My profuse apologies! I realise that I have created expectations that this would be a weekly feature but some life matters kind of got in the way this month! I promise I shall make more effort to be less tardy with updates in future.
Where we last left off - the Gulls had sustained an ugly 6-2 loss to the Texas Stars after managing to steal a shootout win against the Reign.
Since then they dropped 2 against the Heat and Reign before bouncing back with 2 wins against the then-league-leading Tucson Road Runners before dropping another 3 games against the Road Runners, Condors and Barracuda.
I won’t go into too much detail on the games since played except to say in the losses the Gulls were thoroughly outplayed with a scant number of players providing a spark where a full team effort was required.
Gulls 3 - Heat 6: Another heated (no pun intended) affair. Carrick, Olesky and Nattinen got the Gulls goals. Scotty Sabourin got a misconduct and instigator over a kneeing incident. Irving got the start and went the distance but the Gulls came out too flat and despite a 2nd period brief comeback - were unable to keep up with the heat. Newly recalled Utah Grizzlies Gregor Hanson and Kyle Thomas made their season debuts due to the recalled Kevin Roy and Kalle Kossila.
Gulls 1 - Reign 4: Much like a previous encounter - the Reign stifled the Gulls on attack. Clogging the neutral zone and frustrating any attempt to gain offensive position. Keaton Thompson had the lone goal on the Powerplay late in the 3rd. Jacob Larsson made his return to the lineup - the first year Swedish blueliner has been battling a nagging lower body injury which has seen him play every second game. Marcus Pettersson was on the ice for 3 of the Reign goals. The Gulls were largely uninspiring in this game, at one point late in the 3rd they had a full minute 5 on 3 but did nothing with it.
Gulls 8 - Road Runners 3: After a long hard week of practise the Gulls closed out their disappointing home-stand with a pair of games against the league leading Road Runners. This time they had some veteran help - the recent signing of former Montreal Canadien Ryan White as well as the on-loan from the Leafs - Eric Fehr. Much like the first meeting with the Arizona affiliate to start the season - this one was a high scoring tilt. Mitch Hults and Mike Liambas opened the scoring in the first before Tuscon got one back, but the Gulls proceeded to pile on 3 more goals per period for the remainder of the game. Fehr, Thomas and Abbott provided goals in the 2nd while Welinski and another goal each by Fehr and Abbott finished the Road Runners off. Kevin Boyle made 31 saves for the win while Spencer Abbott took first star honours with a 4 point night.
Gulls 3 - Road Runners 2 (SO) - Star Wars Night: Completing the home-stand with Tucson, San Diego had to make a 3rd period comeback before blowing a 2-1 lead with just over a minute left in the third. Welinski and Abbott had the goals in the 2nd, Boyle made 36 saves and stood tall in the shoot-out, stopping 2 of the 3 Tuscon shooters. Fiore was stopped on the first attempt but Abbott as well as the returned-for-the-game Kalle Kossila converted to ensure the much-needed win.
Gulls 0 - Road Runners 5: On the road in Arizona the Gulls found themselves on the wrong side of a blowout. Again despite a generous (2 minutes this time) 5 on 3 the Gulls failed to convert and were ultimately let down by a powerplay that went 0 for 4 while the Road Runners clicked at 2 for 5 against the San Diego lack-luster PK. The only positive for the entire game was that Boyle for the third straight outing stopped 30 plus shots and looked strong in the first before eventually caving under the pressure.
Gulls 1 - Condors 4: A game which saw the return of the prodigal son, Jaycob Megna cleared waivers much to Duck and Gulls nations pleasant surprise and slotted right into the lineup - assuming a leadership role. Berra had also been returned but in contrast to his previous Gulls appearances, was unable to work his magic and steal this one. Bakersfield were relentless on attack and took advantage of any mistake made. Megna finished a -1 in his first game back.
Gulls 3 - Barracuda 5: Bringing us to the third straight loss since the back to back wins against Tuscon. The Gulls again failed to capitalise on the Power Play, whilst surrendering one on the Penalty Kill. Nattinen, Ortega and Fiore had the Gulls goals - all in the second period, before the team managed to blow a 2 goal lead in the third. Dostie, Hults and Thomas (Grizzlies call-up) were on ice for 3 of the San Jose goals.
Leading us to today - game day of - hopefully the start of the Gulls turn-around of their unlucky dismal season.
When It Rains...
The Ducks look to have Kase and even Getzlaf back very soon, add to that Kesler by Christmas and that means the Gulls could have the likes of Derek Grant, Chris Wagner or even Logan Shaw in their lineup should they clear waivers. I think it is safe to say Kevin Roy is not coming back - at least not until the Ducks are happy with their playoff positioning and scoring consistency. Do they dare risk Wagner and Shaw on waivers? That remains to be seen. Wagner is on a very affordable contract as is Shaw. It would make more sense for the Ducks to drop the disappointing Rasmussen if they can. Kalle Kossila has deserved his call-ups but hasn't been used in the right capacity so he will be coming back - without needing to clear waivers. Mike Liambas will also be back as soon as Jared Boll is healthy, meaning that all of the sudden the Gulls will be back to having more players than they know what to do with, on that note..
Much has been said of the trade that went down yesterday but from a Gulls perspective, if we dive deeper - I think it was a smart move. I have said in previous pieces that with the incoming Josh Mahura next year, a blueliner needed to be moved to clear space for him. I had speculated that Anaheim as an organization already had several “like” pieces in the form of defenders that played a certain style. Lindholm, Larsson and Pettersson all follow the no-nonsense Swedish shutdown with puck-moving style. Whilst Vatanen, Montour and Mahura are stylish, puck-moving offensive minded stalwarts. Given what is in demand right now and that Montour had made Vatanen expendable with his play on the powerplay this season, it was a simple case of dealing from a position of strength. Mahura is coming in next year to fill the void of next-up-and-coming offensive minded defense-man so overall the move makes sense. Speaking of the future of the Ducks blue line...
As per Cap-Friendly (but you should already know this if you have a mental “how many days until Kevin Bieska is no longer a Duck” countdown like I do) both Kevin Bieska and Francois Beauchemin have their contracts expire after this year. Freeing up two spots on the blue line. I see Megna automatically taking Bieskas spot for the final year of his 2 year extension, Bob will probably get a bargain bin signing to fill out the other 3rd pairing spot with Korbinian Holzer providing the 7th defenceman injury cover. The first in line for call up at this point would be either Petterson or Welinksi depending on the kind of defender injured. But what about Larsson you ask? Well...
Much ado about Jacob
Lets not forget how young Larsson is. He was only drafted in 2015 and is still just 20 years old. That said - I think he might need another full year in the AHL next year. Marcus Pettersson has already demonstrated that he is more mature and consistent in his game. It might be slightly unfair in that Larsson has been battling a mysterious lower body injury for much of the start of this year but his play has not matched up to that of a highly touted first round pick who made the Ducks out of camp last year. He has 6 points in 12 games with the Gulls and his a +3, leading Gulls blueliners in +/- but at this point I think management have him ranked slightly behind both Pettersson and Welinski for the next call-up. On the subject of a certain Mr Welinski...
Ever since I called him out and tooted my own horn regarding a predicted coaching change to split Andy Welinski and Keaton Thompson up - Andy has been playing a much better game. He currently has 16 points in 18 games, 2nd on the team in scoring and is no longer a team worst in +/-, he is now... second worst but it might take some time to come up from that terrible start. Looking at those stats now - I think I may have been too harsh on Larsson, he leads the team in +/- and is a +3 on a team that has currently been outscored 70 to 56. Just know that is out of tough love Jacob, tough love. Looking at the stats, there seems to be a new player entering the game....
The New Guy
Along with Adam Henrique, the Ducks also acquired one Joe Blandisi. Who as it stands - is now 3rd on the Gulls in scoring with 14 points in 19 games. He appears a prototypical Ducks forward prospect, “able to play physical” and “get under opposing teams skin”, comparable to Steve Ott but I am wondering perhaps another Stefan Noessen with more of a pest-edge. The Gulls do need more beef up the middle with only Mitch Hults and to a slightly lesser extent, Sam Carrick providing that at present. When he eventually makes his way to San Diego (on that note, he is Waiver exempt) he should be a welcome addition to the depleted forward depth. Along the lines of forward depth..
Future Proofing Fiore
Giovanni Fiore is (now-after the acquistion of Blandisi) 4th in scoring with 12 points in 17 games. Given the Ducks scoring woes it has been puzzling that he has not earned a recall despite making the big-club out of camp. He does appear to be very much in managements long-term plans however as he has been used on both the Power Play and the Penalty Kill of late. Grooming him into an asset that can be used in all facets of the game bodes well for perhaps making him the eventual heir apparent to perhaps an Andrew Cogliano (albeit with much less speed) or even Nick Ritchie. Not bad for an undrafted first year pro, speaking of which..
Fiore leads Gulls rookies with 12 points, Hults is close behind with 10 in the same amount of games. Ortega has 9 in 15 while Larsson comes in 4th from the blue line with 6 in 12. Pettersson also has 6 but in 18 games. Julius Nattinen is heating up and has 5 points in 17 games now, Dostie and Sideroff also have 5 in 14 and 16 games respectively. Once the Gulls lineup is back to some semblance of normal - hopefully these youngsters can get some confidence back whilst drawing from the experience of their increased ice-time in this recent tumultuous span and being to start showing some more of their offensive skill.
The Gulls face our friendly neighborhood Reign today at Citizens Business Bank Arena. No additional moves by the Ducks have been made as of the writing of this so the line-up should be largely unchanged from their last game but given Blandisi is waiver exempt, don’t be surprised if he is rush-assigned and added to the roster last minute.