Hockey

If you were to guess which goalies had the best save percentage since 2015, you might get Ben Bishop. He’s been really good, played behind some good Lightning teams, and then behind the trapping Stars last year. You’d figure Andrei Vasilevskiy would be there too, given that he pushed Bishop out of Tampa. Robin Lehner would be a surprise, but that’s the case. Wouldn’t shock you that Corey Crawford is fifth, even though he hasn’t played behind a good defensive team since before this stretch. Sergei Bobrovsky scans as well.

Did you know John Gibson is tied for first?

Yep, and there’s an argument that he’s the best goalie in the league. Because while the others have played behind at least competent teams for most of that stretch, Gibson was forced to prop up the Randy Carlyle led Ducks team, and remember that was a coach that couldn’t make toast. Last year, he even had to deal with a Bob Murray led Ducks team, and you can pretty much how that goes.

Last year, Gibson was the Vezina front-runner until he basically collapsed due to exhaustion. He was seeing 32 shots per game, but faded in January and February with SV%s of .900 and .822 in just three Feb. starts after getting hurt. He rebounded in March with a .922, while still facing over 33 shots per game.

He might have been even more impressive the season before, as he put up a .926, and according to HockeyReference.com saved 25 goals over average that year. That’s something like 12-14 points in the standings, which would be the difference from finishing second in the division as the Ducks did and not even coming close to the playoffs. That’s how important Gibson has been to the rebuilding Ducks. Sadly…well, not sadly because fuck Anaheim, he couldn’t do much about the rest of his team being severely outplayed by the Sharks as they were swept out quicker than you can say, “Orange County Needs To Be Blown Up.”

And that’s probably Gibson’s last frontier to break, as he doesn’t have a signature playoff run. He backstopped the Ducks to the conference final three seasons ago, where they were pulverized by the Predators, but hardly anyone remembers that. The collapse against the Kings five years ago is still fresh in the mind.

The other thing about Gibson, and it’s hard to believe because it was signed by Murray, is that he might have the best contract in the league. He signed an eight-year extension before last season that kicked in this one, and at 26 for the next eight years he’s making only $6.4M. Vezina goalies can make close to twice that, though that’s not going all that well for Carey Price or Sergei Bobrovsky. Gibson has time on his side, of course.

Whether the Ducks can give Gibson the support in front of him anytime soon, who knows? There are some kids that are promising, and Ryan Getzlaf seems to be summoning up a death rattle this season so far. And yet the Ducks remain one of the worst possession teams or goals-share teams, which means Gibson and backup Ryan Miller are getting shelled most nights. They won’t have to worry about that tonight obviously, but for the next eight years, Gibson will provide a baseline for this team they can build from that’s ahead of most bottom-feeders.

Murray actually got something right. What a world.

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 26-28-9   Ducks 24-30-9

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN

MICKEY’S BUDDIES: Anaheim Calling

You can probably imagine the execs at NBCSN wishing they had flex scheduling tonight. Or maybe they wish they didn’t have to put up with the NHL at all. Either way, a Hawks-Ducks matchup on your flagship night is sure to result in some shaking heads and sighs around the offices and truck and a declaration of, “Let’s just get through this”. But hey, this is our duty, and we’ll stick to it.

If you want to be relieved in finally getting to watch a team that’s a bigger mess than the Hawks, well you’re in luck the next two dates on the Hawks’ calendar. The Ducks have become perhaps the league’s leading calamity, and if they’re not it’s up the I-5 for the Hawks on Saturday afternoon. There was a time when Anaheim was floating around the playoff spots, though that was solely due to John Gibson and his Vezina-worthy form at the time. Then that dropped off, then he got hurt, and all that was left was Randy Carlyle‘s bashing-two-rocks-together system and ways, which was getting the Ducks pummeled every night to begin with.

They went 12 in a row without a win. Then they piled on seven regulation losses in a row soon after that. They’ve lost three in a row heading into this one, scoring two goals in the process. All told, since the middle of December this team is 5-19-4. That’s how you go for broke in the lottery, peeps. Whatever I might think of Jeremy Colliton, I can confidently say he’s no Randy Carlyle.

In a move his mentor Bob Pulford would undoubtedly nod in approval over, before falling over into a puddle of his own puke, Bob Murray finally shitcanned RANDY and inserted himself behind the bench. Perhaps he wanted a better look at the refuse he’s taped together, or perhaps whatever dignity he has left wouldn’t allow him to subject any other poor soul to this. It hasn’t much helped, as you might be able to tell.

The Ducks are somehow worse than the Hawks defensively and metrically, and basically have been all season. Carlyle’s tactics didn’t help, which seemed to harken back to 2007, the only time he knows. That and helmets actually cause concussions. This guy had an NHL coaching job, people.

Not only are the Ducks irretrievably bad and expensive, they’re now banged up. Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, and Ryan Miller could all miss out tonight. Ondrej Kase definitely will. This roster is basically bong residue. Ryan Kesler is dead and has also stopped caring, which is a real shock. Corey Perry returned from surgery 12 games ago and is a fourth-liner making $8 million. Hampus! Hampus! has lost the will to live, and Cam Fowler‘s injury history has finally caught up to him and now he’s terrible.

If there’s any hope for the Ducks, it’s that some of their kids are up and are probably going to get a look. Names like Sam Steel, Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Brendan Guhle are going to be carrying whatever the Ducks are going forward, so that at least gives their 12 fans something to watch. But this is a whole lot of ugly right now, which is perfect for this part of Orange County. If you’ve been there, you know.

For the Hawks, their playoff “chase,” such as it was, probably came to an end with the o-for-2 at home on the weekend. However, with the Ducks and Kings on the schedule they have a chance to at least get back where they were, and maybe you spring a surprise on the Sharks on Sunday night (no, you don’t). If the Hawks don’t collect all four points from the first two-thirds of this trip, they’re officially cooked and we can get on with our lives.

It’s unlikely that Corey Crawford will get the start, though he’ll get one on the weekend. Then again, you can’t ask for a softer landing than this. This should be a glorified practice against a team now running out the clock, but nothing is ever that simple for an outfit like the Hawks. This one’s for the diehards only, and the true creatures of the night.

See you there.

 

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After a disastrous weekend that, if it didn’t turn the Hawks’ playoff chase to cinders, certainly threw it on the fire. So you’ll be forgiven if your eyes turn to next year and beyond, which is really what this season has been about all along. Except the Hawks didn’t have anyone to develop for next year, unless you count Henri Jokiharju, who isn’t here. Nor do Drake Caggiula or Dominik Kahun count. So basically it’s Dylan Strome and that’s it.

But in looking toward next season, you can dream about how the blue line will change. How it has to change, even if the Hawks’ front office doesn’t see it, or believes they have enough time to wait for their four kids who’ll never fit on the roster together anyway. If your scout’s hat is on, we get it.

There is only one name on the free agent pool that will change anything, and that’s Erik Karlsson. And he will be as expensive as possible, and may not be interested in coming to a team that is definitely in flux, at best. Maybe all it takes is money, but the Hawks seem unlikely to flash that kind of wad even if EK65 was batting his ever so lovely lashes at them. And the rest of the free agent pool blows when it comes to d-men.

So that means trade. Or trades. Jacob Trouba will be available for a price, but he’s spent the season proving he might not quite be worth the ransom the Jets would ask, and that’s before the intra-divisional tax. Cody Ceci is another who’ll be RFA, but he’s…well, he’s got a terminal case of being Cody Ceci. The Hawks have inquired before, but they have to aim higher.

We present Hampus Lindholm.

Hampus! Hampus!’s numbers won’t leap off the page at you. 34 points is his career-high. 13 goals is another. But you have to look deeper than that.

Lindholm’s defensive responsibilities have grown and grown as he’s gone along, with a dwindling number of shifts starting in the defensive zone. That hasn’t stopped him topping the team-rate in Corsi, scoring chances, and until this season, high-danger chances. And keep in mind the last three seasons he’s been playing for the dumbest coach in the world. It’s hard to judge anyone under that. When he had a coach that played at least an up-tempo style in Bruce Boudreau, he simply kicked around what was in front of him, including carrying a 57% share in ’14-’15. He is one of the more underrated d-men in the league.

And he’s done it with a couple partners, so he’s not a product of getting to play with someone special and just coattail-riding. He’s mostly been with Josh Manson, but also Brandon Montour and some Cam Fowler, and he’s always lifted them up. He is what the Hawks are looking for, especially as they need someone who can lift a player or two up.

So, why would the Ducks trade a 25-year-old d-man who does all these things? Especially one signed for three more seasons at an incredibly reasonable $5.2M hit? Because A) they’re the Ducks and they’re stupid and B) because they’re going to have to jump-start a rebuild with something. Their forwards are just going to be salary-clearing, which won’t net much in return. They just re-signed Jakob Silfverberg for some unknown reason, which might have gotten them something tangible in return.

They have to cash in on a chip somewhere. Offer them Boqvist, because the idealized version of Boqvist is probably Lindholm anyway. Offer them Boqvist and Beaudin, fuck. There’s not enough room for everyone, and you can make do with Jokiharju and Mitchell. Or offer them Jokiharju, who’s development you might have already fucked but other teams don’t know that yet. You need a splash, and Hampus! Hampus! is it.

The Hawks are going to have to get creative. Here’s a start.

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CJ is the editor of AnaheimCalling.com. Follow him @CJWoodling. 

Now that the Ducks have decided to start over, is Bob Murray really the guy you want leading this rebuild?

The Ducks have decided to do more of a retool rather than a full-blown rebuild, more out of necessity than anything else. With more than 30% of the Ducks cap space tied up in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler, all with full NMCs for the next 3-4 seasons, they really can’t completely blow it all up.
That said, they have some good prospects on the verge of making an impact, some of while we’ll see tonight in Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Brendan Guhle, to name a few. With John Gibson still just 25 and locked up for 7 more years and younger pieces like Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Ondrej Kase, they could be competitive again very soon.

Bob Murray has never had to do a retool like this, however. He inherited a team in 2009 with a recent cup win and transitioned it to a consistent competitor without rebuilding. Most of us are willing to see what he can do with this team given the pieces he currently has.

Why was Jakob Silfverberg someone the Ducks decided they have to have?

Bob Murray has a history of handing out extensions like candy to anyone who has performed halfway decently in recent seasons. Jakob Silfverberg has been a good two-way player and a good playoff performer over the years. Murray loves his safe, low-risk, two-way players, so it’s not surprising he wanted to hang onto him. The fan base, however, is fairly divided over the extension.
There’s a ton of bad paper on the Ducks. Is anyone getting bought out in the summer?
There are three candidates for buyout on the Ducks in Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler. Murray has only every bought out one player in his tenure, so it’s unlikely he does it again, especially for one of these expensive players.
Getzlaf is still a borderline-elite player, so he’s off the board. Corey Perry has looked fantastic since coming back from knee surgery, so he’s probably off the table as well. That leaves us with Ryan Kesler, who has less than 10 points on the season and who’s hip is on the verge of exploding at any moment. Buying out Kesler would save the Ducks more than $4 million, but put more than $2 million on the books for six more seasons. Not sure if ownership is willing to swallow that.

Might the Ducks have to lose someone who is young and productive just to accommodate all the bad paper they have and get picks/prospects?

We kind of saw that with the trade of Brandon Montour, trading a 24-year-old good, offensive blueliner for a 1st round pick. However, getting Brendan Guhle back, a 21-year-old with elite skating ability, might mitigate what was lost there. With several kids on the verge of making an impact on the Ducks, I don’t foresee the Ducks losing another young and productive player unless next season unexpectedly goes down the tube again.

 

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Yeah, we’re jaded. Bob Murray was the “GM” of the Hawks when Jeremy Roenick was traded, which took the Hawks a couple decades to recover from. Really he was just Pulford’s and Wirtz’s mouthpiece. He also oversaw the trades of Eddie Belfour and Chris Chelios, which is something like seeing over pissing on the ashes of the building you already helped destroy.

But in case you were wondering what it looks like to sign old players to bad contracts and then watch them deteriorate without the banners and memories, we present Murray and the Anaheim Ducks. This is what Stan Bowman would appear to the world if he wasn’t sitting in the chair for three Cups.

It was Murray who signed Getzlaf and Perry to contracts that pay them until heat-death, even though they were over 30 and Getzlaf was already proving to be a dog who just floated around the outside and looked for a pass that would relieve him of responsibility. Perry’s style was always liable to break down his body. Ryan Kesler’s body was already breaking down when Murray added another six years to his contract. That’s $23.6M per year for the three, thank you very much.

While Murray did build the team that did make two conference finals in three years, he also hired Randy Carlyle, who remember, couldn’t make toast. He just re-signed Jakob Silfverberg, who would seem to define the term “middle six guy.” He is lukewarm if ever a player was. Adam Henrique just got a new contract that takes him well into his 30s, and you wouldn’t know Adam Henrique from Adam (that’s convenient).

So it’s a wonder why he has been allowed to start the rebuild the Ducks so desperately need, which he didn’t even really do. Shifting Andrew Cogliano is a definite “whatever” move, and that’s been about it. The Ducks have cap space next year with not really anyone they have to bring back, but they’ve always been a budget team so who knows how close to the rising cap they can get.

There are some kids in the minors who are lighting it up, but one wonders how much space there is for them unless the Senators are going to take all of the three aging, broken, ass-boils mentioned above off the Ducks’ hands. Murray nearly rolled the boulder up the hill, but then it rolled back over him on its way down. One wonders why he gets another try.

 

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Usually, we try and give our Q&A correspondents a few days for these things. But because we try and block out Anaheim’s existence out of our minds, both team and place, we forgot to send these to our dear friend Jen Neale. Because she’s an angle, she helped us out anyway on short-notice, because she apparently loves a charity case. Follow her on Twitter @MsJenNeale. 

 

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Jen Neale is formerly of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog, and now works in Esports but still follows the Ducks religiously. And quite frankly, we don’t need more than one Ducks fan in our lives. 

The Ducks have had their injury problems, but are kind of floating in the netherworld below the playoffs and all the metrics suggest that’s about right. Is this where this team should be?

Yes, I would say so. John Gibson is epically average – as I’ve insisted for years. Randy Carlyle is who we thought he was, Mr. Dump ‘n Chase. Kesler is playing at 60% after offseason hip surgery. The Ducks are lucky the rest of the Pacific (sans Vegas) is a dumpster fire or they’d be worse off.

 

Rickard Rakell is having another big season, though accumulating a fair amount on the power play. Is he or will he be a premier even-strength scorer?

The kid is magical. It depends on if he can stay healthy and who he plays with. Keep him with Getzlaf and he probably starts getting more even strength goals. Lord knows Getzlaf won’t shoot and Perry couldn’t put a beach ball in the net.

Corey Perry has 11 goals so far after 19 last year. Is he D-O-N-E?
 He certainly appears to have stopped stealing souls or drinking the blood of sacrificed animals in order to gain his talent. He’s still doing Corey Perry things on the ice, but the scoring isn’t there. I don’t think he’s done-done, but he’s not scoring 25 goals anymore. Dude doesn’t even play in OT because he’s too slow. When Getzlaf is out-skating you, you got a problem. 
On the flip side, we’ve been trying to make a Norris case for Hampus Lindholm even if he doesn’t have the points. That good?
So, so good. He embodies what the Norris Trophy should be rewarded for. The sad part is he plays out West and won’t score a ton of points so he won’t get the attention he deserves. His shot is getting better so maybe one day he’ll get a Norris (for points).
Where is this Ducks team headed in the next couple years?
 Hear that creaking sound? That’s the window closing. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are signed until the end of time, and they’re clearly on the downside of their careers. Around them are a lot of young, but good parts. If Patrick Eaves never plays again, I’d hope the Ducks could keep Adam Henrique with that money. He’s been a revelation.
 I’m mostly concerned with what Bob Murray does when Gibson’s contract is up after next season. He’ll be an RFA and Murray looooooves him. I don’t want the Ducks money tied up in an average goalie for a long time. They’ve already done they with three forwards. It’s only going to make future success by the team damn near impossible. (I still miss Freddie Anderson.)

 

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If you’ve followed this site and/or read the program we used to do back when I wasn’t completely dead inside, you know exactly how I feel about the Anaheim Ducks. While the conjecture of recent years has been to move/fold the Coyotes or Panthers or Hurricanes, I would offer up Anaheim as simply the worst hockey market imaginable and not only would I fold the Ducks but I would then implode the Honda Center, then light the remains on fire, then light the ashes on fire, and then essentially neuralize every hockey fan everywhere so we could forget they ever existed. This is one of the dumber fanbases in one of the more terrible places in the country, despite the “happiness” contained just down the street from the Ponda Center, and quite frankly their one Stanley Cup should be erased from the record. A Cup that essentially convinced far too many hockey fans, and basically everyone in the O.C., that the Ducks won the Cup because they fought a lot and turned Brian Burke into a goddamn folk hero which we’re still fucking plagued with. Luckily, one result of that was the Leafs spinning their tires for a good few more years when they bought into that bullshit, so silver linings are always there if you look hard enough. Still, really all Burke did for that champion Ducks team was have the ingenious idea of acquiring two of the greatest d-men of all time in Neidermayer and Pronger. How brilliant.

And why yes, I was in the building in 2007 when Teemu Selanne scored a hat trick against the Hawks, which in no way will be the central point of my note when you find me hanging from a ceiling beam down the road sometime. Also, while we’re on the subject, if a player had the same production curve at the same age as Selanne in baseball, wouldn’t we be all chanting, “H-G-H!” at him? Just a question. But I guess when you’re white and good with the media we don’t do that type of thing, huh?