Everything Else

In case you missed the news yesterday under the far brighter lights of the playoffs or it actually being warm for a change, Ryan Kesler is likely to miss all of next season after hip resurfacing surgery. This will be Kesler’s third major surgery, his second on his hip, and not only will he miss out next year, you get the feeling this is likely it for him. While one of the Bryan brothers in tennis (it doesn’t matter which one, does it?) have returned after this procedure, and Andy Murray is going to try to, Kesler at 36 and to hockey seems a stretch. Maybe he can, I just wouldn’t bet on it.

If it is the end, it will be the end of pretty much our favorite non-Hawk player to write about. Kesler was strange in that way. There probably wasn’t anyone who pissed us off more, his constant jabbering and cheap shots along with some big goals. His “feud” with Andrew Ladd, which basically involved him getting the shit kicked out of him, calling Ladd a coward for that, and then refusing to fight Ladd after doing so was kind of the height of heel-dom. You were waiting for Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to escort him off the ice. You get the feeling Jonathan Toews would still knife him if given the chance. You knew exactly what Toews and the Hawks were in for in 2015, and you got every bit of it. Kesler’s bravado in what he thought was right, and how it came up empty once again. He was the biggest and probably as close to perfect hockey villain you’ll find in the modern game. He could make your blood boil.

And yet other than Jarome Iginla, there probably isn’t a player since we started this blog that we wanted on the Hawks more. When he asked out of Vancouver, we wrote furiously and regularly about all the ways the Hawks could get him and what it would take, perhaps in the vain hope that someone somewhere would see it and bring it to Stan. Or that Patrick Kane would demand he be brought here after their Team USA excursions together. Maybe it was just the relief of not having to deal with him in another jersey we sought. Maybe because the Hawks haven’t had anyone like him since…god who even knows? Kesler’s snarl, brashness, combined with his actual ability probably goes all the way back to Roenick here.

That’s the thing about Kesler. For all the bullshit he put out there, it wasn’t bullshit because he could actually play. Mostly the yapping and pest-ing is reserved for players who can’t do anything else. But Kesler wasn’t that. He’s got a Selke for a reason. Multiple 70+ point seasons on his resume. Nine 20-goal seasons.

And he did it when it mattered most. A rite of springtime in Vancouver was Kesler carrying that team when the Sedins decided it was too hard.. He was everywhere in 2011, the city of Nashville basically declared war on him and he just kept kicking their ass and making them like it, until his body gave out and no one was there to pick up the slack. He was the biggest threat in 2015 when Getzlaf and Perry waved a dismissive hand at proceedings and wouldn’t come inside the circles. He even flashed some of that old self in the Ducks’ last trip to the conference final, though by that point his body was giving up the ghost.

Hockey has so few trash-talkers-but-back-it-up types. Most of the yapping is done from the bench from guys who play less than 10 minutes. It’s why we think David Backes is such a joke. Andrew Shaw when he was here was only a Diet version of Kesler, and now is just Diet Backes. Brad Marchand picked up the torch. But are there too many more? Not really.

Kesler vs. Toews harkened back to an older time of hockey, and maybe we enjoyed it because Toews always came out on top. You probably still can’t leave Joel Otto and Mark Messier in a room together. It was that type of personal duel in a team game. Joe Thornton would probably like a word with Kesler, too. Hell, there’s a whole list that would scroll onto the floor. And they always had to line up right against each other in every faceoff they took in those series. The fatigue of each other was palpable, and that was before the series even started.

I remember all the crap. I remember all the cross-checks and slashes and punches to the back of the head. I also remember Kesler literally diving headfirst into Corey Perry’s asshole to score an empty-netter to seal the US’s win over Canada in 2010. I remember him picking a fight with the entire country. Or guaranteeing he would score on Luongo, which he did. I also remember him ultimately coming up short, which is another main theme of Kesler’s career. It all happened with Kesler.

But it wasn’t ever Kesler’s fault. If the Sedins had shown 75% of his hutzpah in 2011 the Canucks probably get one game in Boston. If Getzlaf hadn’t done his normal quit thing when things are hard, or if Freddie Andersen wasn’t Freddie Andersen, the Ducks probably win that series and go on to win the Cup, too.

But it makes Kesler a more poetic figure that after doing all that he could, and all that he shouldn’t, it was never quite enough. He pretty much did everything he could in every possible way, and it wasn’t enough. For those who never had him on their team, it probably makes you smile. But that part of you that wanted him on your side, you have to feel for him a little. The fact that he never quite got it, that he thought all his and his team’s physical pressure would win the day, that he could enforce his way to victory instead of play his way, gave him a delightful, tragic idiot shine.

Kesler will always have the last laugh on me. I had to buy an ex-girlfriend a Kesler USA jersey before the ’14 Olympics. I sincerely enjoyed doing so. And I nearly got one for myself.

Farewell, Ryan. I doubt a player will ever make me feel murderous rage and insane devotion at the same time as you did. I’ll miss that.

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.

 

Game #64 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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.

 

Game #64 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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.

 

Game #64 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 9-14-5   Ducks 14-10-5

PUCK DROP: 9:30

TV: NBCSN

HERE WE GO AGAIN IT’S NEVER GONNA END: Anaheim Calling

God, writing that record out just hurts.

The Hawks quickly jaunt out west this week for a back-to-back against Anaheim and Vegas, and I’m sure landing in Vegas really late curtails any urge to enjoy the splendors and luxuries of Sin City–what I’m saying is that the Hawks will look like particular shit tomorrow night. But we’re not there yet. Let’s deal with a slog with the Ducks first.

Starting with the local Westside Hockey Club. There wouldn’t appear to many changes. Having failed to launch Chris Kunitz headfirst into a landfill at great speed, our best hope is that his “veteran leadership” that cost the Hawks any chance of a point on Sunday lands him in the pressbox for the foreseeable future. Erik Gustafsson should draw back in after a one-game ball-tap, which should send Jan Rutta back into the darkness of the Honda Center on his way to Rockford. Connor Murphy is on the trip but is not likely to play either game, but Sunday against Les Habitants would seem to be likely.

As for the rest of it, there isn’t much left to say. The forwards will get jumbled. Patrick Kane will play everywhere. We hope to notice Brendan Perlini at all. We hope that Dylan Strome builds on what was a decent game on Sunday. But if there’s ever a time to claim some new ground, it’s tonight.

Because don’t be fooled by the Ducks record or placing in a Pacific Division that has all the momentum of a pig in shit. This team BUH-LOWS. They’re on pace to give up a record number of shots per game. They give up the second-most attempts per game, and have the fourth-worst xGA/60 (care to guess who has the first?). They basically get shelled every night, and only heroic work by both John Gibson and Ryan Miller have kept this team from loitering around the entrance to the drugstore with the Hawks, Blues, and Kings.

Gibby, I can call him that, has cooled off a touch since his unholy October, but still came up with a .921 in November and had put up a 34- and 44-save effort in his two starts before getting clocked by the Capitals. Perhaps because of that, and blatant lack of respect for what the Hawks are, they’ll get to see Ryan Miller tonight, who’s only been at .954 at evens this year. So that’s nice.

Up front, the Ducks have a clear delineation from their top-six to the bottom-six. The top line of Pontus AbergRyan GetzlafRickard Rakell has been a weapon of late, with Aberg benefitting the most. I’m not telling you Getzlaf found his long-lost fuck to give, but he’s more than talented enough to set up plays while floating around the outside and reading…well I don’t think he can read but whatever dumbass fucks like him read. The second line is being carried by Adam Henrique, and both of these units start exclusively in the offensive zone. The next lines start exclusively in their own end, and because Ryan Kesler has maggots crawling out of every orifice now, they can’t escape.

The defense had been missing Hampus! Hampus! for a while, and will be without Cam Fowler for longer still. And while they want to believe that Brandon Montour and Josh Manson are that good to justify giving up on Shea Theodore as he excels in Vegas, they’ve been having their brains turned into potato soup most of the year. Maybe a fully-healthy Fowler and Lindholm help that, but this is a Randy Carlyle team and Randy Carlyle teams are terrible metrically while he finds reasons to justify his “Helmets Cause Concussions Because They Make Brains Hot” theory (this is a real thing).

Look, we all know the Hawks are going to get stuffed tomorrow night because they have in every meeting with the Knights. So if they actually still care, and I’m not convinced they do, and want to get a win just to see if they can still feel anymore, this would be the time. The Ducks are bad. The Hawks already deservedly beat them once this season.

Just get a win. Because it might be a nice change of pace.

 

Game #29 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We’re not writing this through cramp-causing giggling. Honestly, we’re not (we so are).

Ryan Kesler has been, or had been, perhaps the main Hawks foil for years. Starting in 2009, when Andrew Ladd broke his jaw, and continuing for another six seasons, no one drew the ire of Hawks players and fans more than Kesler. He was Lex Luthor. He was The Joker. He was the boogeyman. His clashes with Jonathan Toews verged on Shakespearian. And he did it with two teams, taking his King Asshat Act down the coast from Vancouver to Anaheim.

He kicked off fights, brawls, sparring in the media. frothing in the crowd. Kesler harkened back to an age in the sport where there were true heels that made you think if there wasn’t glass separating the crowd from the players, he very well may have been attacked by a baying throng all carrying Old Styles.

And Kesler couldn’t have produced that kind of emotion if he couldn’t play. There was a time when he was a dominant player. He scored over 70 points twice, if you forgot. He potted over 20 goals in nine of ten seasons, and the one he didn’t he was hurt. There was no better checking center, and it was Kesler who really did the heavy lifting for both Henrik Sedin and Ryan Getzlaf as they decided to be wallflowers in the destructive dance of the playoffs.

But it was clear that Kesler’s style couldn’t last. It was far too physical, far too in the muck, and when his body started breaking down, it wouldn’t stop. And so it has proven.

That didn’t stop Bob Murray in his infinite wisdom from handing Kesler a six-year extension that didn’t kick in until last year when he was already 33. And now you wonder if it isn’t the absolute worst value there is.

Kesler’s cap-hit is $6.8M, which is the 48th-highest in the league (tied with Brent Seabrook for a chilling bit of symmetry). Kesler put up .31 points per game last year, and is at .23 this year. Looking at the names above him on the cap-hit list, the only names that jump out that you could argue are Seabrook, Dion Phaneuf, and Bobby Ryan. But Ryan is younger, and at least averaged 0.5 points per game last year, though both he and Kesler missed big chunks of time with injury. Neither is anywhere near a guarantee to suit up for most of the games on the slate now.

Phaneuf is trash, but his deal was signed five years ago. It was a bad deal then, mind, but that’s the neighborhood Kesler lives in (along with Seabrook). Somehow, Kesler only makes a shade less than Patrice Bergeron, whom Kesler’s agent assuredly used as a comparison and Murray somehow bought it.

There wouldn’t seem to be any way out of it. Kesler isn’t going to retire and leave $20M on the table. He has a full no-trade until the last year of the deal, but there aren’t going to be any suitors who come sprinting when the Ducks hang a “Must Go” sign on him. His actual salary remains rigid throughout, so there’s no out for the Ducks that way.

His injury history might give the Ducks an out, where they can LTIR him into the abyss if his physical condition doesn’t allow him to play in the next three years. But Kesler would have to agree to that, and he doesn’t seem like the type.

The Ducks have some problems on the horizon, as Jakob Silfverberg goes UFA after this season and Brandon Montour RFA the summer after that. They should just about be able to keep everyone, but that’s keeping everyone on a team on pace to give up a record number of shots and chances against this season and only being bailed out by their goalie. Where’s the addition?

If you need something to cling to in this winter of discontent for the Hawks, know that Kesler lost all the fights. He didn’t get a Cup. His words always ended up on a plate for his dinner. Save 2011, the Hawks always got the better of his team. He became an anchor to his team for now and the future. And it won’t get any better. That should do it.

 

Game #29 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 28-29-8   Ducks 32-21-12

PUCK DROP: 3:00 PM

TV: NBCSN Chicago

UNDERGROUND DISNEYLAND OVERLORDS: Anaheim Calling

After showing an actual pulse yesterday in the third period, after a comeback we hadn’t seen in a very long while, and after an actually stirring win (though signifying nothing), the Hawks reward is to huff it down the I-5 to Orange County. Almost doesn’t seem fair. Anaheim isn’t a reward for anything.

What the Hawks will find when they get there is much like yesterday, a team clutching the last playoff spot with one or two cla…feet? Beaks? Whatever, carry your own metaphor here. The Ducks are in the last wild card spot, one point ahead of both the Avs and Blues and three ahead of the Flames. They’re four behind the Kings for the right to have another Battle of California in the first round.

It’s been up and down since you last saw Anaheim take a tight one over the Hawks here at the UC 20 days ago. They won the next three in Dallas, Vegas and Minnesota, but then found a way to only find a point in back-to-back games against the Coyotes and Oilers. They bounced back on Thursday with a win over the similarly flailing Blue Jackets.

Not much has changed with the Ducks in that time, roster-wise. GM Bob Murray didn’t think this team was worth investing too heavily into at the deadline, and with good cause. The problems they have–i.e. Cory Perry died, Ryan Getzlaf stopped caring about three seasons ago, and Ryan Kesler is now made of gum and duct tape–aren’t going to be solved by any trade. The Ducks can’t score much thanks to Perry dragging down the top line and Kesler the second, and Adam Henrique on the third can only do so much. But they don’t give up much either, thanks to the sterling form of John Gibson and Randy “Concussions Happen Because The Brain Gets Hot While Wearing A Helmet” Carlyle’s system not really allowing for any adventure on either side. They do that while still playing Kevin Bieksa, which is a hell of an accomplishment.

That’ll make for a real decision for Murray this summer, as Gibson will be heading into the last year of his deal. Thankfully for Murray it’ll only be an RFA problem but we know what starting goaltenders go for. Another big year from Gibson and he could ask for a lot from a team committed to paying their three cadavers at forward $23.4 million from here until The Reckoning.

While the Ducks will be flapping furiously until the end of the season (see what I did there?) to make the playoffs, that’s basically only window dressing for them. This team is most likely first-round cannon fodder for anyone they see, unless Gibson simply goes nuts. They don’t have the front-line scoring as Perry and Getzlaf are just too easily taken out of games now (as they always were in any game that mattered when they could move). Hampus! Hampus! is having a Norris quality season but Carlyle is insisting on playing him with Bieksa now, so what’s that shutting down? Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour aren’t doing that either. Stranger things have happened of course, but don’t bet on it. And once they’re out, this Ducks window is almost certainly closed.

Shouldn’t see too many changes from the Hawks, other than in net where JF Berube will hopefully not have Erik Gustafsson trying to kill him emotionally and physically as he did in San Jose. Q could get cute we guess and start Forsberg again, trying to ride the wave of yesterday. Whatever at this point. More of The Nuclear Option and see just what Carlyle wants to combat that with.

We know most of you are rooting for losses and better drafting position. We don’t blame you. But given how much we hate Anaheim and that they still have something to play for, seeing the Hawks try and build something off of yesterday and making life harder for the Ducks has major appeal. This one won’t be pretty given how the Ducks normally play, their stakes in this one, and the Hawks having played yesterday. But as is always the case in Orange County, just get through it and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Game #66 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Age is a funny thing in professional sports. Now that I’m on the wrong side of 35, I am downright flabbergasted when I see an athlete about my age, or, god forbid, even older. While I spend every day reminding myself that I’m not THAT old, and I make an art form out of raging against the dying of the light, when I see a pro athlete who is no longer a twentysomething, I almost instinctively regard them as a washed-up shell to be treated with suspicion and/or pity, and only in rare cases with respect or admiration for past accomplishments and the ability to overcome the inevitable ravages of time.

The Ducks are a team managing to have both ends of that spectrum, and as fans of a team with an aging core already showing signs of decline, Hawks fans should take note. Who are the washed-up shells? Trade-deadline-acquisition Chris Kelly would have to be at the top of that list. I mean, really, what in the fuck was that all about? Did Bob Murray really think his Olympics performance would make up for being out of the league all season? I know Kelly scored the winning goal in the bronze medal game but it was against a bunch of literal nobodies from the Czech Republic (seriously, Martin Erat was on their team).

The Senators walked away from Kelly before the season started and no one, not even the Oilers, were willing to take this guy for their bottom six. But sure, there can’t be anyone in the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, or at a men’s league somewhere in Irvine for fuck’s sake, who could be had cheaply for the playoff push.

Next would have to be Jason Chimera, who has gone through the looking glass to become the literal embodiment of his name, i.e., a thing that is hoped for that is impossible to make a reality. Chimera’s possession numbers have never been good, and he’s managed a meager two goals all season. He scored 20 goals in his last two seasons with the Islanders and the Capitals, which is the truly shocking thing here. His evaporation back into nothingness is not the surprise—it’s that any team trying to squeeze into the playoffs would waste any energy on him.

Ryan Kesler’s injury isn’t something to be pinned on Murray or the rest of the Ducks organ-I-zation, but it’s emblematic of what comes with an aging team. And Kesler is an example of a guy (33 years old) who isn’t actually a senior citizen in sports terms or otherwise but now seems as good as one with his busted-up hip, that scourge of grandparents everywhere.

On the other side of this nursing home bingo game are guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Despite having his face pulverized earlier this season, Getzlaf is second in points on the team (although not especially prolific goal-wise). He’s been streaky, but his shooting percentage is a healthy 9.5, his possession numbers are solid (53.1 CF% and a 5.1 CF Rel), and did I mention he’s second in points even though he was out for about six weeks?

Granted, that stat says more about the rest of the Ducks and their scoring malaise than it does about Getzlaf, but you can’t deny he’s making himself useful. Corey Perry is doing the same and is right behind Getzlaf in points, but that is literally the only mildly positive thing I can say about this asshat, so let’s just leave it at that.

The Ducks aren’t the oldest team in the league (haha Red Wings); in fact, they’re the seventh-oldest. But given the uneven nature of older players’ performance and health—not to mention their asinine roster moves making it worse—they’ll need to finally accept that where physical skill is concerned, maturity and experience will not always beat youth and enthusiasm.

 

Game #66 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Ducks 27-20-11   Hawks 24-25-8

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

NOT MISCHA BARTON: Anaheim Calling

It seems so long ago now that games between these teams really meant something. Really got the blood going. There was the one in 2013 in Anaheim that was between the two best winning percentages in like NHL history. Then another one a week later. There was the ’15 Conference Final, one of the weirdest and stressful series the Hawks ever played. It’s memories like that we’ll have to cling to even tighter now, to get through the last two months here. They’re going to seem a little foggier than they did.

Anyway, the Hawks are scheduled to show up to host the Ducks tonight. The Ducks still have things to play for, as due to the Pacific Division’s utter incompetence they haven’t been bounced from those playoff spots and they’re only three points behind the Wild for a wild card spot. Not that you’ve thought about the Ducks at all this season, and really nor should you.

For one, the Ducks have been beat up, and they weren’t all that interesting to begin with. Getzlaf, Perry (not sure if it still matters), Kase, Kesler, Fowler, Hampus! Hampus!, and Eaves have all missed significant time this year. They’ve barely had a full lineup at any point. At the moment only Eaves is still out, so this is as close as they’ve gotten.

But even that lineup isn’t really impressive, at least not at forward. Corey Perry is just an anal fissure now, as he can’t score or move. He’s basically a slow Burrows, except he’s so slow he can’t even get there to provide his normal bullshit. He won’t get suspended at any time because he’ll never be there in time to knee anyone. Ryan Getzlaf stopped caring about shooting or skating in between the circles at least four years ago, and that’s only gotten worse. Kesler  is on one hip now and can’t really score to make it all count the way he used to, and he can barely get in range so you can hear whatever he’s yapping about. That basically leaves the Ducks without a #1 center or much of a #1 line. Rickard Rakell is making a fist of it but a good portion of his scoring comes on the man-advantage. Kase, Silfverberg, apple of Fifth Feather’s eye Cogliano, these are all useful players but they’re middle six players. Adam Henrique has threatened at being more since coming over from Jersey, and without him, boy who knows where they’d be? It’s hardly a shock that the Ducks are 24th in goals per game, and Randy Carlyle’s “hit that thing with that thing” method of opening up offense or any jar in his house isn’t helping.

It’s unfortunate, because there could be a pretty dynamic, young defensive group here. Hampus! Hampus! might be the most underrated player in the league. Brandon Montour has had a breakout season. Josh Manson has kept pace with Hampus! Hampus! Cam Fowler actually turned out to be what we always made fun of him for not being. But they’re weighed down by Kevin “Vacuous Maw” Bieksa and Francois “No I’m Not Dead I Always Look Like That” Beauchemin. And they aren’t given much license to get creative from their coach, to which a good dump-in is akin to a religion. Whenever the Ducks blow it up, if they decide to or even can, the blue line will be a nice building block.

They’ve been backed up most of the year by John Gibson, who’s just good enough to break your heart. He actually goes RFA this year which should make for some interesting viewing. Either way, the Ducks should be a desperate team tonight.

For the Hawks…I don’t even know any more. It looks like Erik Gustafsson will be the scratch tonight as Carl Dahlstrom has impressed enough to stick around. And that’s fine. Glass Jeff has been punted back to Rockford, and that’s fine. J.F. Berube is your new import, which tells you everything you need to know. Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma are on the top two lines as Stan hangs a “For Sale” sign out in the hopes of mid-round picks for both. To compensate for that Top Cat is on a fourth line with Hartman and Sharp, and we are left to look around and where we are and think about all our regrets and mistakes in our lives.

At this point, as we’ve said, it’s really just about pride. The Hawks really didn’t play badly in Vegas and were undone by a goalie who simply didn’t belong. Not really anyone’s fault on that. They at least looked like they wanted to be there. Should be an interesting atmosphere at the UC tonight. First off, probably won’t be more than three-quarters full, which will come as a shock to some. And it will be a crowd ready to groan, jeer, and boo at a moment’s notice. This is the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days! They’re back, there’s no choices left.

 

Game #58 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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.)

 

Game #58 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built