Once-mighty Ducks have reasons for optimism

duckstrio.jpgEveryone from Ducks beat reporter Helene Elliot to PHT’s own Brandon Worley have written off Anaheim making the playoffs because, frankly, they don’t have much of a chance. At all.

It’s natural for fans to be disappointed with a failed playoff run, especially since the Ducks managed to sneak in last year and make a lot of noise. Looking at their roster, it’s not exactly as if they sport a threadbare group. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Scott Niedermayer and Jonas Hiller are all great-to-elite players (which showed when they represented their countries in the Olympics, along with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu).

Elliot explains the Ducks’ troubles quite well.

The Ducks are done and won’t make the playoffs this season. And for a lot of reasons.

Their defense is porous, their injury list too often led by key players like Selanne, Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul (out 38 games after back surgery and complications).

Indeed, it looks like Anaheim is better off looking at next year and beyond. The good news is that while the Ducks will go into the summer with a host of difficult questions to answer and plenty of holes to fill, they have a promising foundation of young players. The bad news is that the team may be hard pressed to make quick improvements to their troublesome defense with the probable retirement of Niedermayer and (as Earl Sleek will tell you) the team’s self-imposed budget.


Still, the team has the aforementioned rugged trio of Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan to go along with Hiller. If the Ducks are lucky enough to convince Ryan to sign for Getzlaf-Perry money, they’d have those 4 players for about $20 million. That’s not a bad value for such a solid core, all entering the prime of their careers.

I wasn’t crazy about the trade that sent Pronger to Philadelphia, although I can see the logic if Anaheim was being pressured to extend the aging star defenseman. My beef was that Joffrey Lupul is a bad value considering his $4.25 million salary and the fact that he’s never scored more than 53 points. No doubt, though, even with the Flyers making the playoffs, it still was a big deal that the Ducks received two first rounders, well-liked prospect Luca Sbisa and a conditional third rounder.

GM Bob Murray will have to make some great decisions (and draft picks) as the Ducks’ transition from old to young goes from incremental to dramatic. After all, it is likely that Koivu, Selanne and Niedermayer are in their final season with Anaheim (and possibly the NHL). There’s reason to believe that the Ducks might see some long term gains. The question is: how short term will the pain be?

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    Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options,’ says his agent

    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.

    His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

    As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    “He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”

    Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.

    At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.

    He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.

    Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

    Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

    Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

    But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

    “I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

    “I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”

    Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final

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    The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

    After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.

    The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.

    Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.

    But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.

    As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.

    After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.

    Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.

    Video: Sharks’ Polak snaps, Blues make him pay on the power play

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    San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.

    In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.

    The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.

    The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.