Monday, August 16, 2010

California (and Arizona and Texas) Gurls

The offseason wrap-up continues with a look at the left-est of the left coast. Some might say hockey doesn't belong in California and the southern 'States...that it's a waste of time to try to sell the game to SoCal and Tay-hass and 'Zona.

This is an extremely short-sighted and selfish viewpoint. Think about it, if we moved these teams north to more traditional "hockey markets", exactly WHERE will disgruntled stars demand trades to when they're sick of playing in Canada, huh? Buffalo?!? Get real, naive reader...

Onward to...

The Western Conference – Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks
Incoming via UFA/Trade
Andy Sutton, Toni Lydman, Aaron Voros

Top Draft Picks
Cam Fowler (12), Emerson Etem (29)

The Ducks have seen their point total (and position) slip every season since their 2007 Cup victory:

2006-07 - 110 pts (2nd in West, 1st in Pacific)
2007-08 - 102 pts (4th in West, 2nd in Pacific)
2008-09 - 91 pts (8th in West, 2nd in Pacific)
2009-10 - 89 pts (11th in West, 4th in Pacific)

If this trend continues, this season they'll have 82 pts (14th in the West, 4th in the Pacific) and in 2011-12 they'll have 75 pts (17th in the Greater Anaheim Senior Men's Rec League, 6th in the Rattlesnake Division). The Ducks will not go gentle into that good night, however. The core group of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan will be a year older and a year stronger, the Finnish Flash is back and trying to entice his old buddy Kariya to take one last kick at the can together, Jonas Hiller looks to cement his status as a #1 goalie in the league and Fowler-Etem is a heck of a haul from the first round of this draft. The Ducks are in the midst of a "running rebuild" and if they can pull it off it'll be the blueprint for teams in the future.

Los Angeles Kings
Incoming via UFA/Trade
Alexei Ponikarovski

Top Draft Picks
Derek Forbort (15), Tyler Toffoli (47)

***WHIFFFFFF*** Annnnd Lombardi takes a huge cut at that ball and swings right through - Kovalchuk pulled the string and dropped a 12-to-6 curve in that made DL look silly!

If the offseason was a baseball game, that was the sound of the play-by-play watching the Kings this season. Yes, Lombardi struck out large on Kovalchuk and ended up with a rather poor consolation prize in the Big Ukrainian known well in these parts. Talk of interest in Kaberle proved fruitless and it appears that the Kings will enter 2010-11 largely unchanged from the team that seemed to break through last season. Drew Doughty will continue to ascend the ranks of superstar defencemen and Ryan Smyth will continue standing next to Anze Kopitar to make the young Slovenian look attractive in comparison. Selfless, veteran leadership is a wonderful thing.

San Jose Sharks
Incoming via UFA/Trade
Jamal Mayers, Antero Niittymaki

Top Draft Picks
Charlie Coyle (28)

The Sharks didn't add much this offseason but they were also the top team in the west last regular season. They lost Nabokov to the land of vodka and little dolls that fit inside other little dolls and replaced him with unproven and injury-prone Antero Niittymaki. Not having Rob Blake and Manny Malholtra will increase quality scoring chances against and the offensive producers are one year older. This isn't the end of an era, but the Sharks' window is definitely closing as the Kings' window opens, and one wonders why they targetted Niitymaki so quickly when so many goalies of similar or greater ability were available this summer.

As an Oilers fan, it would be nice to see the Sharks fall as the Oilers rise just to see the look on Dany Heatley's face. C'mon Leafs fans, he used to be a Senator, you're with me on this one right?

Dallas Stars
Incoming via UFA/Trade
Adam Burish, Brad Lukowich, Andrew Raycroft

Top Draft Picks
Jack Campbell (11), Patrik Nemeth (41)

A "transitioning" team that's unfortunately due for an ugly season, the Stars will do little to entice fans to fill the seats for financially-struggling owner Tom Hicks. Longtime Stars Marty Turco and Mike Modano have left for Western Conference powerhouses Chicago and Detroit respectively and Burish and Raycroft are poor replacements. The young core of Neal, Eriksson, Benn, Fistric and Niskanen is good but not great and will be in tough to face the top lines of a strong division. Look for a low finish from the Stars this year with a best-case scenario of a healthy year from Kari Lehtonen and a shot at first overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Phoenix Coyotes
Incoming via UFA/TradeNone
Ray Whitney, Andrew Ebbett, Patrick O'Sullivan

Top Draft Picks
Brandon Gormley (12), Mark Visentin (27)

Watching Brandon Gormley slide all the way to 12 must have been a joy for the Coyotes, who were almost certainly targeting a defenceman and probably expecting a lesser light like Derek Forbort or Dylan McIlrath. Adding Gormley to a young core that includes Wojtek Wolski, Kyle Turris, Viktor Tikhonov, Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the vastly underrated Martin Hanzal will perhaps not net the club any Clarence S. Campbell Bowls but will give the club a solid roster of skilled depth and, if a stable owner is ever found, will allow the team sufficient roster flexibility to target big-name free agents.

Could the Phoenix Coyotes - the biggest surprise of the 2009-10 NHL season - be the 2014 Stanley Cup champions? Don't underestimate the power of youth, defensive talent, a streaky goalie and a market with no pressure to win. Just ask the '07 Ducks.

Projected Division Standings
1. Los Angeles
2. San Jose
3. Phoenix
4. Anaheim
5. Dallas

1 comment:

Curt S said...

If anyone can make Kopitar look good, it's Smyth. For you Flyers fans, yes, that is a double-entendre.