1. How did fans and players react to Randy Carlyle's return to Anaheim on Monday night?
The fan response varied a bit. For one example, Kid ish (one of our contributors who happens to be an Anaheim/Toronto fan) wrote in the game thread Tuesday that "Despite firing Randy Carlyle, I fully expect the team to play him a smallish video tribute, and I will barf all the barfs I can barf the whole time." However I would venture to guess that the majority of fans were on the same page as I was in happily cheering his accomplishments while in Anaheim (Stanley Cup, winningest coach in franchise history, most consecutive playoff seasons) and not being upset that he was on the other bench this time. The players said all the right things you’d expect them to say, even though it was pretty clear that they despised playing for him by the end of his tenure in Anaheim.
2. Bob Murray's statement that the Ducks were ready to win a cup "as-is" generated a lot of conversation at Anaheim Calling. How accurate do you think that is?
Well, it would help his case if they tried winning a GAME! Since the deadline they’ve gone 0-1-2 and have not looked particularly good in doing so. Right now it seems like they’re in danger of crashing out in the first round much like they did last season for the simple reason that they got out to such a fast start and then lagged into the playoffs. Since mid-January they’ve hovered around a .500 winning percentage, a steep drop considering they made it through their first 49 games at a .735 clip. They desperately need to win the division to stay away from the Kings in the first round if they have any hope of making a run for it this year, and that starts with getting back on form tonight.
3. The Ducks weren't overly active at last week's trade deadline, moving Viktor Fasth and Dustin Penner for draft picks and acquiring Stephane Robidas, but the Ducks still have a fairly healthy lead in their division and are neck-in-neck with the Blues for the Western Conference lead. Do you think they did enough to stay there?
Actually, don’t look now, but the Ducks’ lead on the Sharks for the Pacific is almost non-existent, they’re two points ahead with a game in hand and two head to head (both in San Jose). The only one of those three moves that has a big effect on this season is bringing in Robidas, which I like very much. A veteran two way defenseman like Robidas was exactly what the Ducks needed to fill out their defense corps, not to mention he’s an absolute nightmare to play against physically which is a great asset in the playoffs.
Also the added bonus of another defenseman is that he bumps AC whipping boys Luca Sbisa and Bryan Allen down the depth chart and even fan favorite, rookie Hampus Lindholm may get some easier minutes as a result. The Fasth and Penner moves don’t have nearly as much impact on this season. Fasth was moved due to a logjam of NHL caliber goalies in the Ducks’s system. Hiller is set to be a free agent and they couldn’t even hope to resign him with both Fasth and Frederik Andersen on one-way deals next season. So the decision was made to jettison Fasth who is older and now more injury prone. Good plan in my book.
Sure, they got rid of a first line player in Penner and didn’t technically replace him, but any number of players currently in the organization (Patrick Maroon, Matt Beleskey, Devante Smith-Pelly to name a few) could replicate Penner’s numbers while on the left of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and it allows for more playing time to guys with more dynamic skill sets like Kyle Palmieri and Jacob Silfverberg. So, even though they didn’t hit the home run in picking up Ryan Kesler or Thomas Vanek, I think they have improved.
4. Given the Ducks' performance so far this season and the fact that this is (probably) Teemu Selanne's last season, is it Stanley-Cup-or-Bust in 2013-14?
I wouldn’t say that. Of course it would be ideal to get Teemu (and Saku Koivu) a Cup to retire with, but if they were truly all in for this season I think we would have seen Bob Murray figure out a way to bring in a big name at the deadline. He had massive amounts of assets to deal with, two first round and two second round picks (that were apparently all on the table for Kesler) in addition to a very solid stable of prospects (more on them in the next question) and some young depth players on the roster. If the only goal was to send the Finns off with a championship he could have outbid everyone by selling out the future, but the fact that he didn’t tells me that he’s thinking a little more long term, especially with Getzlaf and Perry on high dollar contracts for the next seven years.
5. After making the team out of camp in the lockout-shortened season, 2011 first-round pick Rickard Rakell is getting another shot with the Ducks this season. How has he performed in eight games so far and do you think he'll stick in the NHL? Any other notable Ducks prospects we should be following?
I’m very excited about Rakell (or as we sometimes refer to him, Ricky Raccoon) as the heir apparent to Koivu in a third line, two way center role. He’s only been in a few games, separated by long stretches in the AHL and an offseason so it’s difficult to tell exactly how far he has to go. The main reason he was sent down earlier this season was that being a healthy scratch wasn’t doing anything for him and he still needed to build up the strength to hang in the NHL, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Anaheim for the majority of next season, depending on what Kovu decides to do.
The two prospects that almost all Ducks fans are frothing at the mouth to see make it with the big club are Emerson Etem and John Gibson. Etem actually got a good look last season (38 GP, 3-7-10) and made an impact in the playoffs for the Ducks (7 GP, 3-2-5), but there simply isn’t room for him in the lineup with Teemu sticking around. He’s super fast, incredibly exciting to watch (especially with Andrew Cogliano on the PK) but he also has the tendency to miss a lot of his shots, in my opinion. He will be on the team next year, almost guaranteed. Also he's from Southern California which is awesome for us, even though he was a Kings fan growing up.
Gibson on the other hand, is well positioned behind Hiller (if/when he resigns) and Andersen so that he can spend all of next year as the number one guy in Norfolk. So far this year with the Admirals he’s been able to steal games, but has had some slight consistency issues. One of the best things about the current Ducks roster is that it’s deep enough to allow these guys to mature in the AHL rather than throwing them into the fire like they were forced to do with Cam Fowler a few years back.
Thanks again, Chris! Make sure to check out Anaheim Calling for more great Ducks content.