Ducks need to flock as one

first_imgDisney. G.M. Bryan Murray. Coach Mike Babcock. Captain Steve Rucchin. Since the NHL skated away 17 months ago, many of the biggest names from the Mighty Ducks’ Stanley Cup run in 2003 are gone. Disney sold the team in June to Orange County communication moguls Henry and Susan Samueli. The phrase “up-tempo hockey’ has been used so much by the Ducks’ coaching staff and management that it’s become the team’s unofficial theme for this season. “I think the players prefer it,” Burke said. “I think the players prefer initiating rather than reacting.” Just about every move less a couple to create some room under the new salary cap has been with the offense in mind. Selanne, who signed to a one-year, $1 million contract, appears to have recovered from knee surgery and should contribute. Fedorov, Petr Sykora and Rob Niedermayer also return from a Ducks team that scored the third-fewest goals (2.24 goals per game) in 2003-04. DEFENSE The addition of Scott Niedermayer, the defending Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman, bolstered an already competent defense. Niedermayer was named captain Monday and is expected to be paired with Ozolinsh on a regular basis to create a potent offensive punch from the blue line. Ruslan Salei and Keith Carney return to again create a more traditional defensive pairing. The new aggressive style will translate to defense and forwards will be expected to get back and help out. GOALTENDING Jean-Sebastien Giguere has yet to recapture the magic of his 2002-03 playoff run, which ended with him holding the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after the Game 7 loss to New Jersey. He’ll now have to adjust to the smaller pads and shootout among other new rules. He’s coming off a season where he posted the highest goals against average (2.62) since arriving after the 1999-2000 season. Ilya Bryzgalov, who has started in just one NHL game and played a total of two, will back up Giguere. Bryzgalov was 1-2 in the preseason with a 3.33 GAA and an 0.886 save percentage. SPECIAL TEAMS If the preseason was any indication, expect to see them out there a lot. Players will need some time possibly all the way through the All-Star break to adjust to the new rules. In the meantime, expect frequent trips to the penalty box. The Ducks certainly have no lack of skill players to take advantage of man-advantage situations. The penalty kill is another story. The Ducks struggled on the P.K. in the preseason, allowing at least one power play goal in all but one game. They gave up 16 in 73 opportunities (22 percent) overall. COACHING Carlyle may have been a 17-year NHL defenseman, but the 1981 Norris Trophy winner was brought in for his entire approach to the game. “The Ducks will play a high tempo, aggressive forecheck, puck-moving style,” Carlyle said when he was introduced as the Ducks’ coach in August. “That’s what we’re about.” Carlyle accumulated a 222-159-52-7 record in five seasons as coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, a tenure that was interrupted by two years as an assistant at the Washington Capitals (2002-2004). Dave Farrish and Newell Brown were brought in as assistants on a coaching staff that has completely turned over with the exception of goaltending consultant Francois Allaire. MAKE OR BREAK An influx of new players, coaches and management will have to come together quickly. The biggest change for the veteran Duck players may be the team’s new proactive style, which has replaced the neutral-zone trap used by Babcock. Expect the pressure to fall on Giguere. He’ll have to pay the price when the team’s attack turns the puck over, which will be even more costly minus the two-line pass. The Ducks also expect contributions from Selanne, who is coming off the worst NHL season of his 12-year career. In the preseason, he looks like a different player from the one who was hobbled by a knee injury in 2003-04 with Colorado. SCHEDULE There are no lack of tough trips for the Ducks, who open with two games on the road. Four of their final five games before the Olympic break are on the road as are five of the last six games to end the regular season. “Those are all sources of concern for us,” Burke said. “Frankly, it’s the worst schedule the Ducks have ever had.” The league’s new schedule that emphasizes division rivalries also creates some short trips back East. “We go to the East Coast to play two games,” Burke said. “We don’t ever want to do that. We’d like to play four, five or preferably six if we go that far. To be fair to the league, everybody has a tough schedule.” BREAKOUT PLAYER Center Joffrey Lupul, 22, was in a crop of prospects whose growth was stunted by the lockout. He accumulated 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in a solid rookie campaign in 2003-04, but was unable to follow it up as he spent last season with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate. “It was not the second year you’re hoping for,” Lupul said. “After kind of making a dent my rookie season, I was back (in the minors).” He has been playing with some accomplished forwards this preseason, including Rob Niedermayer and Selanne. In six preseason games, he had four goals and six assists. “I want to be the guy who makes an impact,” Lupul said. “I didn’t really do that my first year. … I want to be consistent this year.” Behind the mask with goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere Q: Were there any high points of the lockout? A: “I got to play in Germany and that was a great experience. I also got to spend Christmas with my family, which I haven’t done in years.” Q: What’s the most annoying rule change from a goalie’s perspective? A: “I’m not one to complain. There are already too many people complaining. I’m going to try to stay positive. We all have to live with it.” Q: What are the highlights of playing hockey in Anaheim? A: “How can you not love Southern California? It’s a great place to live. We have a great building and a great organization. Everything’s good about this place.” Q: Do you look forward to being the center of attention when it comes to the shootouts that will now break ties after OT? A: “Shootouts are always tough. I’ve been trying to get as much practice in before the season starts. Fortunately, we aren’t going to have to do it a whole lot. Maybe we’ll get to do it 10 times for the season. Q: Goaltenders aren’t always thought to be the sanest individuals. How did you find yourself in that group? A: “I was the youngest of five kids so they stuck me in the net whenever they wanted to play hockey. I just kind of became a goaltender. A lot of goalies are different. I feel I’m pretty level-headed.” GOING THREE ROUNDS According to left wing/enforcer Todd Fedoruk, there are three traits an NHL enforcer must possess : The ability to play “With the way the game is nowadays, you have to be able to play. You can’t be a liability when the coach puts you out there.” It’s gotta be in your blood “You have to be a fighter from the time you’re a kid. The guys I know who have been fighters in the league have an aggressive tendency to them. That’s not something you can teach.” Know the code “There’s a certain level of respect factor the guys around the league have for everybody that fights.” Fedoruk’s on the game’s Top 3 fighter’s: “I don’t like to rank guys. When you get to this level, you’re a professional. Anybody can win on any night. … I don’t respect any one player more than another.” Best guys he has ever fought. Nov. 4, 2000 vs. Buffalo’s Rob Ray: “That guy had already been in 200 fights in the NHL. It was one of my first games up with the Flyers and I asked him to fight and he gave me the opportunity. I had a lot of respect for guys like that.” March 19, 2001 vs. Edmonton’s Georges Laraque “I was a rookie and I put myself out there. He’s a guy that can really hurt a player. I held my own against him and changed the momentum. We were down 3-1 and we came back and won that game.” All the others “I’d like to give you one more that sticks out, but every fight is important to me.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Rucchin was a victim of the league’s new $39 million cap and was traded for a minor-league enforcer and a conditional pick to the Rangers. But the Ducks didn’t let their top forward and defenseman from the 2003-04 squad that finished out of playoff contention go anywhere. Burke decided against buying out center Sergei Fedorov’s contract and re-signed the team’s lone unrestricted free-agent, defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. The team even added a link to the past in forward Teemu Selanne, who played in front of full crowds at the Pond from 1995-2001. Add in the signing of All-Star defenseman Scott Niedermayer and the Ducks’ summer makeover was complete. “We set out to make this team a more physical and entertaining team,” Burke said. “I think we delivered. … This is a playoff team.” OFFENSE center_img Murray left to coach Ottawa and was replaced permanently by the no-nonsense Brian Burke, a former G.M. in Vancouver. Babcock decided against a one-year contract extension and eventually signed on to coach the Red Wings. That cleared the way for Burke to bring in first-year coach Randy Carlyle. last_img read more