Should he stay or go?: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

Finally: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.

The Basics

  • Fowler was projected to be a top-three draft pick but slid all the way down to the defense-poor Anaheim Ducks at No. 12 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He’s listed at 6’1″ and 190 lbs. He also was born in 1991. (Guess it’s time to feel old now.)
  • His next game should have been that magic ninth game, but a broken nose limited him to only six appearances so far.
  • Stats: one goal, two assists for three points and a -1 rating in six games played.
  • His junior rights belong to the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
  • Anaheim has already declared that Fowler will stay with the Ducks this year.

Useless facts and thoughts

For a shameless pun maker such as myself, having a guy named Cam Fowler on the Ducks fills me with “David Duchovny in a sorority house” type temptation. Is it a bit of serendipitous luck or is it a curse? Perhaps that beauty is simply in the eye of the pun-holder.

What’s been said about him

Fowler has impressed Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, as you can see from a quote in this story.

“You have to shake your head at times to remember that he is only 18,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s what separates him from players in his age group. He is able to do things at a very high level. His compete level is right up there, his execution level is very, very high. You don’t recognize him as an 18-year-old at all.”

James’s take:

This is a tough call.

For one thing, he’s getting real experience with the Ducks. In six games played, he’s already averaging an impressive 20 minutes of ice time per game and even produces on the offensive defenseman level of .50 points per game. Of course, that’s an incredibly small sample, but he seems like a poised player with a beyond-his-years-IQ. Let’s not forget that the Ducks aren’t exactly overflowing with defensive talent, either.

Yet the repugnant stench of defeat hangs over Anaheim like a thrice-worn jockstrap. This team doesn’t look like a legitimate contender, at least from what I’ve seen, so why burn one of Fowler’s bargain entry-level years on a lost cause? Let’s also not forget these two factors:

1. The Ducks are extremely cheap, generally speaking.

2. He will be a restricted free agent during the same summer that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will hit the unrestricted free agent market if they keep him in the NHL this season.

By shipping Fowler down to the minors, the budget-conscious Ducks can protect their prize prospect’s psyche while also staggering the team’s toughest contract negotiations. (The team would spread out the negotiations as such: Perry-Getzlaf in 2013, Fowler in 14 or 15, Jonas Hiller in 14 and Bobby Ryan in 15.)

James’s Verdict: Send him down to the minors/juniors.

Joe’s Take:

Fowler has played like he’s been in the NHL all along so far in his rookie season. He’s had to deal with getting over an injury after taking a tough hit and that’s slowed down the decision making process on Anaheim. The Ducks’ defense is an unmitigated mess right now and Fowler has been one of their better players and getting big minutes to go along with that. The Ducks are opting to keep him on the roster for the long run this season and there’s nothing about Fowler’s game that says this is a bad decision. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’ll make mistakes on occasion, but having him learn on the job in the NHL is what will benefit him the most. Another season in Windsor would have him spinning his wheels against guys he’s a lot better than.

Joe’s Verdict: He should stay, and he will stay.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.