Posts Tagged ‘Anaheim Ducks’

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If you are Canadian, I do not think anything in the sporting world tops the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. My friends and I do not say Merry Christmas to each other in December; we say it when the first puck is dropped in the round of 16. This first round had it all: a laughable sweep, line brawls, fat walrus accusations, Alex Ovechkin immediately flying overseas to play for Russia after another early exit (again), and of course, game sevens.

For most of us, our hockey teams run for Lord Stanley is over and we must accept, move on and pray that next year will be the year. There is another thing that you should be focusing on for the start of the 2013-14 season, and that is the future of your fantasy hockey teams. Chances are that you will not remember the second half Mats Zuccarello performances, but for your future fantasy purposes, you should. If you have been a fantasy GM for a while now, you know that it is the late round picks that will win you championships and even more importantly, ultimate chirping rights.

Eight teams were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s take a look at what players could serve as a potential fantasy break out for the 2013-14 NHL season.

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals: Johansson saw his productivity increase this year in the shortened season, posting 22 points in 34 games and +3 rating. He was essentially invisible for the first two months of the season, but let’s be serious, so were the Washington Capitals. Take a look at his March and April; the kid recorded 21 points in 25 games. He is only 22 years old and will now head into the prime years of his career.  He should be considered as a late round add to your roster for next year.

Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild:  Before the season began, I highly doubt anyone could name the starting six defensemen for the Wild. I do not even think Mike Yeo could. There was nothing sexy about Brodins stat line this year (11 points in 45 GP), but there are fantasy implications that need to be considered going forward for the 10th overall pick in the 2011 entry draft. For starters, he is only nineteen. Secondly, look at the box scores in the first round. If we forget about Ryan Suter for a moment, Brodin led the way in ice time and on the man advantage showing how much trust the Wild have in the youngster. If an NHL organization can trust the kid with that much workload, so should you.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: I make this pick because everyone has already heard of Vladimir Tarasenko and know that he is going to be a force. Schwartz posted 13 points in 45 GP this year, but really found his stride in the second half (10 pts in 29 GP). I am not expecting Schwartz to break out to begin the season next year, but once the annual injuries of Andy McDonald and Alex Steen occur, Schwartz could spring into a top six role and shine. Go check out Hockey’s Future, he’s got game.

Kyle Palmieri, Anaheim Ducks: He did not really play in January and had a lackluster March, but his February and April have me intrigued. When you are playing under Bruce Boudreau’s system, you are going to have chances to put up points in bundles. His fantasy status for next year will depend on whether or not he can crack the top six. If he can, draft him late in deep leagues and enjoy the return.

Raphael Diaz, Montreal Canadiens: Chances are you picked Diaz to start the season as he and Andrei Markov tore it up on the man advantage. I laughed when I saw him 100% owned in ESPN leagues, but hey, production is production. If he did not suffer a concussion, then I do not think we would be having this discussion. Diaz will head the 2nd unit for the Canadiens going forward, who seemed to re-kindle their power play success after last season. Diaz’s upside here will depend on whether or not Markov can stay healthy, which is always in question. Diaz should be a fifth or sixth d-man on your team next year with upside to be a potential top four.

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders: If we learned anything from the Penguins and Islanders series,  it is that the Isles might actually be for real for the first time since… Alexei Yashin? Was he relevant? Who knows. They will not be worth noting for long, as they have too many vital pieces that are just too old (Streit, Visnovsky, Nabokov). Bailey has always had the talent but has been known to have attitude issues. He is now 23 and headed into the prime of his career. The isles looked good this season, I expect that to continue for a season or two with Bailey providing the secondary scoring they so desperately need.

Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks: Kassian was a nice surprise to start the season, racking up five goals in seven games in January. As for the rest of the season, well, you would probably rather have Scott Gomez over him. The 13th overall pick in the 2009 entry draft has everything that the Canucks need: size, grit, skill and scoring potential. The Sedins need a player like Kassian to protect them, as we all know Jannik Hansen does not fit that profile. With Alex Burrows seemingly on the second line for good, a lackluster pool of prospects, and the need to get stronger, I see Kassian getting every possible chance to break out, which I believe he will. Draft him late and laugh at those who didn’t.

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs: I should not have to tell this to any Maple Leafs fan, but for the rest of you I will be blunt: this guy is legit. He is patient, smart with the puck, breaks into the offensive zone with ease and finally won over Randy Carlyle. Wherever he is projected to go next year in the fantasy rankings will more than likely be low, and thus a gift for those who wait on him to take him late. For keeper leagues especially, get him.

That is it for now, enjoy the second round and always be alert for possible fantasy surprises, it is what makes all the difference.

By: Alex Rodgers – Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

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Here we go!  The final two weeks of the season and the standings are nearly set in stone.  There will be some shuffling before it is all said and done, no doubt, but the playoff picture is getting clearer by the day.  For some teams it is just about seeding, others just want to clinch a spot, and yet a few are fighting for their lives.  I will give a quick run down of the contenders and pretenders of the Western Conference.

Contenders

1) Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have to be considered a top contender in the West, especially after their historic start of 24 games undefeated in regulation.  Captain Jonathan Toews has been leading by example all season long with 44 points in 42 games and a respectable +27.  American sniper, Patrick Kane, is ranked 5th in the league in scoring (20 goals, 27 assists) for his best point-per-game totals to date.  These two studs are not alone in the offensive zone with Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and newcomer Brandon Saad rounding out a lethal top six.  This team is starting to get healthy at the right time and there are not many teams that can match their skill.  I compare their young core a lot to that of the Pittsburgh Penguins in terms of overall talent and speed.  Even the defensive pairings are a strength of the organization, but much like the Philadelphia Flyers, goaltending will be their Achilles heel come playoff time.  If either Corey Crawford or Ray Emery can hold the fort, the Blackhawks should be able to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

2) Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have battled through a slew of injuries, but on the bright-side centre Ryan Kesler has made his return.  The two way forward has only played 11 games this season and despite his excessive diving, can be a difference maker.  Coach Vigneault will rely heavily on Kesler to shutdown the opposition’s top line and provide secondary scoring.  This team has had its ups and downs over the past couple years, losing in the finals to Boston and then a first-round knockout by Los Angeles.  The twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, are at the pinnacle of their careers, time is running out, and it is important for them to win now.  Whether it is some kind of freak telepathy or just raw talent, the Sedins have been able to find each other with the puck on a consistent basis and dominate offensively.  It will be interesting to see who starts in net, Schneider or Luongo, as neither was traded and the circus continues.  In the end, I don’t see this as being a huge problem, two capable goalies for a long playoff run is always a plus.  I expect Vancouver will persevere, their past experiences will help them, and hopefully they can bring a cup back to Canada.

3) Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings are fresh off a Stanley Cup win and unlike most championship teams; their lineup is very much in tact.  They have played themselves into a better position than last year and they are enjoying a successful second half to the season.  Jeff Carter has had time to gel with linemate and good friend Mike Richards again; their chemistry together has been remarkable as a second unit.  However, the first line of Kopitar, Brown, and Williams will need to be sharp and contributing on the regular.  All-star goalie, Jonathan Quick, has struggled after offseason surgery, but I believe he will step up his play to defend their title.  Quick is the most acrobatic goaltender in the NHL and his phenomenal play in last years finals resulted in a Conn Smythe trophy.  Coach Darryl Sutter recently stated that Drew Doughty should be nominated for the Norris.  Sutter is not the type of coach to pump tires and talk up his players publicly.  Doughty has impressed the coach with his steady play and offensive output while logging serious minutes.  The Los Angeles Kings proved last year that they are a force to be reckoned with, they will fight right to the end and repeat if all goes well.

Pretenders

1) Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks are one of the most improved teams this year, after finishing near the bottom of the conference in the 2011-12 campaign.  They can breath a sigh of relief now that superstars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, are signed long-term and producing at their usual level.  One of the biggest stories of the season was netminder Viktor Fasth coming over from the Swedish Elite League and stealing the starting job from Jonas Hiller.  He has cooled off a bit from his torrid start, but still remains reliable between the pipes on any given night.  Coach Bruce Boudreau has my vote for the Jack Adams award, getting everyone to buy in to the new system after a subpar season.  With pretty much the same personnel, Boudreau has coached this team from bottom to top of the division (and conference).  I am tempted to categorize the Ducks as a contender in the West, but I predict they will falter before the big dance.  Viktor Fasth may be a 30-year-old rookie, however, he has not experienced the immense pressure of the NHL playoffs.   They will lose to another contender with more desperation (such as Vancouver) and come back stronger next year.

2) San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are currently in the 5th slot, pushing for home ice advantage in the opening round.  Not too long ago they were sellers at the trade deadline, sending depth defenceman Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh and power forward Ryane Clowe to New York.  The locker room does not appear to miss their departures and they are playing quality hockey at the moment.  Their offensive weapons consist of “Jumbo Joe” Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and young gun Logan Couture.  Eventually Couture should take the reigns from the old veterans, but it looks like they are going to take at least one more crack at it.  Martin Havlat is another San Jose Shark synonymous with goal scoring, but he has been relatively quiet with only 13 points.  Former cup winner, Dan Boyle, still quarterbacks the powerplay and produces opportunities as his old age. But perhaps the MVP of the team and a possible Vezina candidate is goalie Antti Niemi with a league leading 21 wins.  San Jose is built like a winner, looks like a winner, but they are huge underachievers.  Top sports minds have predicted them to win year after year and been wrong.  This year will be no different and these same sports people have lost interest.

Sleeper

Nobody predicted the St. Louis Blues to take such a huge step back this year.  They were the Central Division champions last year and that was supposed to be the beginning.  They are a big-bodied team that plays well as a cohesive unit with stingy defence and goaltending.  Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk started off the season on the right foot, great fantasy picks, but couldn’t keep up the pace.  Apparently, St. Louis management was not confident in the remainders of their defensive pairings.  GM Doug Armstrong, maybe unwisely, went on a shopping spree for the top available talent at the position.  He reeled in Jordan Leopold of Buffalo, Wade Redden of Boston, and most significantly Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary.  If you were concerned about their defence before, it is absolutely stacked now.  Captain David Backes is no slouch as the top line centre, not as offensively gifted as some, but he makes up for it with leadership and grit.  The Blues have a lot of depth throughout the roster and even a budding star in Vladimir Tarasenko.  I would not take them lightly in a first round matchup and they could pull off an upset or two.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

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The top two players on the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, were slated to become unrestricted free agents in the upcoming off-season.  They were drafted 19th and 28th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, regarded as one of the best drafts in NHL history.  They have eclipsed the careers of many picked before them and have flourished on Anaheim’s top line for years.  Not only have they put up stellar statistics each season, but they have also each collected a respectable amount of hardware.  They won the Stanley Cup in 2007, a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Corey Perry was awarded the Maurice Richard and Hart trophies in 2011.  On the open market, both players could command mega-bucks as their talent is rare with so much time left to play at only age 27 (born 6 days apart).  Although the sport has gained ground in the state of California, the Anaheim Ducks are not your prototypical hockey market.  The team does not have the money to spend like those of the “Original Six”, and many speculated that at least one of these premiere forwards was on the way out.

If either player were to stay, it was rumoured to be Ryan Getzlaf, who had grown accustomed to life on the West Coast.  Corey Perry, on the other hand, grew up in Ontario and always wanted to be on the big stage for Hockey Night in Canada.  In order to get back to the big hockey markets, he would most likely have to be traded or signed to a team in Western Canada or the Eastern Conference.  On March 8th, 2013, Ryan Getzlaf accepted a new contract with the Anaheim Ducks for the maximum length of 8 years and $66 million.  This seemed a steep price for the two-way centreman at a cap hit of $8.25 million per season, especially with a salary cap reduction coming in the next year.  However, their top line centre was now locked up for the foreseeable future and management could then focus on getting a Corey Perry deal done.

Over the past five seasons, Corey Perry is ranked second in goals scored in the NHL to Steven Stamkos.  As mentioned earlier, he was also the Most Valuable Player and Top Goal Scorer in the 2011 season.  Without a doubt, Corey Perry could make upwards of $9 million with his next contract, but Anaheim would be the only team allowed to sign him to an 8-year term.  The rest of the league would have to extend offers of a maximum 7 years due to the new collective bargaining agreement.   It was an unfortunate situation for the Anaheim organization, since they were battling with the Chicago Blackhawks for top seed in the Western Conference.  The possibility of a trade or a sign and trade would have to be looked at closely if Corey Perry refused to sign a contract before the trade deadline.  It was only last year that New Jersey and Nashville held onto their star UFAs for a playoff run and then lost them for nothing in free agency.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter packed their bags and left for the Minnesota Wild.  Also, there was the whole Justin Schultz debacle in the off-season, where their top prospect walked away and signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

This past Monday night (March 18th, 2013), Corey Perry re-signed a similar contract with the Anaheim Ducks for 8 years and $69 million.  It was originally thought that the Getzlaf contract would tie up too much money to sign Perry, but it actually acted as a catalyst to the whole process.  Ryan Getzlaf was in constant conversation with his teammate regarding his future contract considerations and influenced his decision to stay.  Corey Perry felt much more comfortable signing long-term with the Ducks knowing that they were committed to retaining other skilled players.  Besides, it doesn’t hurt to make millions playing hockey on indoor ice rinks with the beautiful weather, women, and beaches outside.

Some people think this move by Anaheim is financially irresponsible, given that 25% of the salary cap has been devoted to two players (with a 23 player roster).  I disagree, this was the only option for management to make and it was best settled before playoff time.  The Anaheim Ducks have a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup this year and for many years to come.  They can now fully prepare for the last stretch of the season and their dynamic duo will lead them to another playoff berth.  The salary cap shouldn’t be an issue going forward, as players like Koivu and Selanne are retiring.  There is also a talented group of youth and a phenomenal rookie goaltender under reasonable contracts.  Even their prized 2nd overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Bobby Ryan, is under contract for this season and the next two years at $5.1 million.

I honestly don’t see a problem with the Anaheim Ducks loosening the purse strings and keeping both Perry and Getzlaf.  In fact, it would be detrimental for the franchise to let them go.  The American markets are extremely fragile and they need superstars to attract the fans and grow the business.  I expect the salary cap will slowly increase in the coming years as the business stabilizes and the teams in unprofitable markets are relocated.  The Anaheim Ducks will be successful in the sunshine state, much like the Los Angeles Kings, if they continue their winning ways and retain their own.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer

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For the past few seasons, the Pacific Division has been touted one of the toughest divisions in hockey, alongside the Atlantic. The Pacific consistently has 3-4 teams representing them during the playoffs, and has bought two Stanley Cups home to California since 2007.  There are no clear-cut favorites in this division. The Los Angeles Kings may have won the Stanley Cup last year, but they struggled to find a playoff spot until Darryl Sutter provided the wake up call. With more inter-division games due to the shortened season, only a few points will separate these 5 teams.  Lets examine each team more closely to see if we can predict a winner in this “toss-up” of a division.

Phoenix Coyotes

This team gets more publicity for its lack of ownership than it’s on-ice product.  It should be the other way around.  The Coyotes have consistently made their way into the playoff’s over the past few seasons. Stellar goal tending and strict team defence has made this team very difficult to play against.  After the success of last season, I believe the Coyotes will slip down slightly in their division.  Losing Ray Whitney to Dallas will definitely hurt the team, even with the addition of Steve Sullivan.  Mike Smith will have to recreate his magical season from a year ago, which will be tough in a 48 game schedule.  Look for defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to build on his stellar campaign a year ago, along with forward Mikkel Boedker.  Keith Yandle will continue to log major ice time and will be called upon allot more during the shortened season.  The addition of Zbynek Michalek from Pittsburgh should also help bolster an already impressive defensive core.  Lets see how the team can cope with all the off ice distractions. They were not a problem last year

Dallas Stars

Dallas was one of the more active franchise’s this past year.  They added one of the greatest players of all time in Jaromir Jagr, veteran Ray Whitney, and play-maker Derek Roy.  Kari Lehtonen enjoyed a breakout year in goal for the Stars last season, and was a major reason for their early season success.  This team has an abundance of talent upfront. Along with the new additions, they also have Brendan Morrow, Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson, and RFA Jamie Benn.  This teams achilles heal is their defence.  They will need immense help from their forwards if they are to make their way back to the playoffs. For a team that has not made the post season in 4 years, they will have to work extra hard in this division if they are to compete.  The re-signing of Jamie Benn is crucial to this team.  They have a stellar goalie, and many options upfront, but ultimately their defence will have to show up.

San Jose Sharks

Has time run out for this aging team?  The Sharks are consistently one of the top teams in the Western Conference.  The talent is there, and has been for many years.  The Sharks need Martin Havlat to be healthy.  A healthy Havlat will add just one more offensive weapon to an already stockpiled repertoire.  Look for Logan Couture to continue his rise as a premier scorer in the NHL.  The Addition of Brad Stuart to the back-end should fill some gaps that were very evident last year. Goaltender Antti Niemi has yet to play at the level that saw him help the Blackhawks win the cup in 2009, so he will need elevate his game for the Sharks to have a good season.  Joe Pavelski will have to go above and beyond to take the pressure off Jumbo Joe and the top line.  This teams downfall could potentially be their age in this shortened 48 game season.  Experience and talent should carry them through the year however.  Another stellar regular season for the Sharks

Anaheim Ducks

The worst team in the Pacific last year.  Depth is a major concern with this team.  Outside of a few players, the team lacks secondary scoring.  It will be interesting to see whether youngsters Peter Holland, Kyle Palmieri, and Devante Smith-Pelly get called up from Norfolk where they have enjoyed much success.  I think Bruce Boudreau should utilize these young players to help out the top guns of the Ducks.  The hiring of Scott Niedermayer as Assistant Coach should do wonders on the back-end.  Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa should benefit greatly from Nidermayer’s expertise at the defensive position.  Team defence was a serious issue for the Ducks last year, but look for it to improve this year.  Jonas Hiller will have to get back to his pre-vertigo ways if this team has any shot of competing.  Hiller is an all-star goalie when he is on his game.  It will be interesting to see how the season goes for the ducks, especially with the pending unrestricted free agency of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Los Angeles Kings

From 8th in the conference to Stanley Cup triumph.  The Kings had one of the most roller coasters seasons last year.  At the end however, they finished on top.  They are the best team in the division.  They have it all.  From front to back, this team is built for sustained success.  Will a Stanley Cup hangover damage this team? I don’t think so.  Darryl Sutter will have his men motivated and ready to go come the start of the season.  Jonathan Quick solidified himself last year as one of the top goalies in the league.  Drew Doughty highlights a very good back-end for the Kings.  There is so much talent upfront I don’t even know where to begin.  With the return of Simon Gagne, it just adds one more threat. Anze Kopitar, my personal favorite, has a knee injury that will most likely prevent him from entering the lineup for at least the first few games, but the Kings have the luxury of slotting Mike Richards into that first line centre roll if need be.  Jonathan Quick had back surgery in the off-season so it will take some time for him to get back to game shape.  Even if Quick is given a lighter workload, they have a more than capable backup in Jonathan Bernier.  Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have settled into life in California and will be counted on to provide the team with the elite scoring that we all know they are capable of.  Look for them to answer the call.  It took until the start of the playoffs this past season for the kings to put it all together, but now they have.  Los Angeles takes the crown.

Predictions: 1. Los Angeles Kings 2. San Jose Sharks 3. Dallas Stars 4. Phoenix Coyotes 5. Anaheim Ducks

By: Ajay Sharma – Hockey Writer