It's hard to write-off last night's loss to the Kings when the key hands of Anaheim's 30-man Training Camp roster were all at their battle stations. When you consider the fact that long term injuries, Jason Jaffray and Joffrey Lupul, are still eating a pair of spots and that Toni Lydman is "a long ways off," the remaining coterie of 27 doesn't stand out as season-ready. Here's the roster with the aforementioned names struck through:
Perhaps what's most troubling is that some potential cuts still stick out like a sore thumb: Danny Syvret, for example, at least based on last night's performance (and a giveaway per game stat). The final roster is almost fully formed with not even a handful of legitimate questions or fill-ins. The players are, perhaps, still warming their engines, but they had better find the next gear before the games start to matter. Otherwise, shuffling for chemistry will turn into shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic rather quickly.
More after the jump...
If Luca Sbisa's experience last season is any indication, the Ducks will send Fowler down the moment (within the first few games) that this season starts to look like last season. But when you look at the players standing between the young defenseman and a coveted roster spot, it's hard to ignore how many of them are banking on their NHL experience and not their NHL toolkit. It's a prime opportunity for Cam Fowler to dig deep for his best game of leapfrog. For now, Toni Lydman isn't standing in his way, and the absence of the Ducks' 3M/yr defenseman must make game-planning for Fowler in the Top 4 very attractive for Coach Carlyle.
Of the few highlights last night was a positive performance in the circle. Bobby Ryan had trouble with Brayden Schenn, but the other Ducks' centers combined for a 65% winning percentage on the dot. Here's a breakdown of where everyone is through the preseason (the lower chart breaks down the per game numbers with the games listed chronologically from left to right).
|Bobby Ryan||15 of 34||44%||Maxime Macenauer||11 of 28||39%|
|Ryan Carter||8 of 21||38%||Saku Koivu||22 of 33||67%|
|Ryan Getzlaf||29 of 50||58%||Todd Marchant||13 of 20||65%|
|Kyle Chipchura||15 of 33||45%|
It's overreaching, the idea that Bobby Ryan worked on a second line last year, so he should work on the second line this year. In Nintendo Ice Hockey terms, a line of Sexton-Koivu-Ryan made Ryan the fat guy i.e. the hitter and puck retriever. In a Macenauer-Ryan-Selanne line, Ryan is the medium sized guy, the finesse guy and playmaker. Now, while Bobby is not the skinny guy, the speedster-finisher, in either of these sets, the job of the fat guy and the medium sized guy are not the same. And to make matters worse, Ryan has the tendency to think 'skinny,' turning his back on the puck, making no-look one-handed plays on the puck, cycling and coming free off the boards, all for the sake of getting open instead of getting the actual puck. If those moves become turnovers, the center can't cover for him, because, well, yeah.
Don't get me wrong, though. I do support the idea that if you give an inexperienced center great players, you increase his chances for success. And then, your experienced center (Koivu, in this case) knows the game well enough to build a line out of whatever you give him. But roles and playing styles do count for something. And in the regular season, there is no room for 'oops' moments where two finishers are open in the slot and one guy (who is not Wayne Gretzky) is trying to fight off three defenders to get them the puck.
In the second and third line jumble, Ryan needs a legitimate banger with some defensive ability and maybe a playmaker on the wing who can center the puck. He doesn't seem ready for the defensive or playmaking demands that come with playing with Selanne. This is the best way to set the middle line combinations, which will have a solidifying effect on the rest of the roster.
If that means putting Bobby on what is technically a "third line" with fewer minutes, then so be it. Last I checked, he was learning to do something new.