(updated again below)
This post will double as one of the Razor Catch Prey-sponsored NHL Guide posts and as one of the Big Shooter-sponsored 08-09 Preview posts. Now that I think about it, writing two separate posts on the San Jose Sharks is a bit excessive. But this is an excessive blog. And I am an excessive Peacock.
At any rate...
There's this team called the Anaheim Ducks. They live in sunny Orange County, just a few smog-choked miles down the freeway from the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Kings. The Battle of Los Angeles is a lop-sided one, to be sure, but there are signs that it could even out in the coming years.
With youthful talent like Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov, Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty, and Wayne Gretzky already making names for themselves, the Kings will only get better in the next few seasons. This should be celebrated.
There are credible signs, I'm sad to say, that the Anaheim Ducks might be on the decline. Not an immediate one; they'll still be in a hyper-talented battle with the Sharks and the Stars for the Pacific Division crown for a few years. But think about their roster:
Future Hall of Famers Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne (one of my and Monsieur's favorites ever) are surely going to retire after this season, and it remains to be seen how they'll perform. I predict Selanne goes out with a bang; the elder Niedermayer is more of a wild card.
Then there's Chris Pronger. He's still awesome, and he will be for a while, but he ain't gettin' younger no how. His point total last season (43) is his lowest in ten years (not counting 02-03 where he scored four points in five games). He could go on a rampage this year, but...what if Pronger IS on the decline?
What then? WHAT THEN?
Well, everyone knows the REAL story with the Ducks these days is their youth: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Both wicked, wicked players, and they're only going to get better. Perry is a solid, slippery winger and he scores goals and whatnot, but I wonder how effective he'd be without a true master like Getzlaf. I love watching Getzlaf play; he's a great puck-handler, he can trick the opposing team and make weird and wonderful passes, and he scores lots of weird and wonderful goals. He's one of the best centers around; the only reason you don't hear more about him is because of the glut of even more talented Canadian centers like Savard, Crosby, Thornton, Lecavalier, and rookie phenom Wayne Gretzky.
I didn't get to watch any of the World Championship this summer (from here on known as the Kovalchuk Cup) aside from a few clips on YouTube, but from what I read Getzlaf was a mighty center to Rick Nash and Dany Heatley. Apparently he had a particular chemistry with Nash...God, I wonder if anyone is going to beat Team Canada in 2010...I CAN'T WAIT FOR 2010!
Now then. Who else plays for the Ducks? Well, there's your goalie, J.S. Giguerre, who is no slouch, and that Swiss fellow. To be honest, I really don't see this team getting to the Stanley Cup again. They're a great team, but their finest players are getting old. Getzlaf and Perry are young, and maybe they'll be enough to carry the team in the future, but...
Hell, I won't even pretend to predict how things will go for them next year. As for my personal feelings about the Ducks as a team:
I like the Ducks. I like them a hell of a lot more than the Stars, but not as much as I like the Sharks, the Kings, and the Coyotes. I still like them though. The Pacific is probably my favorite division. That and the Northwest. The story of the Niedermayer brothers--Scott coming over to help Rob win the Stanley Cup--is one of the most touching in hockey. Love the Niedermayers, love Selanne, love Getzlaf, like Perry a lot. Now let's shut up and watch the Finnish Flash:
You have to love him. He treats his stick as a rifle AND as a sword.
UPDATE: I forgot that the Ducks now have Brendan Morrison as well. He'll do wonders...you know, now that I think about it, they COULD make it to the Cup Finals again. And win. Possibly. Put Morrison and Selanne together, I say. Alright, The End.
UPDATE UPDATE: The Ducks will also have a much-touted rookie next year: American winger Bobby Ryan, the dude who was drafted second behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 draft. He looks pretty damn good, and a top six of Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry/Kunitz-Morrison-Selanne (or some other combination thereof) will be awfully hard to keep up with. With whom it will be awfully hard to keep up, I mean to say.