I cannot tell you how exhilarating it was to be back at Honda Center. It sounds silly but the moment I walked through those doors, met up with Chris and went down to the ice, I got the same twinge of excitement and nervousness I feel when I arrive for the game. This is my happy place.
I have to say, I was very impressed by my fellow Ducks fans. There were about 2500 people in attendance at HC. Tim Ryan, Ducks COO, said something about 5000 hot dogs being consumed. Fatties. Chris and I had zero hot dogs. Speaking of Tim Ryan, he was the 'public' face of the front office on Sunday. He apologized several times - something he didn't do in his initial statement posted on the Ducks website. Many of the fans around us could be heard saying something along the lines of 'the owners should be apologizing; it's their fault.'
Chris and I split up the viewing duties. He took the forwards and I took up the defense and goalies. In the first half of practice, it was drills. Four groups of forwards in red, white, blue and orange jerseys, one lump of defensemen and goalies in black jerseys.
As of Sunday, in the order I wrote them down in, the updated defensive pairings are:
1) Nate Guenin - Jordan Hendry
2) Francois Beauchemin - Toni Lydman
3) Cam Fowler - Bryan Allen
4) Luca Sbisa - Sheldon Souray
Goalies on the ice practicing: Jonas Hiller, Viktor Fasth and John Gibson. Jeff Deslauriers is listed on the roster but he did not participate in the official part of practice. He came out and skated with the young guys that stayed on the ice while Bruce did his Q & A. Not sure what Deslauriers deal is.
- Bryan Allen and I did not get off to a great start. First, he was clearly the most out of shape. After every drill that required the heart rate to increase, he was bent over at the waist immediately afterwards. The final skate of the first session the players did lines and he struggled. He was slower than Toni Lydman and even the goalies caught ground on him.
- The other big problem I had with Allen was his ridiculous idea to take a slapshot on Jonas Hiller during drills. The hard slapshot hit Hiller in the mask. Hiller acted like a cartoon character that was just punched. He froze, standing straight up and down on his knees, and then fell over on his right side. He was down, with his cage on the ice for maybe 10-15 seconds. (The whole time, I could feel the bile rising in my throat.) Hiller got up and skated off on his own power. He was standing near the bench for a couple of minutes before going back in goal. Thank goodness Souray was smart enough to not unleash his shot.
- Chris mentioned in his post Patrick Maroon was less than enthusiastic to be there. I noticed he kept giving Hiller an ice-shower every time he went to the net. That's just a big no-no kid. After the second one I saw, Maroon did not participate much the rest of the day. I can't confirm it is directly related to the icing of Hiller but I wouldn't be surprised. Maroon has been known to have a pissy attitude; that's why Philly was so willing to part with him.
- I got the feeling that Sheldon Souray was half-assing it the entire time. He casually skated, never really pushed himself. If Ryan Getzlaf is skating like his life depended on it and Souray is coasting, something terribly wrong. Speaking of Getz, he and Souray were fighting for a puck in a drill. Getzy was clearly dominating the battle so Souray resorted to slashing and cross checking instead of fighting for the puck. Souray is a terrible puck handler. Very frightening. I almost punched Chris after he said Souray could be another Ryan Whitney. AHHHH!
- Toni Lydman is still slow. He was the first one to leave the ice when practice was over. I'm a little worried at the experiment of putting he and Beauch together. Neither has remarkable speed or puck-handling.
- Watching defensemen is boring.
- Other than what was said about Hiller and Deslauriers earlier, the goalies were unremarkable. Hiller was catching and batting away everything above his leg pads. Down low is still a problem. He hits the ice too early and doesn't push back against the goal posts with his feet. Again, this is camp. Not expecting full effort
- John Gibson is very large, height wise. He looked even bigger next to Viktor Fasth. Fasth is tiny. The roster says he's 5'10", yeah, 5'10" in skates. When addressing the media, Bob Murray said Fasth was a big free agent acquisition. I didn't see anything really memorable.
- Gibson probably knows he has no shot of becoming Hiller's backup but he was giving all his saves everything he's got. He wouldn't let the shooters score on rebounds, when Hiller and Fasth would. He was on his back, swinging his legs in the air, coming out of the crease to challenge puck handlers. I liked it.
Bruce mentioned in the Q&A each day of camp was going to be segmented. Sunday was offensive zone in part one and special teams in part two. Special teams will be worked on in the second session of all camps. Boudreau was clear on his philosophy - you need to have great power plays and penalty kills in order to succeed. There is no good reason as to why we don't have the number one power play in the league.
Chris touched on most of the power play and penalty kill drills, I'll try to add a little more
- Cam Fowler on the first unit and Luca Sbisa on the second were always going to be the ones bringing the puck up the ice on the power play while everyone else, at least the forwards, cycled. Cam is a much better puck handler and skater than Luca. It will be interesting to see how Sbisa does. Hopefully we won't have to see the second group as much because the first group will score...
- I was surprised at how well Emerson Etem played on the penalty kill. His speed is an asset and he attacks the puck, leading to short handed opportunities. Devante Smith-Pelly out-shined Etem in 5-on-5, so it's likely we won't have E2 up in the bigs to test his skill.
- It was weird seeing Scott Neidermayer skate around in warm-ups carrying a giant shovel.
In all, it was a good day. Bruce Boudreau is probably the best thing to happen to this franchise. Instead of having the coach AND the GM hiding in Castle Greyskull, the coach is out rallying for support. He even made the players do a drill where they skated two by two around the rink in front of the crowd. Only two players at a time so the group could cheer for everyone. It was a cool move. I wish I could go to more of camp but I have this whole 'job' thing.
Just for shits and gigs, here's a few things I overheard at camp. (Chris has more he needs to add.)
- Souray had a really great year in Dallas
- Souray will be our top defenseman
- Who is Devante Smith-Pelly?