Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Just like we did last season, we wanted to branch out to the many fantastic bloggers in the NHL. We figured there is no better way to get to know a team than through the people that follow them the most.

The other man in charge of the [Battle of California] is none other than the classy Earl Sleek.
He held the bloggers world championship belt until [Homotown Bill] took it this past June.

Sleek is known for his unreal [pucktoons] and covers the Ducks like we would if we were out West. Insert lack-of-coverage joke here.

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Hey there, Pens nation. Earl Sleek here, Ducks blogger at Battle of California. I'm here to give you enough info on the Anaheim Ducks that you'll never need to visit BoC again!

First, though, let me take a moment and offer my condolences. Yeah, I know it's been tough, watching your playoff team forge a 12-2 record through three rounds of the playoffs (including an opening-round sweep of the defending finalists), only to start the cup finals by scoring zero goals in games one and two. To make matters worse, during the summer your superstar winger goes and signs cheap with an already-cup favorite.

A real pity.

Well, let me tell you a parallel story about a 2003 Mighty Ducks squad, who also forged a 12-2 record through three rounds of the playoffs (including an opening-round sweep of the defending champs), only to start the cup finals by scoring zero goals in games one and two. To make matters worse, during the summer our superstar winger went and signed cheap with an already-cup favorite (Paul Kariya to the Colorado Avalanche, but don't worry -- that didn't work out for anybody).



Donald's Diagnosis: The Stanley Cup Finals version of Avian Flu.

And while I've glossed over a lot (the Mighty Ducks were always underdogs and had a better French goalie), the similarities are striking, no? If the Penguins plan on sticking to the Ducks' storyline, I'll give you a brief roadmap of your next four years:

Year One: Awful. The crash-back-to-earth year. The Ducks finished 29-35-10, good for 12th in the west. Year Two: Even worse. The lockout. Still, you'll probably hire Brian Burke. Year Three: Promising. The Ducks, under new management, lost in the conference finals. Year Four: Success! Cup champs at last.

So chin up, Pens fans! By my faulty logic, you're only four years removed from sippin' from Stanley, and that's not a bad place to be (though I'll warn you, it might involve a new team name and logo). Year Five, by the way, you'll be riddled by semi-retirements and suspensions, and that brings us to Year Six, which is probably what I should have been writing about this whole time.

2008-09 Ducks Preview: (at last) The good news, compared to last year, is that the two semi-retirees Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne will start the season as players. The bad news is that even without Selanne, the Ducks are over the salary cap and need to trim that quick. I'm going to write this with the assumption that Selanne is in and Schneider and Marchant are somehow gone, but I'll add a quick mention on each of them in case Brian Burke has other cap-compliance schemes.

Overview: This year might represent the end of the Brian Burke era in Anaheim, and more importantly it probably represents the end of the Niedermayer-Pronger era on the blueline. Scott, of course, sat out the first 34 games last season, including the Ducks' whirlwind England excursion, but the results when he came back were pretty scary. The final 48 games with Niedermayer in the lineup the Ducks finished 32-12-4. Pro-rated to an 82-game schedule, that's a 116 point season (which would have won last year's President's Trophy by a margin of 1), with only 150 non-shootout goals-allowed (29 fewer than Detroit, who won the Jennings Trophy). While Teemu's goal-scoring talents are definitely coveted, it's always been Scott-first on my retirement watch. With Pronger and Niedermayer on the blueline, the Ducks are always a threat.

Sure, things fell apart quickly last spring in the cup-defense postseason, but while many are quick to blame the Selanne and Niedermayer holdouts, by my eye those were probably the two best Ducks in the short playoffs. I think the bigger culprits for the early exit were Chris Pronger returning from a suspension and Corey Perry returning from an injury.

Forwards: The top line will definitely feature Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who showed that they were capable of handling top line duty last year, and probably Chris Kunitz -- a useful swingman. They should be followed up by new UFA Brendan Morrison, Selanne, and young kid Bobby Ryan (one pick behind Sid Crosby... sigh, well at least he won't be making $8.7M anytime soon). The stopper line has been set for years now: Rob Niedermayer, Sammy Pahlsson, and Travis Moen are money. They won't help out anybody's fantasy team, but they will win you playoff series. On the fourth line is some muscle, let's pencil in Brad May, Brian Sutherby, and George Parros. If they keep Marchant somehow, he's another utility player who usually centers that fourth line.

Probably the best improvement the Ducks made this offseason was shipping out their useless expensive forwards (Doug "Dead" Weight and Todd "Crawford made me do it" Bertuzzi). Both those guys had a real distaste for backchecking and needed to be protected in the lineup. The group of forwards that remain might not be among the league's best, but they are a versatile group who understand their roles.

Defensemen: Burke's kept this group together splendidly; essentially it's the 2007 cup-winning blueline with Steve Montador replacing Joe Dipenta. Between the pairings of Scott Niedermayer-Francois Beauchemin and Chris Pronger-Sean O'Donnell, most of the important minutes will be capably handled, and Steve Montador and Kent Huskins can clean up in the leftover ice time. Schneider, if he somehow stays, gets bottom-pairing even-strength minutes plus some top-power play time.

Goaltenders: J.S. Giguere and Jonas Hiller are the Ducks' minders for the next two years, according to the contracts. Both have played very well behind the Niedermayer-Pronger defensive scheme, and other than some nickname issues, I'm happy to have both of them back.

In a nutshell: There's been quite a few pundits who see the Ducks as on the decline, and sure, they're probably not as good a team as they were in the cup year. However, I don't really know if they are that far removed -- certainly last season had enough drama, travel, cup hangover, and missing superstars that the 08-09 Ducks are probably improved from last year's 102-points total (which was still tied with Pittsburgh for 4th in the league). It's a tough Pacific Division, though, with the ever-tough Sharks and Stars and the improving Coyotes, so even a fantastic season comes with no guarantees. But really, I don't need to tell you Pens fans that, right?

Go Ducks.

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The Ducks are as solid as it gets out West.
But as Earl said, their division is catching up with them.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are insane. There is no better way to say it.

The defense and goaltending shouldn't really raise any red flags, either.

The Pacific division has a chance to really be fun this year,
with coaching changes in San Jose and questions that still need to be answered in Dallas.

Anaheim could no question quietly return to form.


Projection:
In the running for the Pacific. 1-6th in the conference.

34 comments:

snickerdoodles said...

Am I the first to say I am on the west coast and don't like the ducks?

Earl Sleek said...

Am I the first to say I am on the west coast and don't like the ducks?

Not by a long-shot. You're what we call a "Lakers fan".

Brett said...

Cheers, BoC. well done. I used to be a big Ducks fan, but the semi-retirements still have my blood boiling. I may never get over it. will be interesting to see how the chips lay after they hit the cap.

shawnawwwesome said...

...which was still tied with Pittsburgh for 4th in the league...

Yeah but I have it on good authority that Pittsburgh is all alone at 4th in the league for worst NHL city.

---

That was a ton of info on the Ducks. Outstanding. (Although I wouldn't mind a little something on what Emilio Estevez is really like.)

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah but I have it on good authority that Pittsburgh is all alone at 4th in the league for worst NHL city.

It's true. Anaheim falls more under the category of "theme park location" or "outdoor mall" than an actual city.

dying alive said...

Southern California has great weather. Unfortunately, it's full of douchey community theater people and wanna-be actors.

At least the pasty, fatass yinzers around here have no illusions about the fact that they're not the next Angelina Jolie.

Silky Smooth said...

*Fantasy Alert*


Don't sleep on a talented young Ducks winger.... #99 Adam Banks

Dan said...

they will always be the might ducks to me

karri said...

Interesting season previews. Love "Smirking Dick".

Congrats on the 2 years! I've had fun reading all of your posts.

Can't wait until October 4th!


Andtotallyofftopicblog...

I know there are a few Steelers fans here also...don't start throwing shit! There is a blog I started reading that recaps the games that you need to check out.

The Steelers n'at

...Cantwealljustgetalongblog...

Michael said...

My first live Pens game was against the Ducks in Anaheim two seasons ago. Lived in OC for a couple years and saw very little hockey coverage or fans for a team that won the cup.

Stagerat said...

Once the cartoon series fizzled out, I had no more interest in the Ducks. But the site is nice and earl seems to be doing some good work over there, so kudos to him. If anyone actually uses that word anymore...

Earl Sleek said...

Lived in OC for a couple years and saw very little hockey coverage or fans for a team that won the cup.

Well, yeah, and that's a bit of a theme of BoC -- while there's plenty of hatred among die-hard Kings, Sharks, and Ducks fans, on another level we're all pretty similar. There's more in common between me and a Kings fan than there is between either of us and the millions of Lakers fan in SoCal.

Whatever, though. There's still benefits to living in a warmer hockey market, enough that I can't spend that much time wishing there were more Ducks fans to drive ticket pricing up and availability down.

TheNWChica said...

I am a Ducks fan and have been for about 10 years. I'm very excited to see what will happen with Scottie and Teemu and no Euro travel this season; as well as the competition in the Pacific, esp. the Yotes and my pal Pete.

arubashooterboy said...

First ever post. I've been reading for about a year now and figured I'd sign up for an account. Congrats on the two years

Nick Saia (usa) said...

@cblog:
YAWN

I Have Kasparaitis said...

Considering I have been busy with my school (who blocked the site today *frowns*) and my brother's b-day today, I would like to wish yinz a very Happy Birthday!

September is a decent month for Penguin b-days ... Gronk's tomorrow, Sabu's was the 2nd, Cooke's was the 7th , and Orpik's is the 26th ...

christina said...

okay, i'll say it.

buries it looks like he's in the best shape of his life

(scroll down...and notice the spelling error)

I Have Kasparaitis said...

They also failed to realize Naslund's first name is spelled with a K ... jokes.

Mario is definitely in the best shape of his life and Sid looks good to go *smiles* If Sid has any trouble with wingers, we can start Mario off at wing to get his feet wet ... just sayin' *smiles* Not that Mario needs to get his feet wet, he is a hockey god among all ... he wants to make sure everything isn't too unbalanced ...

TheNWChica said...

They also failed to realize Naslund's first name is spelled with a K ... jokes. God that irritates me when they do that...but I guess I shouldn't care any more since he's a dirty Ranger now.

I Have Kasparaitis said...

Don't worry, Chica! He'll still have some good to him even though he's on the dark side now *frowns*

How can they spell that girl's name right and not check see Lemieux spelled wrong? Mario's fingernail he clipped a few days before is more important than her *shakes head*

TheNWChica said...

Oh Kaspar...both Nazzy gone to NY and my Trevor retired...it's gonna be a while getting used to things out here.

At least I have Maxie and Free Candy to keep me company until things settle up there.

jimmypop6996 said...

If interested in joining a yahoo fantasy league where you make the live draft on September 26 at 10:45 PM and want to contribute $5 to a winner take all pot-

League ID- 7489
Password- ussgill

You can either paypal the $5 or meet up with me at any pens home game.

J.S. said...

here's what a joke that site and/or editor is: they can't even spell their own player's names right, let alone other athletes.

The NHL was well represented on the red carpet. Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux showed up with current hockey sensation Sidney Crosby. New York Ranger Marcus Naslund gave his match prediction and seemed quite confident that Roger Federer would prevail. Naslund said, “Murry’s played really well but I’m a huge Federer fan so I think he’ll pull it off.”

Isn't Steve more than a hockey sensation? At least they spelled 66's name right in the article. Oh, and for the record, it's MURRAY, M-U-R-R-A-Y, with an A before the Y.

freaking idiots

shawnawwwesome said...

I was going to ask about attendance at Honda Center last season (although I assume sleek is long gone by now), but I take it anyhow that games weren't selling out.

I realize things got off to an uncertain start and all, but come on. Defending champs. If I was a Ducks fan that would drive me nuts.

Earl Sleek said...

I was going to ask about attendance at Honda Center last season (although I assume sleek is long gone by now), but I take it anyhow that games weren't selling out.

Aw, I'm around.

Actually the Ducks do have some sort of impressive sell-out streak they brag about (a full season or so?), and maybe by the third period it generally gets there.

In person or on TV, though, the first period showings are fairly pathetic. I don't blame fans for that, though. I squarely blame the Ducks for switching from 7:30 start times to 7 pm start times three years ago.

I used to work in L.A. (now I'm closer), and getting to games on time was MURDER. I would literally leave my office at 3:30 to make it safely on time (with a drink or two in my belly).

Still, our ticket prices are awesome. And I'm way spoiled--I buy into Row B seats next to the penalty box, I'm not sure in how many other cities a guy like me could ever get that close.

shawnawwwesome said...

The dozen or so games I get to a season at Mellon, fans seem to be pretty good about making the opening drop and sticking around to the horn. We're total a-holes in between, of course. (SHOOT THE PUCK! GET OFF THE ICE, WHITNEY!)

Logistics aside it's good the following is there for the Ducks. Maybe west coasters aren't total douchebags.

Word of advice: Move east. Ducks games will start at 10PM.

Kraftster said...

So, I'm starting a keeper league this year.

The set up is as follows:

Entry $50
12 team league.
Rosters: 3 C, 3 RW, 3 LW, 4 D, 1 Util, 2 G
Head-to-head points league.

We have 4 keepers from our NHL roster. 12 player farm team - rights retained for up to three years (assuming the player remains on the farm). Once called up, treated as a regular roster player (with some exceptions). We intend to increase the number of keepers gradually over the years.

Scoring:
Points for: Goals (25), Assists (25), PPP (10), SHP (15), +/-(8), Shots (2), Blocked Shots (1), PIMs (2), Hits (2), Faceoffs won (1)/lost (-1)

Shutouts (75), Wins (50), OTL (20), Saves (2), GA (+/-8)

We are drafting offline (but online) on Sunday at 2:00. We recently lost a GM and, so, have one open slot. The GM has the 4th pick in the draft. There are some detailed rules in place, that we have put together in a Word Document. I'm looking for an experienced fantasy hockey player who is sincerely interested in getting involved with a unique keeper league. If you're interested, please PM me and I will send an email with the league rules and draft information so you can look them over and decide for sure if you are interested.

Kraftster said...

Or just comment on here, not PM me -- copied from LGP.

Feebs said...

@Kraftster

I don't know, it kind of sounds like a pyramid scheme to me.

Kraftster said...

@ Feebs

I'm honored to have finally posted something that evoked pyramid scheme fears, even if sarcastic ones.

Earl Sleek said...

Points for: Goals (25), Assists (25), PPP (10), SHP (15), +/-(8), Shots (2), Blocked Shots (1), PIMs (2), Hits (2), Faceoffs won (1)/lost (-1)

Just curious, dude. Who among skaters scored the highest in this system last year? Is it mostly point-driven, or does some other stat come in pretty heavily?

Kraftster said...

Sleek,

Ovechkin is the clear top skater. The gap between AO and the #2 (Iginla) would have been smaller had Crosby not gotten hurt. It is certainly primarily driven by points, but, the other stats really do make a difference. The idea was to make it fairly typical (points driven) but give points for other stats to create some more significant separation between players. Thus guys like AO (hits a lot) will be better than a soft winger with similar points. Crosby (a guy who is better than 50% on faceoffs) will be better than Malkin (who is terrible on draws).

Top 5:
Ovechkin
Iginla
Datsyuk
Zetterberg
Malkin

Earl Sleek said...

Thanks for the info, Krafster. Looks like a pretty solid system, I think.

@Feebs
It's definitely not a pyramid scheme. :)

Ksy92003 said...

When does the BoC Sharks' season preview come to Pensblog?

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