L.A. He said he thinks we could be the next Chicago. But he said, 'That's down the road,' and that's fair, that's realistic. He said it was important to go to a 100-point team. I said, 'I don't know if we can guarantee that, but you're the type of player we're prepared to commit to.' He was the one player we thought was a top player. I don't know that he's a 'mail carrier' type guy, but he's still a top player."
Good stuff. In a league where injuries are reported as "upper body" and a tight lid is kept on virtually everything, give it up to Lombardi for pulling back the curtain a bit.
Nevertheless, Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times, never one to mince words, wrote this in this morning's edition about the Kings' inactivity:
Meanwhile, the Kings watched and wondered when players they consider the "right" fit would consider them the "right" team to play for. Judging by Wednesday's festivities, the answer is never ... The Kings, who have about $14 million in cap space and a burning need for a scorer, had promised fans they'd be active but emerged empty-handed, a result that's tediously familiar.
I think "ouch" is the appropriate word here.
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I want to offer some love for our neighbors across Katella Avenue and for one of the nicest, classiest guys in all of sports when I ask you to get your votes in for Torii Hunter for the July 14 All-Star Game. Hunter, who is having a phenomenal season, is about 145,000 votes shy of Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers for the third starting outfield spot in the American League. You can go online and vote a maximum of 25 times (sound familiar, Ducks fans?), with the deadline being tonight at 8:59 p.m. Pacific.
It might be a little late, but my girlfriend has been asking me to do this the past several days and I keep forgetting. Get your votes in for Hunter by clicking here.
Updated July 1 at 4:43 p.m.
It's been a madcap day since the opening of free agency this morning, with countless players changing uniforms and more money being thrown around than a night at the strip club with Pacman Jones.
From a Ducks perspective, not a lot of action aside from Scott Niedermayer signing to a one-year deal, in which we won't report the terms on here, but you shouldn't have too hard of a time finding it. And despite reports in the past few days -- which ramped up this morning -- that Niedermayer could sign with another team (including Vancouver, Calgary and others), he said today that was never a consideration.
“Sort of an agreement had been there for a while," he said, explaining the delay between last Friday's announcement of his return and his actual re-signing with Anaheim. "There was never any real consideration about having today come. I wasn’t fielding calls from anybody. I never even looked at that.
“Once the decision was made to come back (to the NHL), it wasn’t really a difficult one to come back to Anaheim. We’ve enjoyed it there. The family is very comfortable there. I have good friends on the team. I feel excited just to be part of that club.”Interestingly enough, Niedermayer said the last few seasons with the Ducks have been some of his most enjoyable, particularly because he knows his time in the game is limited. "I think the last few years, I’ve probably enjoyed playing maybe more than I ever have, just realizing that it doesn’t go on forever," he said. "Maybe now I understand even more how fortunate we are to compete in the NHL.”
Ducks GM Bob Murray spoke to reporters later this afternoon, and while commenting on the Scotty signing, revealed a little bit more about the other impending Ducks free agents. Amid reports that Francois Beauchemin will probably be fielding offers that hover around $4.5 million per year, Murray said, “I expect he’s going to get a big number, and that’s the way it’s going to go. It’s way out of my range.”
Murray also said Todd Marchant turned down an offer the Ducks made to him last week and that the team "might" have further discussions with him. While Murray has had plenty of conversations with agent Kevin Epp about Scott Niedermayer, he hasn't talked to him about brother Rob, whom Epp also represents.
Meanwhile, he's still working on finding a deal with James Wisniewski, who looks to be an important re-signing now that Chris Pronger has left and Francois Beauchemin likely could end up elsewhere.
Around the league, there are several deals that have raised some eyebrows:
- Marian Hossa signed for 12 years in Chicago at $62.8 million (an average of just over $5.2 million a year), as the Hawks apparently try to take the Detroit approach of signing their big guys to majorly long deals to spread the money out. Of course, Hossa will be 41 by the time that deal runs out ... err ... the Hawks buy out the remaining years on the contract.
- Speaking of guys who will be on the wrong side of 40 at the end of their deals, Edmonton took the curious approach of signing 36-year-old goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year contract worth $15 million. This came hours after the Oil lost Dwayne Roloson to the Islanders, where he will supposedly back up Rick DiPietro, who signed a staggering 15-year deal in 2006 but has been racked with injuries since. Khabibulin, you may recall, had a pretty good season in Chicago, despite missing time with a groin injury. He was actually put on waivers by the Hawks at the beginning of last season and had no takers. In four years in Chicago, he's seemingly only been good when the Hawks have been good (which wasn't until this past season), so it will be interesting to see what he does in Edmonton.
- The Hawks also lost Sammy Pahlsson, and unfortunately it wasn't because he came back to the Ducks. Pahlsson signed a somewhat surprising three-year deal with Columbus that will pay him $2.65 million per. The most Pahlsson ever made in Anaheim was $1.4 million.
- Speaking of Swedes, the Canucks surprised no one by re-signing the Sedin twins to matching offers, with both getting 5 years, $30.5 million (isn't that adorable?).
- The way I felt when Mike Cammalleri signed a deal with the Montreal Canadiens was kind of how I felt when I heard Scarlett Johansson got engaged. I knew realistically we couldn't have him, but somehow it still made me sad because I really wanted him. Cammalleri, a former Ducks killer during his days with the Kings and a 39-goal scorer last season in Calgary, went to Montreal for five years, $30 million.
- And the Kings? Despite having a boatload of salary cap space and rumors flying around over the big names they might bring in, the Kings did absolutely nothing today. They could still be in the running for Martin Havlat, who led the Hawks in scoring last season. There had also been talks that L.A. might be one of the possible destinations for Sens forward Dany Heatley, who is demanding a trade out of Ottawa. But the latest rumor is Heatley to the Oilers for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and another former Duck, Ladislav Smid. You may recall that Smid was part of the deal that brought Chris Pronger from the Oilers in 2006, so if that Heatley trade came true, that would mean none of the players from that trade (Pronger, Smid and Lupul) are still will the team they were traded to. Either way, the Sens are scrambling to trade Heatley before the clock strikes midnight eastern tonight, because he somehow has a provision in his contract that if he is still with Ottawa after July 1, he's due a $4 million bonus. Cinderella didn't have this much pressure on her.
- Like the Kings, no one else in the Pacific Division made a ton of noise today. Not much of a peep from the bankrupt Coyotes, aside from signing forward Vernon Fiddler away from Nashville. The Stars did nothing more than re-signing Jere Lehtinen to a one-year deal ($1.5 million). And the Sharks, having already re-signed Rob Blake yesterday ($3.5 million for one year) and resigned former Duck Kent Huskins to a two-year deal worth $1.7 million per (whoa).
And we're not even close to being done here. Havlat, Marian Gaborik (Minnesota), Alex Kovalev (Montreal), Saku Koivu (Montreal), Nik Antropov (Rangers), Brian Gionta (New Jersey) and Sergei Zubov (Dallas) are among those still on the market. Are the Ducks in the running for any of them? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.
For now, we're nearing the end of Day 1 of what already has been a rip-roaring free agency period. We haven't seen such a frequent changing of teams since Anne Heche in the late '90s. And there promises to be plenty more where that came from.
Updated July 1 at 12:07 p.m.
We're underway on a stimulating -- and frequently outlandish -- free agent signing day, which began at 9 a.m. Pacific this morning.
And we already have one that affects the Ducks. Reports are that Scott Niedermayer has agreed to terms with the Ducks on a one-year deal.
More on that later.
Meanwhile, among the signings from around the league, one of the more intriguing is that Marian Hossa has signed a 12-year deal for $62.4 million. That makes Chicago that much more fierce, but Detroit a little less so. (But not by much.)
You can follow it all on NHL Network.