Sunday, August 28, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Samantha & the Anaheim Ducks

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 9 of 30: the Anaheim Ducks


In 2007, the Anaheim Ducks hoisted the Stanley Cup; then they were knocked out out the playoffs for the next two years. After a disappointing season in 2009-10 where they did not qualify for the playoffs, they racked up 99 points and became a dark horse candidate when an end-of-season gave them enough points in the tightly-contested Western Conference to be able to grab home ice advantage (4th place) in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they came up against the hungry Nashville Predators in the first round, and were eliminated 2-4.

Corey Perry has played his entire NHL career with the Ducks, but his sixth season was his best by a wide margin: coming off a 27 goal, 49 assist season in 2009-10, Perry surged to 50 goals and 48 assists in 2010-11. Perry was also the only player to hit the 50-goal mark last season. It was his play and scoring, coupled with linemates Ryan Getzlaf (19 G/57 A) and Bobby Ryan (34 G/37 A) that helped lead the way to Anaheim's successful season; and Perry was rewarded with the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League MVP for the season. If last season was Perry's coming-out season - much as it was for Patrick Sharp on the Blackhawks - he needs to prove he can consistently perform at that level, especially if Selänne opts for retirement; there should be little doubt he can.

There's two big questions leading into the 2011-12 season: the primary one is whether the timeless Teemu Selänne will return for one more season to finish out his outstanding career. While the newly-reformed Winnipeg Jets fans would love to see him put on a Jets uniform to finish out his career, it's a safe bet to say that if Selänne does return, it would only be with the Ducks. Other Finnish players have reported that Selänne has been practicing in Finland; and it's been reported that "the Finnish Flash" will make his final decision in mid-September once training camp is underway.

The other question is the state of goalie Jonas Hiller, who missed most of the second half of the season, and the playoffs, due to vertigo. Hiller has been reported as healthy and ready to go for training camp. While Ray Emery put in an outstanding performance to close out the season, the Ducks definitely missed Hiller in goal.

Other than that, the Ducks have their already high-scoring core (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selänne, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky) and they've added some good pieces to suppliment their blue line. Perhaps the biggest acquisition has been center Andrew Cogliano; he provides more solid depth up the middle for the Ducks. Most of Anaheim's other acquisitions were "depth signings", meant to round out a pretty good core of players.

The most interesting acquisition to watch will likely be Andrew Gordon. Gordon, 25, has been a fan favorite during his past two years with the Washington Capital's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, putting together a collective 58 goals and 58 assists in two seasons, not to mention an average of just over 1 point per game. Although he's seen a dozen games at the NHL roster, this should be his first full rookie season at this level, and he will definitely be one to watch. I'm going to put him on the early season watch for Calder discussions.

New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Mark Bell (Suisse), Mathieu Carle (MTL), goalie Jeff Deslauriers (EDM), Andrew Cogliano (EDM), Kurtis Foster (EDM), Andrew Gordon (WSH/AHL), Jean-Francois Jacques (EDM), Bryan Rodney (CAR), Matt Smaby (TBL)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not yet re-signed/(team now signed with): Kyle Chipchura (PHX), Ray Emery (CHI), Josh Green (EDM), Jeff Jaffray (WPG), Andreas Lilja (PHL), Todd Marchant (retired), Andy Sutton (EDM)

The Pacific division is going to be all about "the battle of California" this season. Expect San Jose and Los Angeles to slug it out all season for the division title, but if the Ducks can produce all year like they did in the spring, there's a chance Anaheim could steal that honor away.

* * *

For Anaheim, we talked to Samantha, who has been a fan of the Ducks for 12 years.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?
Fingers crossed! Hasn't necessarily happened yet. But if Teemu Selanne inks playing again for another season, I won't be able to describe how happy I will be.

Other than that, probably Cogliano.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

2010-2011's season was nerve-wracking. The beginning of the season for the Ducks looked like a joke. The big players were never on the ice because they were constantly in the box. Slowly, things turned around and started to look up. Hiller boosted everyone's confidence and the top line did its job. Perry turned on his extra gear and helped the team into 4th place in the Western Conference.

The last few months of the season were probably the most exciting months of hockey I've seen in a while. Growing from your team being the joke of the league to maybe possibly getting into the post season, to getting all the way to 4th was definitely amazing to watch. Hopefully this next season, we can get the third line to be a little more consistent, get Selanne back, and fix Hiller's vertigo... then we can put up an excellent fight in the Western Conf.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

6th in the Western Conference

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

My favorite moment of last season was the Ducks/Sharks game in Anaheim the last week of the regular season. CP got goal #50 on a hatty AND from a pass from the great #8. It's always a good time in the Honda Center when the Ducks can beat a Cali rival but it's even better when the league MVP shows up big time and the arena starts shouting "MVP, MVP".

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