Dear Santa Claus,
It may be a genuine Christmas miracle! Anaheim is, in fact, sitting on top of the NHL Standings with a comfortable eight-point lead over the Sharks, who rank second in the Pacific Division. Not to shabby for a team who has essentially never had choices regarding which of their players will dress thanks to illnesses, injuries, inconsistencies, and cold-blooded goons (yes, I'm talking to you, John Scott).
So, where do the Ducks need to wish for the most help this holiday season? I stand by my previous, albeit bleak, prediction regarding Anaheim's defense situation. Granted, just dumping blue line liability, Bryan Allen, on the unsuspecting Montreal Canadiens, was a great first step in righting the defensive ship, however it was just that: a step. What would help?
When jolly ole' St. Nick slides down the Honda Center chimney, which, of course, leads directly into Anaheim's locker room, who do the Ducks hope he leaves under the tree? Who does Coach Bruce Boudreau want to find with a shiny red bow on the top of their helmet? Here's a brief list of five players that Anaheim would love to welcome to the blue line family:
1. Keith Yandle:
So at the top of the wish list is supposed to be the biggest present, which thanks to some twisted logic seems viable. Anaheim is undoubtedly leaving some extra cookies and milk out for Santa in the hope of finding a way to acquire Keith Yandle, 28-year-old defender from the Arizona Coyotes.
Does Yandle have the crazy goal statistics that some Anaheim fans look for in every player? No. He has a modest three goals in 33 games played this season, however an impressive 19 assists making him a potentially perfect fit for the Ducks. The 6’1, 190-pound defender plays a solid two-way defensive game, but rarely is caught making a costly mistake, and his first priority is helping his goaltender, putting him at the top of Anaheim’s wish list of defenders.
Yandle is signed through the 2015-2016 season, and would slot in as the highest paid blue liner on Anaheim’s roster with a contract costing $5.5 million this season, and over that next season. However, Santa has magical elves, and maybe they can round up some pixie dust to make this dream come true.
2. Tyler Myers:
If you’re reading this, Mr. Claus, then please note that this second choice gift is only applicable if the lower-body injury (apparently suffered on December 20) does not take Myers out of the lineup longer than a week or so. Anaheim has plenty of injured defensemen (such as Francois Beauchemin and Eric Brewer just to name a few,) and don’t need any more players with the little IR asterisks next to their names. However if his injury doesn’t look to be too severe, then Myers is a very viable backup option if the elves come up empty on the Keith Yandle front.
Myers, at age 24, does not bring the veteran experience that Anaheim is still seeking (stupid injuries…) however he brings a much larger frame, standing 6’9 tall, weighing in at 219 pounds. The current Buffalo Sabre is not known for his offensive production however is a reliable and strong stay-at-home defender, who isn’t afraid of picking up more than 25 minutes in a game. With experienced blue liners still sidelined with injuries, having a younger beefier defender to take excess minutes off some of the others could be a huge weight off Anaheim’s shoulders.
3. Shea Weber:
Third on the list is always that absurdly over-the-top item that you hope you find when unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, however it’s so expensive or overly-extravagant that you don’t want to seem too greedy and put it as the numero uno. Listing it as third makes it seem important to you, however if you don’t get it (which you don’t expect to just because of that absurd price tag) you won’t be that surprised or disappointed. [Ed. Note: Think of a five-year-old asking for a Porsche. -CK]
Well, for Anaheim, that overpriced, yet absolutely welcomed gift is none other than Nashville’s Capitan, Shea Weber. Anaheim has faced Weber enough to understand that he is a complete and total animal, a beast, a monster, back on the blue line. He ranks in the top 10 in the NHL in +/- with a +15, and plays big minutes, including plenty of powerplay time. As a jack of all trades, master of some, Weber negotiated a huge contract worth $14 million this season and next season (on an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers), however then it progressively drops. Anaheim isn’t necessarily willing to spend that much on one player, however if Santa Claus can get to every house in a single night, the man has some powerful magic and can surely get Weber into an Anaheim sweater. Am I right, or am I right?
4. Erik Karlsson:
Staying in our lovely fantasy world, where Reindeer with glowing red noses fly and portly men fit down chimneys, let’s continue on with young Ottawa Senator, Erik Karlsson. At just 24-years-old, this blue liner picks up some vital big minutes, and crazy amounts of points.
Compared to Anaheim’s current list of dressed defenders, the idea of a stay-at-home dependable defensemen is the glowing star on the top of the Christmas tree, it’s what the team (or tree) feels incomplete without. While young Mr. Karlsson is not that by any means, he scores enough for it not to matter. This young Swede led his team, as well as all NHL defenders, with 74 points last season, and in 2012, he was named to the NHL All-Star Team, as well as named the recipient of the James Norris Memorial Trophy, rewarded to the NHL’s best all-around defenseman.
Compared to Shea Weber, he comes with a much more reasonable price tag, which rounds out at about $7 million per year, and with his resume, his potential, and his contributions, that seems like a total steal. Which is exactly why we need Santa to pull a little Grinch move and swipe him from
Cindy Lou Who Bryan Murray and slip him under Bob Murray's tree.
5. Ryan Suter:
Since it can't hurt to ask, Minnesota Wild defenseman, Ryan Suter, rounds out our list of top five players that Anaheim would love to find wrapped up under their Christmas tree during this mini holiday break. When it comes to eating up time on the ice, no one is better at conquering those big minutes than Suter, who averages just over 29.5 minutes in ice time so far this season, leading NHL defensemen. He’s accustomed to averaging over 30 shifts per game, compared to Lindholm’s team-leading average of 27 shifts per game.
Suter is, like others on this list, a responsible and strong blue line presence, which is something that Anaheim could definitely utilize. Granted Suter’s contract isn’t as reasonable as Karlsson’s, it is also not as insanely expensive as Shea Weber’s contract, so paying a player like Ryan Suter $9 million for a few years seems like a viable option given Anaheim’s solid position under the salary cap (maybe Santa can float the Samuelis a few million to reach that cap too?).
So Santa, I know that some people only want their two front teeth for Christmas, and I know that these players will take a bit more work than some teeth, but come on! Anaheim has to be on your "nice" list, especially since we got rid of Bryan Allen's questionable ways (which of course none of us enjoyed, ever..) and don't you think that the Ducks have been put through enough of a difficult season and deserve a true Christmas miracle?
Well, a miracle isn't necessary, just one of these players will do just fine.
We will also accept the head (separated from the body) of San Jose's, John Scott, as karmic retribution for his sinful and despicable actions toward Anaheim's Tim Jackman. But that's a bit more of a stocking stuffer to me, don't you think, Santa?
Liz Brownstein, Anaheim Calling