September 01, 2010
Colorful characters, revered championships, staged fights ... the rink shares plenty with the squared circle. So here at Puck Daddy, we've decided to preview the 2010-11 NHL season with the help of old-school wrestling icons, images and lingo. It's a slobber-knocker, Mean Gene ...
Last Time on Superstars (2009-10 Season)
After making the playoffs and taking out the No. 1-seeded San Jose Sharks in 2008-09, the Ducks said goodbye to Chris Pronger(notes) and hello to Saku Koivu(notes) and the expectations were high. But those expectations were crushed like your skull in a Baron von Raschke claw as the Ducks couldn't keep pace with divisional insurgents like the Coyotes and the Kings, tallying 89 points for their lowest total since their Disney Ducks days.
Heel Turns (Key Subtractions)
There's no replacing Scott Niedermayer(notes). The veteran defenseman and team captain, who retired after 18 seasons, led the Ducks in average ice time and average shorthanded ice time while tallying 48 points. No wonder fans get violent over his stick. The physical Mike Brown(notes) was traded to the land of truculence and James Wisniewski(notes) to Long Island. Steve Eminger(notes) was traded to the Rangers for Aaron Voros(notes), because that's what happens to Steve Eminger.
Face Turns (New Additions)
The Ducks attempted to address their defensive needs by signing Buffalo Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman(notes) (3 years, $9 million) and the expert skills of Andy Sutton. Defenseman Cam Fowler(notes), of the depressing drop in the 2010 Draft, could make the roster as an 18 year old. Which should tell you something about the state of their blue line.
Irresistible Forces (Forwards)
Assuming Bobby Ryan(notes) answers the bell for the start of the season, the Ducks should have one of the best lines in hockey going for them, which is nice. Ryan, Corey Perry(notes) and Ryan Getzlaf(notes) combined for 209 points last season, with Getzlaf limited to 66 games. They can play physical, they can agitate and they're aces on the power play. Even if they move Ryan off that line, Getzlaf and Perry alone are one of the best duos on hockey.We just regret that Perry and Evgeni Nabokov(notes) can no longer have in-crease love-fests.
Getting Teemu Selanne(notes) back in the fold for another season gives the Ducks offense a dangerous second line. He tallied 48 points in 54 games last year, and will likely combine with Koivu (52 points). They need to get Joffrey Lupul(notes) healthy, as he's still battling complications from back surgery, and get a solid contribution from Jason Blake(notes). But the Ducks can put the puck in the net, ranking seventh in total goals last year.
Wrestler(s) That Best Symbolize the Team
The last incarnation of the legendary Four Horseman, whose membership was down to an aged Ric Flair, Arn Anderson as a manger, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, and occasional cameos by Flair's untalented son David. But they still had the Nature Boy ...
Immovable Objects (Defense)
The personnel losses have finally caught up with the Ducks. Sure, Lydman's a pro and Lubomir Visnovsky(notes) is going to excel as an offensive D-man, even if he's turnover prone. But Sheldon Brookbank(notes), Sutton, Danny Syvert, Luca Sbisa(notes) ... well, it's not exactly Pronger, Niedermayer and Beauchemin back there anymore. Fowler would be an interesting addition, but you can't bet too heavily on a rookie.
Excellence of Execution (Goaltending)
With the blue line in transition, Jonas Hiller(notes) is going to have to put this defense in a fireman's carry and lug it into the playoff picture. Hiller won the starting gig in Anaheim, ending the Giguere era, and proceeded to win 30 games with a 2.73 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He faced over 32 shots per game last season; get used to that and more, sir. Curtis McElhinney(notes) will be the backup.
Match We'd Pay To Watch
George Parros vs. Ryan Getzlaf in a mustache vs. rest-of-his-hair
No. 1 Contender (Breakout Player)
Right winger Dan Sexton(notes) had a decent rookie campaign on right wing (19 points in 41 games) ... problem being that six of his nine goals came in his first month of action. His worked hard this offseason to cement a spot in the lineup.
Jobber To The Stars (Potential Flop)
Rather than a player, we're going with a fashion
accessory here. The Ducks are going to reveal their new third jersey on Nov.
26. It's a franchise that's already given us the Gobbledy
Gooker of awful sweaters in this
gem. Our bar is low.
Selanne skating full-speed and then chipping the puck in delicately over the goalie? Life is unfair. Welcome back for another year, Flash.
Gimmick Matches (Special Teams)
The Ducks were fifth in the League with the man advantage (21 percent), but lost Niedermayer's 27 power-play points. They need Visnovsky to fill that role while Ryan/Getzlaf/Perry do their thing. On the kill, the Ducks were 24th (21 percent) and Niedermayer's loss really impacts them here. Expect Lydman to be among the minutes leaders shorthanded.
Managers and/or Valets (Coach/GM)
Bob Murray had an awesome draft followed by a few months of frustration over Bobby Ryan's free agency. The Ducks currently have over $10 million in cap space.
Is Coach Randy Carlyle long for this League if the Ducks struggle early? Seems there are always those calling for his head, or breaking up with him on blogs. He's a quality coach. But quality coaches get fired every day.
2010-11 Preseason Report Card:
Special Teams: C+
Main Event or Dark Match? (Prediction)
Sadly, the Ducks will not be appearing on the pay-per-view. The division and the conference keep getting better, while the Ducks' blue line isn't. They can put the puck in the net and play a physical brand of hockey, and Hiller's the real deal. They might linger near the bubble, but count on third or fourth in the division and out of the playoffs again.
Anaheim Ducks' Entrance Music to the 2010-11 Season