Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hockey Orphan: Anaheim Mighty Ducks

For now, hockey orphan will start alphabetically but that might change due to time constraints and finding team bloggers.

Each of these thread/posts should be considered evolving hockey organisms. Some will draw hatred from fans of opposing teams, some will draw hatred from Canadians who believe there should be no team below the Mason-Dixon line and some might not elicit much more than a yawn.

My Battle of California homie Earl Sleek will eventually be the lead post for this one (if he wants it), but let's at least get the ball rolling. (I'm impatient)

jamestobrien:The Mighty Ducks are quite the interesting little team. Wayne Gretzky once derisively referred to the New Jersey Devils as a "Mickey Mouse franchise" but the Ducks literally began as a Mickey Mouse franchise.

Disney made three Mickey Ducks movies of varying quality and popularity, creating a series that must have introduced thousands of American children to the sport while possibly hammering the final nail into the coffin of Emilio Estevez's movie career.

For years, the team was awful but boasted to absolute star players in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. After a few years, the Ducks made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals under current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. That run was defined by the otherworldly netminding of J.S. Giguere, whose captivating run inspired Stuart Scott to give the sweaty goaltender a nickname related to Will Smith's unfortunate rap career. (Getting Jiggy ... ugh)

The next big moment came when Chris Pronger joined the club by forcing a trade just a season after he signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Pronger's rough, elbow-happy style didn't win him many friends to begin with but his apparently wife-inspired defection did not go over well with the vaunted Oilers blogosphere.

It did, however, help the Ducks put together a club that dominated its way to one of the most convincing Cup wins of the decade.

Last year didn't go too well, but the Ducks feature a nice amount of top-end talent. Ryan Getzlaf is developing into one of the league's best power forwards. Corey Perry is the Robin to Getzlaf's Batman. Scott Niedermayer is one of the league's most gifted skaters, even as he grows older. Chris Pronger might be a douche, but he also might be the most intimidating defenseman since Scott Stevens retired.

Giguere surprisingly doesn't receive much ink as an elite goaltender, but he is one of the best "money" goaltenders in the league.

Put those factors together and you have a team with an excellent chance at another Cup run, although the future is murky with Brian Burke being rumored to GM Toronto in 2009-10 and much of the roster becoming free agents that same off-season.

Success outlook: Short-term: A; Long-term: B-

Intangibles: C-

When Pronger forced his trade to Anaheim, my first thought was: "at least they won't win the Cup as the Ducks in those stupid jerseys...."

Yet, the lack of personality in their current design (some clever folks referred to their logo as nothing more than a font) matches the Ducks bland, goony approach to the game. The Pronger trade and his presence in general is pretty bad karma.

When it comes to sexy, the Ducks are treading water. Then again, when it comes to modern NHL jersey redesigns sometimes it's a success just not to be downright awful.

My overall grade: B-

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