It's. Finally. Here. YES, people! Training Camp has arrived. We've got all the coverage you asked for and some you didn't. After practice each day, we'll bring you a recap of the day's events. (If you happen to see any of us around the rink, come up and introduce yourself. We don't bit...well, Daniel...nevermind.)
Before I set off for Honda Center, let's take a look at the official 2011 Training Camp Roster, and some of the big stories going into the first day of organized activities.
Let's go for the obvious major storyline first - Jonas Hiller.
Having missed a majority of the second half of last season, after a Vezina-quality first, it would be safe to say that a lot of eyes will be watching his every move during camp. Is the coaching staff going to push Hiller to test his physical (and mental) stamina? Are his teammates going to be hesitant to fire at him full blast during shooting drills? It will be interesting to see not only how Hiller reacts, but how the team reacts around him.
I think you could feel the massive amount of relief around Ducks Nation when Teemu said he wasn't coming back for another season. Now it's time to see if how that knee holds up, as well as the rest of that 41-year old body. I saw him skate at 25% speed at the Fedorin Cup and he looked good. How much will he and the coaching staff push him during camp?
We don't have another Cam Fowler going into camp (sorry Rickard Rakell), but we do have some returning faces that spent last year in juniors to beef up their games - Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly. I think people are higher on Smith-Pelly at this point than they are Etem. Don't get me wrong, Etem has a strong case to make the team, but Smith-Pelly is garnering more attention for his big body and physical play. Camp is a good indicator of how these players have improved from last year's camp; however, the preseason games are where we are really going to get our best look. There have been rumblings as to the "kid line" of Etem, Smith-Pelly, and draftee Joseph Cramarossa possibly breaking into the regular season line-up, but I would say that's a long shot.
The New Guys
For the most part, our team has stayed together. With a few losses, none of them being major pieces (save Ray Emery), the team has chemistry on defense and the top two lines. Many teams would be happy to have as many returners as we do. Now the challenge is to get the right fit. Here is where the new editions come in. Everyone is banking on Andrew Cogliano centering the third line. Kurtis Foster has taken over for the disappointing Andy Sutton on D. I'm hearing we're going to really like Andrew Gordon, who just wasn't a good fit for the powerhouse Washington Capitals line up. They've got a shot to make the lineup. It's just a manner of getting in on Carlyle's good side.
These are the guys we've seen before: Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton, etc. I'd add Matt Belesky to that list after he's fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery. Those players have had their taste of the big time. McMillan had a fantastic playoffs and I look for him to start the season up with the big boys. The rest are on that grey line between Anaheim and Syracuse. Once again, people are very high on Palmieri but he has yet to show what made him so lethal in the AHL. Like The Kids above, pre-season is going to show if we can see anything different from them. Carlyle needs wingers for that third line and who knows where is patience is at with the growth of these players.