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Shell Game

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4. The Ducks can win it all if "the unattended grease fire that is Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne ignites the rest of the team, and the goaltending doesn't extinguish that flame." - Arthur Javier,

I've never been quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle before, and it is (as you might expect) a big deal for a hometown boy. Accordingly, I expected Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne to have their coldest playoff series on record and for Dan Ellis to set a new mark for consecutive playoff shutouts. History will be made, indeed.

Fortunately, I've been spared that embarrassment thus far, but it's a constant danger when you're asked to sound bite yourself.

Case in point, last season, a writer from the Lanigan Advisor in Lanigan, Saskatchewan asked us if we could contribute some quotes on native-son-made-good Sheldon Brookbank on the heels of a piece that Daniel wrote on the Ducks defenseman. After our reply, Brookbank re-upped with Anaheim, and following that, the blueliner proceeded to struggle through much of this year's campaign-- and not just because Daniel jinxed him.

The Lanigan Advisor asked us to comment again, recently (I did the honors this time), and I thought I would reproduce my quotes here following a steady Game 2 outing by Shelly.

As a caveat, I'm NOT of the mind that Sheldon Brookbank is a great defenseman with a generational skillset or anything. I often watch him and wonder how he made it to the NHL with his style of play, finally assuming it must have been an essay contest, What I Would Do With A Hockey Career . . . and his entry came in 4th.

He sees the game well, but he also plays about as limited and white bread a game as possible. Still, as I told the writer from the Advisor, that's kind of the point:

The Ducks re-signed Brookbank to a two year contract, which showed a lot of faith in him. Ultimately, he's a meat and potatoes defenseman playing for a coach running a puck management system that Sheldon flourished in last season, so it made sense to bring him back.

He didn't have the best start to the season, though a lot of defensemen had trouble finding their place on this roster. Still, I think what is most telling of Brookbank as a defenseman, as well as his character as a person, is that he has finished this season the way he finished last season: making the lineup while coming off the bench, cold.

The Ducks have plenty of options for that third pairing, including an expensive one in Andy Sutton, but the deciding factor seems to be Brookbank's ability to do what is asked of him and perform coming off of the scratch. With how often Carlyle shuffles out his poor performers, eventually, you will be shuffled back into the roster, and only by playing well enough not to be shuffled out again will you stay in the roster. And that is what Brookbank has done. He hasn't done anything to get himself rotated out, and he's giving that performance in a tight playoff race where the pressure is on and the stakes are high.

Brookbank is just a meat and potatoes defenseman, but luckily for him, Carlyle's entire cookbook is comprised of three recipes for beef stew.

People laughed when Daniel and I said Murray might need to think about paying Brookbank 1M, but that statement was never an estimation of the defenseman's worth on the open market, just his value to the team and Carlyle's system. And when you consider the startling contrast of a Nick Boynton, who took 1.5M to refuse to manage the puck and then had trouble coming off of the scratch list, 1M for a guy who doesn't have those specific problems seemed logical.

Somewhere between cutting Kyle Clifford's face open and hitting a post last night, Brookbank ensured a few more splinters in the rear ends of Andy Sutton and Andreas Lilja. And that's really the surprising part. Brookbank came back to the lineup cold, having earned his extended stay on the bench. But somehow, as he did last year, the defenseman just found a way to not play himself out of the lineup again.

It wouldn't, in and of itself, be impressive if I hadn't watched 1.5M defensemen fail miserably before, and a 2.125M blueliner in the press box failing right now.