Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Anaheim Calling signals some Ducks drafting opinions

While I haven't had the privilege to crash at their place like a certain other Ducks blogger, the duo at Anaheim Calling are quickly showing that there's room in the Duck-o-sphere for more than one great Anaheim blog. They first truly drew my attention with a great piece about the Ducks' now-departed goalie coach (still a good read).

Then they outdid themselves alongside Joe in an Anaheim-Detroit mini-blog that exceeded all reasonable expectations. Another bonus: their blog name always gets "The Clash" in my head. Good times.

In case you cannot take the hint already, Anaheim Calling is absolutely a blog that you should keep your eye on. Thanks, guys.

1. What direction do you see the Ducks going with pick #15? Is there any chance that they might get an even better pick by trading Pronger, after all?

I think the Ducks know that they SHOULD be looking for a Top Six scorer. Their prospect pool is overflowing with two-way forwards. That being said, though, they could just as easily use an elite defenseman. And this year's Top 14 are deep enough to where even one team playing a hunch could open up a great pick for the Ducks.

There are various mock situations where one of the Top 10 teams picks a kid from the 11-14, or one of the 11-14 teams picks from the Bottom 15, displacing someone like Scott Glennie or John Moore or Jordan Schroeder. Those situations are ideal, and I really think Ryan Ellis, due to his size, is the only elite player the Ducks would pass on at 15. My preferred picks would be Glennie and Moore, but I wouldn't scoff at a situation where one of the 'better' players falls to the Ducks. I just feel Glennie and Moore would be the best fit, though both are 11-14 players on my board.

The most terrifying scenario is one where the Ducks are stuck with the "True" 15th pick. The Hockey's Future draft paints that picture pretty well. In that situation, I think the Ducks move the pick. The risk value for the 15-20 forwards bears a striking resemblance to that of the 20-30 forwards. Anaheim might as well move down and add a 2nd Rounder in that situation.

As far as moving up, the only trade I can see that makes sense is the Ducks swapping Pronger and their 1st Round choice for the Kings' 5th overall pick and a Top 6 forward, ideally Frolov. The only reason I see that happening is the Kings need a winner. They need a veteran who can dominate and teach their young defensemen how to win 2-1 games. Even if Pronger is a season-long "rental," the potential effect he could have on a young L.A. team that really needs to make the playoffs could be immeasurable. Meanwhile, the Ducks get the Top 6 forward they need and a little payroll flexibility to possibly hold on to Beauchemin. Mix-in a Top 5 pick, and Anaheim can pick a blue chip D-man to replace Pronger. Plus, the Kings are still picking at 15, and will have a chance at drafting another solid forward to replace Frolov.

The question is: How badly do the Kings want to make the playoffs this year? This trade is clearly more beneficial to the Ducks, though perhaps other pieces can be added for a better balance, but I think the key elements of Pronger for the Top 5 pick will work out for everyone. I don't see another scenario where the Ducks can trade up. Other teams in the Top 10 already have a lot of money spent on their blue line, or don't have a forward that would make it worthwhile to part with Pronger.

2. What are some of the most pivotal moments in Ducks drafting history? Talk about some of the biggest "steals" and missed opportunities.

Obviously, the most important draft in franchise history was the 1993 draft when we selected Paul Kariya with the 4th overall pick. He was our Captain, led us to our first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and was one win away from bringing the Cup to Anaheim. Somewhat forgotten, but equally important to the franchise's early success was Mikhail Shtalenkov. He was a more than capable backup for Guy Hebert, and even put up a great fight in our '99 series with Detroit. That first draft provided two key pieces for the early Ducks teams. I'd also list 2002 and 2004 as pivotal drafts, since we turned Lupul and Smid into Chris Pronger. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have hoisted the Cup if Pronger wasn't in a Ducks sweater.

Then there was the 1996 Draft that yielded Ruslan Salei and Matt Cullen. Salei was a solid blueliner, who was on the 2002-2003 team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and Cullen was a key piece in the trade that brought Ozolinsh to Anaheim for that same run. Of course, the 2003 draft was huge, but Arthur's got that in his list of steals. So, keep reading.

On misses, I just have to say that hindsight can be unnecessarily soul crushing.
It's one thing to note that the Top 10 passed on Iginla in '95, but when you point out that LA and Anaheim went 3 and 4 respectively, and Southern California picked Aki Berg and Chad Kilger? I can feel the tears dripping from my heart onto my small intestine.

Generally, though, the Ducks draft with the quality of the class. In a deep draft pool, they do exceptionally well, and in a thin draft class, they miss the superstars along with everyone else. They rarely bust or steal.

I won't officially call 'bust' or 'steal' on the recent picks, though I think Eric Tangradi (who we traded) was a steal, and Logan MacMillan (who we kept) just finished a foreboding season. But what do I know? I wanted them to draft Jim O'Brien that year.

They've had a clear bust with Alexei Smirnov in 2000, but pretty much all of the picks in the middle of that 1st Round flamed-out. There have been some depth-player steals: Shtalenkov early on, Gerber and O'Brien more recently. But the steal that I would note as the greatest in Ducks history was getting the 28th overall pick in 2003 from the Stars. For the pick that Anaheim used to acquire Corey Perry, the Ducks moved San Jose's 2nd Round pick (36th overall) and their own 2nd Round pick (54th overall), which Dallas used to acquire Vojtech Polak and BJ Crombeen, respectively. As deep as that draft was, the Stars really dropped the ball there. They could have had Eriksson AND Perry.

Soapbox: Feel free to take the floor, if you'd like.

I'd like to take this time to say that the soapbox is a very comfortable place for me. I'm going to use it to tell Anaheim fans to STOP hating on Kariya!!! You don't have to want him back on the team to relive the glory days with Selanne, but respect what the man did for us, and stop booing him when he comes to the Ponda Center.

And if my management could please get me a Top 6 forward who can skate with Selanne, I'd appreciate it. He was my favorite player from the day he first put on a Ducks sweater. Please let him be the old player that Ducks fans fell in love with, and get him a guy who can play the left side and get him the puck; I promise he'll score 40 or more, and it'll be some of the most entertaining hockey that folks have seen in years.

I'll second Daniel's sentiments. And then I just want to say to ALL hockey fans: WATCH NCAA HOCKEY! I realize you'll never watch West Coast hockey, and really, I can live with that. 'The 2nd Period starts the same time as Conan? Madness!' But after one of the most exciting seasons/tournaments I've seen in the last 15 years, I implore you: watch NCAA hockey. It just might make this whole Draft thing more enjoyable for you.

This was Anaheim calling to the hockey world. Enjoy your Draft, boys and girls.


Anaheim Calling said...

Thanks for having us, James.

I think we can rival Sleek's hospitality, but the all-out love of obscure video games is tough. I was, however, a video game tester for a while. So, if you just want to talk about what's wrong with sports video games today, I'm your man.

jamestobrien said...

I'm planning on reviewing BOTH NHL games this year so we might seek your thoughts on the state of modern sports games, indeed.