Posts Tagged ‘Sami Vatanen’

A lower body injury (LBI) limited Sami Vatanen to under 5 minutes in the OT win against the Sharks. Sami didn’t dress Sunday against the Avs. Luca Sbisa is out with a mild ankle sprain. Ducks and Luca insist their just being cautious. Take that to mean he would be day-to-day in the regular season. Ducks already are without 1/3 of their top six from last season following Toni Lydman’s retirement and Sheldon Souray’s soft tissue tear in his wrist. Francois Beauchemin is projected to be ready to the start the season. Projected is the operative word though. That’s 66% of last of last season’s Top Six D, injured, retired or rehabbing.

No further reports on Vatanen’s LBI are available. The story began with an oft-repeated Eric Stephens tweet but no official word has come from our Ducks. The best we can do is hope it isn’t one of those nagging ow-eez that keep out of the lineup.

In the meantime, Bryan Allen and Mark Fistric become Top 4 D-men on our Ducks depth chart. Kyle Cumiskey has 139 regular season and playoff games with the Avs. Acquired from Colorado in Oct./2011, he has yet to play a regular NHL game with the Ducks.

Hampus Lindholm has turned some heads in camp but respected blogger Collin Insley has expressed concerns about how easily he seems to get knocked off the puck. It should be noted that GM Bob Murray has said the 6th overall pick in 2012 is “only 19.” Nobody has any doubt Lindholm will be a good one but he needs to get much stronger on the puck for NHL hockey.

The gossip blogs, with their focus on the Canadian and big market teams, are ignoring our Ducks challenges on the back-line. Murray runs a very tight ship as to leaks especially compared to his more transparent and master media manipulating predecessor Brian Burke. Even the oft speculated Bobby Ryan trade caught everyone by surprise.

Leafs unsigned RFA Cody Franson is far and away the best unsigned free agent available. His rights might be acquired for a non-roster prospect other than Lindholm or John Gibson. Franson is 6’5″ 213# who scored 4 goals and 29pts in 45 games last season. THN player profile describes him as an inconsistent offensive Dman with size. Franson is reportedly looking for a one year contract at $3m.

Given Leafs limited cap space and Morgan Reilly and comeback Paul Ranger having great camp and good camps respectively; Leafs have little need for Franson.

GM Bob Murray has always shown a preference for picking from the bargain bins and discount racks. While there’s no doubt an apparent need for back-line, Look for Murph to give the kids a chance, ready or not.

Where are they now? Former Duck goaltender Jeff Deslaurier has signed a professional tryout contract with the Penguins AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Deslauriers 29, hasn’t played in the NHL since going 2011 with our Ducks. He went 3-1 with a SP of .903. The move is widely viewed as insurance due to losing Tomas Vokoun indefinitely to blood clotting issues.


The first game of the pre-season produced three noteworthy results. In order of importance going forward those are:

1. Selanne/Silfverberg are developing great chemistry. Via Adam Brady,

“You can see right away, he can see the game so well,” Selanne said. “So if you get open, the puck is going to come. Same with him. He has a great shot, and we tried to feed each other. Every day is a process.”
Added Silfverberg, “We’ve been practicing for about a week. Teemu is very easy to play with. He’s such a skilled guy. He’s good at finding open spots, he’s good with the puck, and good at giving goals. [It’s] a lot of fun playing with him.”

2. Scoring from the backline. Sami Vatanen scored. UFA pickup Nolan Yonkman netted a short- hander.

3. Last but not least, two vets tempered any irrational exuberance following the easy win. Teemu said, “All the guys worked hard but we don’t get too high about this.” Andrew “IronMan” Cogliano reminded everyone, “”It’s still preseason and the first game.”

Taking our cue from the vets, we merely note with one eyebrow raised that our guys started the game fast, potting 3 goals on their first 3 shots. But we won’t read anything in it.

Blog Note: You may notice ads appearing on the site from time to time. This is a function of our host, WordPress. BackCheck’s Blog receives no benefit and has no control over the ads. The ads should definitely not be construed as an endorsement by this blog.

Ducks have some interesting parts and pieces. Everybody makes tangible and intangible contributions. This post is about the latter. In this post we’ll identify some of those intangibles and pose the question; Can this Ducks team come together and realize it’s potential?

After a great short season, our Ducks entered the playoffs with great expectations that were quickly dashed by the Detroit Red Wings in a thrilling series. Consequently, Coach Boudreau has defined this campaign as “Unfinished Business.” It’s a great goal defining mantra designed to motivate the players both individually and collectively. Identifying Bruce Boudreau’s most impactful intangible is so easy. It’s his humanity.

To understand the humanity in Gabby take a look at how he honors 9/11.

Gabby’s personal unfinished business is playoff success and get the most from his own personal OT game.

You could have knocked me over with a feather as I read Francois Beauchemin will probably start the season just 4.5 months following reconstructive knee surgery. Beauch is the kind of man whose respect other men aspire to earn. This man played through serious injury to become included in the Norris Trophy conversation. A feat even more amazing when one considers Beauchemin isn’t unanimously considered a top pairing D-man. He’s also not thought of as a heart and soul player though his heart and soul is his greatest single intangible contribution to the team.

Ducks best players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are just entering their prime. Getz having earned his way into the Hart Trophy nomination. Pears has already earned the MVP award.
Bob Murray, at the urging of the Ducks captain, has reunited The Twins with their Cup team line-mate, Dustin Penner. Pancake appears committed to get a career that seemed to waiver off track during his two seasons with the Kings. Will returning to Anaheim do for Penner what it did for Teemu Selanne?
What was once the Kid Line on our Ducks Cup team is now Top Line expected to lead the team back into the elite of the league.

There’s also a very impressive veteran contingent led by Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. They will be joined at mid-season by Sheldon Souray. The contributions made by this group reaches far beyond their combined stats. They lead by example and the shared wisdom accumulated through a combined half century of NHL experience.

Ducks have a couple-3 other vets, Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Winnick and Bryan Allen who play an accountable and responsible brand of hockey. Cogs is an NHL Iron Man who can play all three forward positions and in any situation. He is our Ducks Swiss army knife. Contributions of Winnick and Allen are best measured in the reluctance of opposing players to battle position or the biscuit.

The cherry may well be the youth contingent that is made up of 8 guys well positioned to take the loosely defined next step in their respective careers.
Cam Fowler, Nick Bonino, Jakub Silfverberg and Kyle Palmieri. All four are counted upon to make significant offensive contributions.
Level-headed and well grounded, Emerson Etem will continue to play ES and PK. He will have to start scoring to earn PP time.
Peter Holland, Patrick Maroon and Sami Vatanen will be given an opportunity to establish themselves as bonafide NHL players.
If there’s one guy who needs to play with desperation, it’s Luca Sbisa. Only 23, Luca has 5 NHL seasons and 236 regular season games behind him. In all that time he hasn’t established himself as much more than a 3rd pairing, spot played D-man. It wasn’t that long ago many of Bob Murray’s Kool-Aid drinkers were predicting Sbisa would make us forget Chris Pronger. He doesn’t need to be great but he does need to become consistently accountable and responsible.

The aforementioned 8 most represent the affirmation “Unfinished Business.” They bring the naivety, passion and energy of youth.

Vying for spot duty are role players Matt Beleskey, Mark Fistric, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brad Staubitz.

Backing the guys up is arguably the best goalie tandem in the NHL. Each of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth have earned the trust and respect of their teammates. Having trust in your goaltenders is quite possibly the single most impactful intangible benefit.

Steve Whitney has been catching the eye of many bloggers early in camp. Speed is eye-catching and Whitney floats around the rink at mach speed. He isn’t likely to make the show this year. Conversely, Rickard Rakell has failed to make a positive impression anyone during the first half week.

These Ducks might well be a year or 3 away from finishing their unfinished business. They do have a broad range of complimentary skill sets on the roster. Additionally, they have depth to replace the various parts lost to retirement or diminished skills internally.

In this sense, these Ducks are organizationally structured similarly to our Cup winning team that prospered with 9 sophomores on the roster.

We may have even finally replaced Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer though it will have taken 5 D-men to do it. Fowler and Vatanen for Nieds and Souray, Beauchemin and Allen for Pronger.

The talent is there for these Ducks to push themselves into NHL elite status. The questions are; will it all come together? Will they remain healthy? Will they peak in the playoffs?

Yesterday, czhokej and I indulged a rare chance to hang out, share a salad, flirt with waitresses and chat Ducks hockey. The food was tasty, the waitresses good sports and the chat compelling. Here are some quick hits:

First up was the top line and all the events surrounding it. New contracts to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Bobby Ryan trade. The signing of Dustin Penner. cz pointed out that Dustin Penner was the top scorer on the Kid Line during our Ducks Cup year.  Pancake was brought in to stabilize the top line. If he’s successful much of the day-to-day roster and roles fall into place. If not, coach will continue to rotate guys off and on, in and out through a seemingly endless search for consistency.

A couple of minutes into the now annual is Teemu coming back, we realized we weren’t sure where he would play. As if to punctuate the moment a mushroom rolled off my fork. Saku’s role has changed and Teemu isn’t a checking line player. First line? For now Dustin Penner is penciled in alongside the Big Dogs. Second line? Does he have enough left to beat out the up and coming Emerson Etem? First unit PP? Teemu lost that job to Nick Bonino and Bobby Ryan last season. When he did get first unit PP line it came when Getzlaf was moved to the point.

If Penner fails, maybe Teemu is the solution on the top line. Much of Penner’s success or lack thereof actually depends on which Getzlaf hits the ice in October. Is it the dominating player we saw during the shortened season or do we get his evil twin, the perimeter playing Giveaway Getz who glides around the ice instead of skating? Eight million doesn’t seem to buy what it used to get you.

While I see Ducks Iron Man Andrew Cogliano as trade bait, we wondered if he would return to the checking line. Cogliano and Emerson Etem showed genuine chemistry on the PK. Could they continue to be a dangerous duo in ES situations?

Coach has said he expects bigger things from Matt Beleskey next season. Could Matt produce those “bigger things” alongside Koivu & Winick? Beleskey would be the shooter and adds a physical element to the checking line.

Nick Bonino will center a line. There’s plenty of competition among his potential linemates. Selanne, Etem are the leading candidates on RW. Palmieri, Silfverberg on LW.

cz notes that Cam Fowler was much improved defensively last season. I noted Scot Niedermayer’s influence as Cam seemed to be taking that rover-D role and trying to control the tempo when he has the puck.

We both hope for more offense from the back line. I see it coming from a luckier and less snake bit Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. cz is keeping faith with Luca Sbisa. We think Sheldon Souray will take a few games off in back to back and 3 games in 4 nights situations. Though he and Beauchemin should be counted on for 5-6 goals.

The goaltending is solid to spectacular.

Replacing Bobby Ryan and possibly Teemu Selanne won’t be easy. Still, these Ducks could be a real offensive powerhouse next season. Consider, Perry 35-40, Getzlaf 25, Penner, Etem & Palmieri 20+, Bonino, Cogliano, Silfverberg 15+, Koivu, Beleskey 12, Fowler & Vatanen 10. That’s over 200 goals without anybody having a career year or exceeding expectations. Add a handful of goals each from Beauchemin, Souray, Sbisa and the fourth line. All of a sudden we’re enjoying a team that can score anywhere and anytime.

With excellent goaltending behind them the 2013-14 Ducks are a well-organized team primed for success.

That was Ducks GM Bob Murray’s closing statement to conclude Select-a-seat according to blogger Chris D-5 of Anaheim Calling.

Fact is, everything Chris D-5 has reported from Select-A-Seat was previously reported on this blog leading up to the draft. It’s always good to get confirmation in public comments made by the GM though.

Hopefully, this is an indication that our Ducks recognize Mr. Murray’s credibility gap and moves are underfoot to correct the widely held perception. If so, it is welcome and long overdue!

What you can and should appreciate from the GM’s, “We’re not done yet” comment is that he has until the trade deadline before he’s done affecting the 2013-14 roster.

The key times for a trade to happen are late August, along about mid-November around the 20 game or quarter-pole mark teams tend to make need assessments and perform SWOT analysis.

Unless there’s a steal of a deal, look for the serious trade chatter to begin about mid-November. The org is high on Nick Bonino. What isn’t known yet is where he fits, top six or 2nd six. Along with Emerson Etem, Bones may actually be our hardest working Duck.

Peter Holland has nothing left to prove or learn in the AHL. Is he ready to take his game to the next level?

Rickard Rakell will also be pushing for a spot.

Sami Vatanen is the leading candidate to replace UFA Toni Lydman.

Our Ducks have fewer questions entering this season than last. Ironically there is also more competition for jobs from within the org. Especially on the wings.

The roster will most likely consist of 14 forwards, 7 D-men and 2 goalies.

While Murph isn’t done, nothing is imminent. Look for our Ducks to enter camp with the current 23 man roster and make the next moves sometime after the 20 games into the new season.

Ryan Getzlaf is again the key. If the Captain starts strong our Ducks will be winning. This will allow Murph to show some patience with the supporting cast. If Getz starts slow look for Anaheim to be shopping sooner rather than later.

Hockey News’ fantasy reporter Daryl Dobbs published his off season look at our Ducks. Our backchecking with follows in intalics.

Pending UFAs – Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, David Steckel, Matthew Lombardi, Radek Dvorak, Toni Lydman, Jordan Hendry, Ben Lovejoy, Nate Guenin.

Pending RFAs – Harry Zolnierczyk, Matt Beleskey, Kyle Palmieri, Mat Clark

Of the above David Steckel, Ben Lovejoy, Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri are expected to be retained. Our cap challenged Ducks will have to make a couple of major moves in order to bring back Teemu Selanne and/or Saku Koivu. Even if the Finn Twins signed heavily discounted contracts.
Mat Clark could be held over but he failed to break into the NHL during his EL contract. He might be a late bloomer or he could be semipro grade.

Looking to add – Selanne had 13 points in his last 42 games (combined regular season and playoffs). His ice time dwindled as the season wore on and if he decides to return for another season I will be surprised. The Ducks need a second-line right-winger. Assuming Kyle Palmieri has found a home on the Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf line, Bobby Ryan and Emerson Etem (who were only tried on a line together in a couple of games) will need a right-winger.

Dobb’s sticks with the safe assumption that top six jobs are Palmieri’s and Etem’s to lose. That’s how it looks going into camp. Unless Palmnieri has a breakthrough season, expect Coach to continue to spot play Matt Beleskey on the top line, especially when he wants a more physical presence. Emerson Etem is Teemu’s heir apparent.

Ready for full time – Etem played 30 of the last 31 games of the regular season, plus all seven playoff games. Consider him a full-timer with a role that is almost certain to expand. As a result, expect his 0.26 points-per-game average to increase in 2013-14.

Sami Vatanen is a dynamic offensive defenseman who is ready to make the jump full time now that he’s played the North American game for a full season. With 45 points in 62 American League games, plus another two points for Anaheim, he’s clearly adapted well and makes for a must-own in keeper leagues.

Center Peter Holland is ready for a third-line role, though he may be more of a mid-season addition as opposed to breaking camp with the team. Short-term he holds little value, but his long-term outlook as a second-line center is pretty good.

Hulking winger Patrick Maroon is also on the cusp of making the jump. He has potential for 60-plus points, but not for a few years – and only if he’s brought along accordingly. Historically, his production at different levels has taken a couple of years to get rolling and the NHL will be no exception.

Next season looks to similar to this season in that young guys coming up will be asked to replace and improve on veterans moving out. Teemu is already forever remembered but he may not be missed if Bobby Ryan bounces back from an off year and Etem and Palmieri breakthrough.

Adding Sami Vatanen and his right-handed shot will change the zeitgeist of our Ducks blue line. If Dobbs is right that Vatanen produces 30 Points , he’ll bring needed support to our only other genuine puck moving D-man Cam Fowler.

Next season will no different from last season in that we’ll be looking for young guys to establish themselves as bonafide NHL players. Peter Holland and Patrick Maroon don’t have to be anymore than consistent depth forwards. If they can’t though, the GM  will again be bargain shopping for vets like Matthew Lombardi and Radek Dvorak.

Fantasy Outlook: A good team that has a little bit of everything and ample depth in every position. Goaltending is especially strong with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller battling it out for No. 1, with Frederik Andersen also impressing – and John Gibson on the way. If Cam Fowler can take a step forward offensively and Vatanen has a 30-point rookie season, the Ducks should be competitive once again. There are no superstars on the way, but their pipeline is a good one that promises to produce a steady flow of NHL players in all positions. Coach Bruce Boudreau has opened things up for the Ducks and the team finished seventh in goals scored – a trend that should continue.

Pressed against the salary cap in 2013-14 as things stand now, the Ducks may have to trade Bobby Ryan and bring in a cheaper option. How that goes down will have huge waves in fantasy hockey. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was C-)

Looks like another summer of stupidity when trading Bobby Ryan is the auto-reflex solution to every problem. We already have to replace 35-40 goals lost to the expected retirements of  Selanne and Koivu. While Palmieri and Etem look to be good bets, neither is a certainty.
After losing 35-40 goals, conventional mainstream media wisdom wants us to find a cheap 30 goal scorer to replace Bobby Ryan? Maybe now you get a sense to why I roll my eyes at the notion.
At least they’ve stopped with the trading Jonas Hiller nonsense.
There are other solutions, including but not limited to trading Cogliano and Sbisa. This is likely if DSP takes a step or two forward after his step backward last season and Hampus Lindholm shows any kind of ability to go with his high Hockey IQ.
Another option would be to exercise a compliance buyout of slow-footed Sheldon Souray and pickup a lower cost stay@homer like pending UFA Doug Murray. If you believe Sami Vatanen is 30 points in the bank, we keep the snarl in a Murray and improve on Souray’s offense.

Projected depth chart:

Kyle Palmieri – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan – Nick Bonino – Emerson Etem
Daniel Winnick – David Steckel – Matt Beleskey
Patrick Maroon – Peter Holland – Devante Smith-Pelly

Francois Beauchemin – Ben Lovejoy
Cam Fowler – Sami Vatanen
Bryan Allen – Douglas Murray/Hampus Lindholm

Jonas Hiller – Viktor Fasth

Fantasy Grade: B+

Wings won because of their foot speed and ability to get to the loose pucks. They got to the loose pucks, took control and won. We had plenty of opportunities to put them away and we just didn’t finish.

Yes we missed Toni Lydman but one guy isn’t the reason you lose a series. We lost because we didn’t put them away sooner. The longer the series went their confidence went up and we seemed frozen in time and space. We had no response. Detroit elevated their game and we didn’t. As a team we didn’t have it to elevate.

One look at the plus/minus screams foot speed on the blue line is a serous issue. Beauchemin, Souray and Sbisa our 3 weakest skaters were each minus-2 on the series. Our better skaters, Fowler (3), Lovejoy (4), Allen (1) and Lydman (1) were each on the plus side.

I really don’t want to wade deep into the weeds but essentially the Wings won because we couldn’t skate with them. Everything else, their puck possession, passing and positioning, came off their skating and ability to win faceoffs and be first on those precious loose pucks.

One of the things I didn’t notice until Game 7 was how Detroit was beating us in the low slot.  They were getting two guys down low. One guy positioned on the top of the crease to screen Hiller. A second was roaming 3-6 feet out and picking up those loose pucks and rebounds.

Many unknowingly and incorrectly blame Hiller for those rebounds but that is not how hockey is taught or played at elite levels. The goalie is responsible for making the first save. It’s the job of the skaters to either get on the rebound or tie up the opposition so that they don’t get second and third shots. The only bad goal in tonight’s game was Filppula’s.

One thing our Ducks gave us this year is hope. For the first time since the Pronger trade and the retirement of Scot Niedermayer our Ducks appear to be getting better instead of worse.

The immediate future looks very bright. Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri are obviously keepers. Pending UFA’s Ben Lovejoy and Dave Steckel will probably be resigned. Steckel could join Winnick and Cogliano on the checking line. Nick Bonino won himself a center spot this season. Rickard Rakell and Peter Holland will compete for the other spot.

Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan can be expected to bounce back from off years and poor playoff performances.

There are only three, maybe four roster changes I see going into next season.

Luca Sbisa will be challenged to keep his spot by Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. Luca has four of the five skills necessary to play the game at the NHL level. His ability to read, pickup or see a play developing and properly react to it is questionable.

Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu represent difficult decisions because both could be tempted to return for the Olympics. Though it isn’t at all certain that either could win and hold their Ducks job against the up and coming kids next season. I’d much rather see each of them move on their own terms rather than be pushed out.

Sheldon Souray’s lack of foot speed became exposed as the season wore on and certainly in the playoffs. He could be, actually should be, bought out. He’s another guy who I have too much respect for to watch get pushed aside. Watching Rob Niedermayer get the hook and be told he couldn’t play anymore was sad. It’s understandable that some guys just won’t come off the ice until you shoot ’em and drag ’em off. I just think it’s sad to pull the trigger.

So I’d much rather see Teemu, Saku and Sheldon leave now before younger guys push them out.

Ducks next job is cleaning out their lockers and exit interviews. It was a tough year for a few players. There will no doubt be some retirements and maybe a buyout over the summer. Our next task is preparing for the draft where our Ducks will 22nd overall. Definitely not high enough to snag a player likely to help immediately.

One goal and just that quick our Ducks move from the hockey season to the financial season. Our attention turns from the ice to the front office.

For me, I’ll share with you on this thread before taking some time off.