Anaheim Ducks: Alright, boys…time to DROP THE PUCK!
Tomorrow starts the beginning of the Anaheim Ducks 2009-2010 season. As everyone knows (or can know if you read the older blogs) a lot has happened since last season. After watching two days of training camp and all preseason games at the Honda Center, I’ve come to the conclusion that the roster we now have is a good one. Well, with one exception that I will get to later.
So, after all is said and done, I give you my most humble of opinions. Which, as I always say, mean nothing to anyone but me.
I am really, really liking the play of Luca Sbisa. Yeah, he’s a whole 19 years old, but I feel that gives him an advantage. Not only will he have time to develop within the Ducks organization, but he has that fearlessness that comes with being young. (I see this at my local rink – young kids learning to ice skate fly around the rink. Those who have bills to pay are more careful, shall we say??) Sbisa is one to watch this season.
I like the re-addition of Joffery Lupul, but am concerned with his seemingly iffy physical health. If he can suck it up, he’ll be a good addition. If he doesn’t and sits out games, what’s the use? His back problems during the preseason, I hope, stay in the preseason. Here’s to proving me wrong during the season! That way I can come back here and say: oops! I was wrong….
I wasn’t sure about the trade for Evgeny Artyukhin and really looked forward to seeing him during training camp. I, in fact, like hard hitters and felt we lost something in that area with the Pronger trade. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the Russian at all. He’s a fast skater as well as a hard hitter, so I can only see good things come from him. And, of course, he’s an exceedingly good reason to raise the vodka toast…..
Saku Koivu – how can you not want this guy on your team? He’s a high caliber player who spent numerous years in Montreal as captain and as of today, has been named Alternate Captain behind Scott Niedermayer. After reading up on him, I still can’t believe they let him go. But, their loss is our gain. I liked seeing him on the line with Teemu Selanne and Lupul and feel they will do some pretty good things this season. He brings a lot of maturity to the team as well.
Nick Boynton and Steve Eminger have been added to the defense. I’ll be honest and say that they haven’t stood out for me this preseason. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, I guess. James Wisniewski has been on fire, so my attention has been on him and Ryan Whitney.
We have the usual characters returning: Parros, Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, Carter, Brown, and Marchant. I am hopeful Andrew Ebbett stays around – I feel he’s earned his spot on the team.
Now on to my favorite of positions and subjects: goaltending. As everyone who follows hockey knows by now, Anaheim has a very interesting situation developing between the pipes. We have two exceptional goaltenders in JS Giguere and Jonas Hiller. Jiggy has two years left on his contract (worth about $12 mil) and Hiller is going to be a UFA in July. Giguere didn’t play all that well last season and Hiller basically took the team into the playoffs, ousting the Sharks in the first round. So, what to do? Keep Giguere and hope he turns his play around consistently? In doing so, you stand to lose Hiller, who won’t settle for being #2. (He’s also due a huge raise, but that’s another story in itself) I’ll just say it and put myself out there: I really think Hiller will put up the numbers this season that will allow him to look to other teams. Anaheim needs to tread softly with Hiller if they want to keep him. Hiller is the future of goaltending in Anaheim. If he hasn’t yet, he will soon earn the right to be the number 1 goalie for the Ducks. I’m not saying Giguere’s career is over – not yet. But there is always someone behind you looking to move up, regardless of position, sport, or business industry. Hiller is right on Giguere’s back and is slated to take that step beyond him. Friendship is one thing; business is another. People seem to forget Hiller has played professionally for years in Europe; he is only in his third NHL season. He has so much room to grow, it’s not even funny.
And while I am on my favorite soapbox, I have to make mention of a couple of other goalies in the Ducks system. First, Timo Pielmeier is a young goaltender we acquired during the year. I watched him during training camp and was very, very impressed with his play. While I am not a coach or a GM, I would have Pielmeier as the Ducks #3 goalie. He was consistent. He, along with Hiller, would make an amazing goaltending team for Anaheim. In fact, he called to mind Jonas Hiller. Their styles are similar and their attitudes are as well. Yes, a young “Jonas Hiller” in the making! Justin Pogge….well, I’m not exactly sure what it is that Anaheim sees in this young man. I understand he was supposed to be the “Next Great Thing in Goaltending,” but it didn’t happen that way. When I’ve watched him play, I didn’t see the spark or ability that I saw in Pielmeier, Hiller or Giguere. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all; I just don’t trust him in the net for Anaheim. That exception to the roster is Pogge as #3. It should be Pielmeier.
No matter how one looks at it, whether you are a fan of Anaheim or not, this is going to be a very interesting season. There have been so many changes to the roster, I started losing track. We have a number of good young players in the lineup and a good quality mix of veterans. So now all that remains is for the season to start and the players to get used to each other.
Opening Night tomorrow against the Sharks – I’m hoping to see Hiller in the net and our first regular season win.
LET’S GO DUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!