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(All times Pacific unless otherwise noted.)
Updated May 31 at 2:48 p.m.
As questions still abound regarding the near future for the Ducks, the last couple of weeks have brought some stability for the slightly more distant one.
The Ducks signed two key prospects within the past few days and had another one shine on the national stage -- all three of whom were taken by Anaheim in the last two drafts.
A week and a half ago, the Ducks signed 2010 first round pick (and Long Beach native) Emerson Etem to a three-year entry-level deal after Etem had a monster year with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League. The 18-year-old (who turns 19 next month) had 45 goals and 80 points with a +41 rating in 65 games, tied for fifth in the league in goals. He also had 21 points (including 10 goals) in 15 playoff games.
Etem, who once again is training in Southern California this summer, will be in his second training camp with the Ducks in September. And while it would seem a longshot for a teenager to make the team out of camp, a lot of us were thinking the same thing about a certain 18-year-old defenseman last fall.
"Every year you have to go in with the mindset of wanting to make the team," Etem said after signing the deal with Anaheim. "That is what I did last year. That is no different from this year. You train harder and harder every summer. I feel like I’m mentally and physically stronger ... A couple of different pieces put the icing on the cake for the season and got me ready for what is ahead."
In that same call with reporters, Etem showed his SoCal-ness by using the word "stoked" to describe his feelings about the deal.
That word was likely not used by another young prospect the Ducks locked down to a three-year deal today: the diminutive-but-dynamic Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen (what's "stoked" in Finnish?). The 19-year-old played 52 games for JYP Jyvaskyla of the Finnish Elite League, scoring 11-20=31 points with a +30 rating and earning Defenseman of the Year honors. The 5-10, 165-pounder was taken in the fourth round by the Ducks in 2009 and will likely spend another year in Finland to build on that frame. He turned a few heads with a couple of goals for Team Finland in the 2010 World Junior Championships in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Take a look:
Another positive of this signing? It will be nice to someday have another "Sami" around here again.
Meanwhile, 2010 second-round pick Devante Smith-Pelly made a case the past few weeks to establish a future with the Ducks. The 6-foot, 215-pound bruiser had an impressive camp with the Ducks last fall and put together a standout season with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL. He had a league-best 15 goals in the OHL playoffs, where the Majors were downed by Owen Sound in overtime of Game 7 of the final. Smith-Pelly faced disappointment again at last week's Memorial Cup, where the Majors lost in the final to the Saint John Sea Dogs. Still, he had three goals and three assists in five games, tied for second in the tournament. He almost had a fourth goal in the tournament, but this one that he headed into the net was (correctly) waved off. Sweet soccer goal; no hockey goal.
James Boyd, Mississauga’s assistant general manager and co-coach, had this to say about Smith-Pelly, who turns 19 next month: “First and foremost, he’s a power forward, but we don’t think he gets credit enough for his skills because he plays that power game. He’s got a great set of hands and a wicked shot. When he’s throwing the weight around, he’s a very, very powerful man and he’s a quick skater. He’s been a top producer for us for the last two years and we use him in all key situations. He’s our guy in front of the net on the power play most nights and finds those three-foot rebounds in front of the net and puts them home.”
Here's a feature on Smith-Pelly, including a link to a video of him describing five things you didn't know about his hometown of Scarborough, Ontario.
Feels like we've been waiting forever for the start of the Stanley Cup Final, which finally begins with Game 1 tomorrow night in Vancouver. The favored Vancouver Canucks take on the Boston Bruins, looking to become the first Canadian team to win the Cup since Montreal in 1993 (trying to remember who they beat that year). Meanwhile, Boston is looking for its first Cup since 1972 -- not quite comparable to the neighboring Red Sox's 86 years without a title, but still significant. Since that last Cup victory, the Bruins have been to the final and lost five times, the last being 1990 against the Oilers. Vancouver, meanwhile, hasn't won a Cup since joining the league in 1970 and hasn't been this far since falling to the Rangers in 1994.
By the way, did you know the previous times Canada has hosted the Olympics (1976 in Montreal and 1988 in Calgary), the host city has won the Stanley Cup the following year? The Canadiens won the second of four in a row in 1977 and the Flames lifted it in 1989. Vancouver, of course, hosted the Olympics in 2010.
I'm rooting for the Canucks, since it's long overdue for the Cup to return to Canada and I can't even imagine the scene in that city if they pull it off (which I think they will). Plus, I want to see what it looks like when a Sedin twin gets excited.
Part of me wants to book a flight for a potential Game 7 -- not to even go to the game, but just to be there if they win. (We saw a little of that scene when the Canucks finished off the Sharks in the conference final, on an overtime goal that seemingly nobody but Kevin Bieksa saw.
Either way, should be a fantastic series. But what about you, Ducks fans? Who do you like in the Final and are you still watching?
Updated May 12 at 1:36 p.m.
While much of the league's focus is on an epic Game 7 tonight in San Jose (see yesterday's blog post below), two significant Ducks-related items have made their way across our desk today. One is this fantastic (and lengthy) piece on Teemu Selanne by Jeff Miller, which ran on the front page of the OC Register sports section this morning. It's a fantastic retrospective on Selanne's life, career and impact on those around him, while at the same time urging him to do it all over again for at least one more year. Oneof my favorite parts:
When Selanne was traded from Winnipeg to the Ducks, Lori Summers was the team's director of community relations. She was just one of the Jets employees who cried.
"They haven't made a word to describe him," she explained at the time.
That's a pretty good way to explain Teemu Selanne. Is there a bigger compliment than "They haven't made a word to describe him"?
Another part I liked:
[Dan] Sexton's NHL debut was precipitated by an injury to Selanne. During a Ducks' telecast a short time later, Selanne was in the TV booth, praising Sexton, a player he, at the time, barely knew.
How significant were those words? Sexton's parents, sitting at home in rural Minnesota, recorded the telecast and refused to erase it."That sort of stuff makes it so much easier for a young player," Sexton said. "It makes you feel accepted. He didn't have to say those things. But that's Teemu. I was pretty touched by that."
The other item from today is the below video of Corey Perry's recent media tour through Las Vegas to promote the June 22 NHL Awards, during which he will be a candidate for the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. The normally reticent Perry shows much more of his personality in the piece, notably when he's being gussied up for a magazine shoot or when he's hanging with kids from the Boys and Girls Club. Take a look:
Updated May 11 at 3:34 p.m.
As Ducks fans, we may dislike the two teams. As hockey fans, we can't help but like the series.
In a hard-fought Western Conference Semifinal between the Sharks and Red Wings, Detroit took one step closer to pulling off the nearly unthinkable in a thrilling 3-1 victory in Game 6 last night at The Joe. The Wings, who fell into a 3-games-to-none hole in the series, have climbed all the way back to force what promises to be an epic Game 7 tomorrow night in raucous HP Pavilion. Detroit will try and become just the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.
Each of the first five games of the series has been decided by a single goal, and only an empty-netter by the Wings in the closing moments of last night's battle kept the series from going a record-setting six straight. In four of those games, a team trailing in the third period went on to win. Two of the games have gone to overtime.
So while there is no doubt the hockey in this series has been gripping, the question remains:
Who the heck are we rooting for?
The Sharks and Red Wings are -- along with the Kings -- the most hated rivals of the Ducks, for a number of reasons. One is, they're good. They're very good, playing themselves into playoff contention pretty much every year. And familiarity, as the old saying goes, breeds contempt, something that couldn't be more accurate when it comes to Ducks fans' dislike for the Sharks and Wings.
Anaheim and San Jose play each other six times a year (eight times before the new schedule format kicked in a couple seasons ago). They endured a brutal six-game playoff series two seasons ago, one in which the Ducks triumphantly came out on top. And who did Anaheim fall to in the next round of that postseason? The Wings. That was, remarkably, the fifth playoff series between the two teams, with the Ducks prevailing in two of them -- notably the 2007 conference final in which Anaheim went on to win the Stanley Cup.
And there is certainly a familiarity (to put it nicely) between fans of the Ducks and those of the Sharks and Wings. Because of the proximity of Anaheim to San Jose, Honda Center has been sprinkled with teal-wearing San Jose fans, and vice versa at HP Pavilion, during Ducks-Sharks tilts. And when Detroit is in town, there are visible fire engine red jerseys in the building, many of whom are worn by Michigan transplants who relocated to SoCal but still kept their allegiance to the Original Six team.
So, there is no question the disdain is there, and well-earned over the years. But which one do we dislike more?
I've had a hard time deciding while I've watched these games, and I've sort of let instinct take over. For example, last night I was rooting for the Sharks to tie it up late in regulation, just because I wanted to see more hockey (since there is probably nothing better in sports than playoff overtime). By the way, if Detroit pulls off a win in Game 7, it will be four straight losses for the Sharks. Only once this season did they have a losing streak that long, a six-game in January that included a 1-0 loss in Anaheim.
In the overall scheme of things, I'm leaning toward Detroit to pull it off -- for a couple of reasons. One, watching a team make a little history by coming back from a 3-0 deficit is pretty cool, just as long as it isn't your team that's being victimized. Secondly, the fact the Ducks are the only California team to win the Stanley Cup is a point of pride around these parts that shouldn't be underappreciated. The longer we can hold on to that distinction, the better.
If I were a betting man (which I've been known to be), I'm taking the Wings. I know momentum is a pretty overrated concept from game to game, but if any team has it, it's Detroit by a mile. Plus they're facing a Sharks team in its own barn with almost unbearable pressure on them -- a lost 3-0 lead combined with a rough playoff history.
So, I'm begrudgingly pulling for the Red Wings tomorrow night. But I could easily change my mind a half dozen times before tomorrow night's Game 7 almost certainly ends in thrilling fashion. (And there's probably no question that no matter who wins that one, we'll all be Canucks fans in the next round.)
But what about you, Ducks fans? Who are you pulling for tomorrow night? Are you siding with either team or is it like rooting for hospital food vs. airline food? Are you watching this one at all, or are the wounds of the Ducks' early exit from this postseason still too fresh? Let us know below and/or offer your comments on the Ducks Facebook page.
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In case you missed it, we're in for a treat during the broadcast of the NHL Awards from Las Vegas on June 11. Remember the Ryan Getzlaf vs. Bobby Ryan Olympic video that was such a big hit during last year's Awards? A couple weeks ago here at Honda Center, they shot a sequel. I was able to stand around for much of the shoot, and while I can't give out details, I will say there are some pretty funny moments in this year's version.
Here is a teaser video:
It's been a good week and a half since the Ducks' season came to an abrupt close, which I suppose is ample time to come to terms with it. Yet, there still is something a little depressing about this photo (taken today).
With that in mind, it goes without saying that Ducks Blog posts will not be coming as often as they are doing the season. As topics arise -- whether it's the other teams in the playoffs, the NHL Awards, free agency, the draft, player features, etc. -- I will be posting blog entries. You can also come to this page and look to the column on the right to see any tweets from me. Other than that, things might get a little sporadic in this space over the next few months.
For other Ducks content, check back on this website for our Top 40 Moments starting at the end of this week, and some other features are on the horizon. And keep an eye on our Facebook page for stuff too, including the Ducks Postseason Awards that will be posted on a near-daily basis over the next several days.