As the Mighty Ducks prepare for training camp, here’s a look at how the team shapes up in 2005-2006.
As with most NHL teams this season, there are a lot of new faces in Anaheim and it starts with the coaching staff. Randy Carlyle is the new Head Coach with Dave Farrish and Newell Brown taking over as assistant coaches.
“Since his days as a player in the NHL, Randy has brought intellect, intensity and competitiveness to his work,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke. “He’s committed to the same entertaining style of hockey that I believe this NHL needs to play as we go forward. He plays up tempo hockey, and the defense is active. Same philosophy as mine. If you don’t have the puck, you should be an aggressive, determined team in pursuit of the puck at all times.”
Carlyle spent last season as head coach of the Manitoba Moose, Vancouver’s primary development affiliate in the American Hockey League. In all, Carlyle spent six seasons as head coach in Manitoba, both in the International and American Hockey League.
He has served in a number of capacities beyond just being a coach. Carlyle has been a Team President at the minor league level and a General Manager at the minor league level. Carlyle has also been an assistant coach in the NHL with the Washington Capitals from 2002-2004.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” said Carlyle, who was selected to play in four NHL All-Star Games during his playing career in the National Hockey League. “We are going to be an aggressive hockey club. We want to fore check. We want to have two men on the puck as much as possible and be committed to that system. We believe the best way to play this game is to be aggressive.”
“To say that we are going to throw defense out the window, I’d be crazy to say that,” mentioned Carlyle. “The new rules are going to open up the game. We should be allowed to get in on our fore check easier and close on people without the obstruction, that’s been customarily seen here in the NHL.”
“We are going to work diligently to create an environment for our players to have success,” added Carlyle. It’s all about a program. It’s all about believing in the things we are going to put forward as a team and as a group.”
Carlyle played 17 seasons in the NHL with Toronto, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg. He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in 1981.
New assistant coach Dave Farrish brings 15 years of coaching experience to the Mighty Ducks. Farrish has served as head coach of 1,027 professional hockey games between the AHL, IHL and the ECHL. He joined the New Jersey Devils as an assistant coach under Herb Brooks before the 1992-93 season. Farrish played seven seasons in the NHL as a defenseman with Toronto, Quebec and the New York Rangers
Newell Brown rejoins the organization after spending four seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets as an associate coach. Brown has over 17 years of coaching experience at the NCAA, AHL and NHL levels. The Cornwall, Ontario native serves as an assistant coach for the Mighty Ducks in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.
Looking at the goaltending situation in Anaheim, the Mighty Ducks should be set with their starting net minder J.S. Giguere.
“I believe Giguere is a top ten goaltender on any team’s list,” says Burke. “And a top five goaltender on a lot of team’s list. The last season was a disappointing one for everybody including J.S. But we are counting on him to have a big year.”
In terms of the back-up position in net, the Ducks will have to see what Ilya Bryzgalov can do at that position. “He is an unknown entity,” said Burke. “He has shown flashes of brilliance. Frankly, I’m not sure if we are set there or not. We are going to have to wait and see.”
Does goaltending become even more important now with the new offensive minded NHL rules going into effect this season?
“You are going to see less obstruction,” added Burke. “I’m not sure that is necessarily going to translate into more offense. After the initial parade to the penalty box
and the teams adjust; the trapping teams are just going to move back a zone. My fear is that by taking the red line out, we are actually moving the trap back half a zone.”
“I think the way we play, goaltending is critical anyway,” said Burke. “Regardless of the rules, with the style we play, our team believes in trading chances and we are going to need Giguere to have a big year.”
On defense, the addition of veteran Scott Niedermayer and the re-signing of Sandis Ozolinsh along with returnees Keith Carney and Ruslan Salei gives the Ducks as good a top four as anyone in the league entering the new season.
“I like the top four as well as any team in the National Hockey League,” said Burke. “I think if you polled twenty-nine General Managers, I think twenty nine would probably agree that our top four is as good if not better than any group in the league.”
“You’ve got two offensive guys in Niedermayer and Ozolinsh,’ says Burke. “And two defensive guys in Carney and Salei. Vitaly Vishnevski should be better in our system than he was in the old system where we let him hit a little bit more. Then there is Jason Marshall. And we’ll see which of the kids can make the team. Until November first, we are in the second position for waiver claims. So, we may pick up our sixth or seventh defenseman on a waiver claim.”
As far as on ice ability, Defenseman Scott Niedermayer is arguably one of the top two or three at his position in the last five to ten years. “He’s the best defenseman that has ever played in Anaheim,” added Burke. “We are counting on important things from him on the ice and from a leadership standpoint.”
Burke says in a cap system, teams will probably be divided into two groups when it comes to forwards and the offensive part of the game.
“You are going to have your top six forwards and your bottom six forwards,” says Burke. “I think your top six forwards better have some skill and your bottom six better be hard to play against. That’s what we are. We are a much tougher and bigger team than we were a year ago. We are going to be much harder to play against and that’s by design. But I also think we have added some skill on our top six.”
On the right side, you can start with Joffrey Lupul and Teemu Selanne. On the left side, there’s Petr Sykora and Jonathan Hedstrom. At Center, it’s Sergei Fedorov and Rob Niedermayer.
“Hedstrom is a guy that a lot of people don’t know,” mentioned Burke. “We think he will play in our top six. If Rob Niedermayer isn’t offensive enough and we find we need to use his minutes somewhere else, then maybe it’s Andy McDonald in the two hole. So, I like our group. Again, we are by design much bigger and much harder to play against this year with the bottom six.”
“Rob Niedermayer has played center before, some in Florida” added Niedermayer. “I think we are wasting him, using him on the wall. He’s played plenty of center. There won’t be an adjustment, in my opinion for him. We may decide that the experiment isn’t working and move him back on the wall.”
How do the third and fourth lines shape up?
“I think Zenon Konopka has an excellent shot at making the team,” noted Burke. “Samuel Pahlsson has re-signed and is hard to play against. We brought in Todd Fedoruk, who is hard to play against who can skate and score and fight. We also brought in Kip Brennan as a heavyweight. Craig Adams and Travis Moen will slug it out for another spot. We are going to carry only one extra forward for budget purposes.”
For young kids like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ladislav Smid, training camp is an opportunity to impress the top brass of the Mighty Ducks.
“These players should feel perfectly free to mess up my master plan,” added Burke. “If Getzlaf comes in and plays well enough, he is going to stay and so on. We really believe if we can leave Penner, Perry, Getzlaf, Smid and Smith, that group together, we think next season that we can parachute in six or seven guys. And that’s going to be in a cap system. It’s critical that you grow your own prospects. You develop players and plug them in. So that’s our plan for that group. Portland should have a pretty good team.”
In the new NHL, power plays and penalty killing will be an important aspect of a team’s success.
“Particularly through that first adaptation period where you should have a parade to the penalty box,” commented Burke. “I like the fact that by adding Teemu Selanne, we have a right shot. We would have entire group without a right handed shot, which would have been a problem. I like our penalty killing ability with the players we have,” mentioned Burke.
Will there be an adjustment period for the players getting used to a new coaching staff?
“I don’t anticipate that,” said Burke. “Yes, we have new players. Every team in the league has new players. Yes, we have a new coach, but he’s coached in the NHL before. He’s been a head coach for years. I think we’ll be fine.”
So, what can the fans of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim expect from the team during the 2005-2006 NHL season?
“First and foremost, they are going to notice, as promised, a very dramatic change in style,” added Burke. “We are not this passive team they watched in the past. Secondly, we think we have improved our team. We intend to be in the playoffs.”
It’s a nice forecast for the fans of the Mighty Ducks.