Well, the first five contests that the Anaheim Ducks have completed churned out a record of 1-3-1. Not what you'd expect from a full forced team like the Ducks considering their depth has not changed much from last year. The fact of the matter is that, well, yes the team has lost out on retaining Dustin Penner, retirement contemplations by Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer. But, these shouldn't affect the team fully due to the fact that we have Selanne's right wing slot has been filled by Todd Bertuzzi, Dustin Penner's left wing has variety from Chris Kunitz, Brad May, Drew Miller, and Travis Moen. Scott Neidermayer's absence has been filled by defenseman Shane Hnidy, but I wouldn't call it filled in respect to the impact that Scott had. Hnidy is a welcome to the team and being on the same side with Chris Pronger is always a good thing.
Yet, there's this slow start! It is a known fact that the Anaheim Ducks have a history of slow starts, but can they be on the brink of becoming another 'Cup Hangover' team? The Hurricanes' slump and missing the playoffs was some kind of an amazing turn of events for the champions at the time, but can the same hold true to the Anaheim Ducks? The preseason for the Ducks was an uncertain 3-3-1 record, which included an OT loss to the Coyotes and regulation loss to the Kings. Regular season opener in London, first game, we saw the Ducks fall 4-1 to the Kings. The following night they did rebound and returned the favor with a 4-1 win. But, the London get-away had no honeymoon after the team's first season win. What followed was simply disappointing. An OT loss to Detroit to begin things back on North American soil. Ok, an OTL is better than an L, but what happened next gripped me as unimaginable. Getting shutout by the Columbus Blue Jackets is like being hit in the face with a purse full of bricks. It seemed to ring throughout the league that the Ducks were shot down in what could be termed as 'Duck Season'. It's only fitting considering the fact that the year after you win the Stanley Cup every team is therefore gunning for you. Well, the 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't help their case any.
The game was so interesting up to the last 5 mins when the Penguins seemed to unleash some beastly power that they appeared to be holding back. I watched this game among many others at the same time. Yes, the glory of Center Ice Online, NHL radio, and television...I had fun. Watched four games and listened to one on the laptop, then I watched the Penguins and Ducks on TV while also flipping between that game and the Erie Otters vs. London Knights game. Well, during the time-frame of my engulfing a huge OHL brawl on the screen, I forgot about the Penguins game for a mere 3-5 minutes. When I flipped back to FSN Pittsburgh, I thought I had to put my glasses on over my contacts because my eyes were deceiving me. What was once a messy, unorganized, and frustrating game to watch became a flowing Penguins gongshow. The Pens left no chances for the Ducks to make any comeback until Hiller was pulled from the Ducks net and the extra attacker allowed for Anaheim to bank one in. I'm just going to stop blubbering over this game because neither team looked solid by any means.
Wednesday, the Ducks will have their North American home-opener hosting the Bruins. What is supposed to be a celebration may become a shock to all those who are there to see the banner raising. If the Ducks lose to Boston, then I think it's a clear sign of the Ducks heading down Hurricane Lane. Things don't get any easier after that game either. They play host to the Wild, Red Wings, and the Predators. Follow that up with a dose of the Stars, and you might just have a team dug into the ground pushing up daises on the rest of the year. How difficult would that be for a team that finished last year at number two? I think that going 1-8-1 would be a nightmare for a team that just won the Cup the year prior. Which all brings me to the point I meant to make from the very beginning of this rant.
1-3-1...the Hurricanes started the 2006-2007 season the same way the Ducks did record-wise. Then finished off October at 5-5-2. The rest was history. The Canes were left fighting for a playoff spot and lost out on that bid in the dying games of the season. The Canes lost just as many players as the Ducks did. Doug Weight to St. Louis, Martin Gerber to Ottawa, Matt Cullen to New York (R), Aaron Ward to New York (R), and Mark Recchi to Pittsburgh. Cam Ward made Martin Gerber replaceable, so goaltending was not an issue. As for Weight, Cullen, Ward, and Recchi, I think that blow is the equivalent of the Ducks' loss of Penner, Selanne, and Scott Neidermayer combined. In the mix, you have leadership through experience, and also goals and assists when called upon. There are similarities here between the two team's losses in the off-seasons after winner their championships, but the gains on both ends should have compensated. The Canes' gains in Brad Isbister and Jesse Boulerice should have been enough. The Ducks' pickups should be enough, too, but this could be similar to the Canes' situation as well.
Overall, you can see where I'm coming from. The irony in the matter is that the Carolina Hurricanes are not too much different from last year, but they are looking strong as ever considering some big wins recently to start the ball rolling (aside from the hic-up against the Capitals). The Ducks, in my preseason predictions formulation (yes it was a scientific compilation), the team will fall into fifth place. I wouldn't doubt the team seeding lower in the Western Conference food-chain if they finish like the Canes did the year after their Cup at 5-5-2 at the end of October. Though they will have played 13 games by the end of the month, but lets say 5-6-2 or 5-5-3, then they'll play out the Hurricanes card this year and sit this one out. If the Canes rebound this year, then maybe the Ducks will do the same next year if this scenario plays out. It's all in the hands of Randy C and Brian B. We'll see.
Next blog or podcast will talk about Patrick Kane; the first rounder in this past draft and his impact on his Chicago Blackhawks club. All I have to say at this point is two words: Good Stuff