This also will serve as a fond farewell to those who played in the Mighty Ducks’ last days.
Jeff Friesen, Calgary Flames
Nicknames: Game Seven, Traitor
"That’s OK, Friesen. Save it for Game Seven."
I must have said that mocking phrase a hundred times this spring, whenever Friesen would shoot wide of the net, or refuse to hit, or generally float around and be useless. You really have to take this sort of cynical approach when it comes to Friesen, because the guy will drive you batty as a fan. He does have speed and can flash a move from time to time, but really, it never seems to come together for him. (He’s one of the few who was already playing Flames hockey before Calgary even signed him.)
The only thing is: the guy is money in game sevens, and that alone should be worth a season of frustration (or at least that’s what you should keep telling yourself). Say it with me, Flames fans, "That’s all right, Jeff. Save it for Game Seven."
Joffrey Lupul, Edmonton Oilers
Lupul, on the other hand, is an intriguing story made all the more intriguing by the fact that he’s re-teaming with former Mighty Duck Petr Sykora in Edmonton. What’s interesting about that is I was going to use Sykora as a reference point for Lupul: a right-winger with a wicked shot who can backcheck to some degree but is prone to some dumbish penalties. The differences really are footspeed, which enables Sykora also to man the point on the PP, and Petr is a better dresser.
But on to Joffrey, he did score 28 regular-season and 9 playoff goals, really solid numbers for a ‘sophomore’. However, 6 of those 9 playoff goals came in the first 3 games of the Colorado sweep; he only scored in 2 of the other 13 playoff games. Also a little suspect is how he led the team in playoff penalty minutes, averaging one minor per game.
But don’t fret, Oilfans! Lupul’s growing, and I think he’ll come out a winner. He’s got good puck control and offensive awareness, and will shoot a ton of shots. Kinda like Sykora, except he’s a boring interview. One of those two guys is gonna pot 35 goals, I guarantee that. I just can’t tell you which one just yet.
(Oh, and don’t ask me about Smid. I’m still mispronouncing that name, I’m sure.)
Ruslan Salei, Florida Panthers
Nicknames: Rusty, Belarooos, Salei of Game, Cirque d’Salei, One horse open Salei
Hoo boy, Panther fans, are you guys in for a 3-year roller coaster! Meet the pride of Belarus, Ruslan Salei. Rusty was the longest-tenured Mighty Duck, having played in Anaheim since 1996.
Rusty is old-school, baby. He’s never even heard of new rules! But he’s perfect to play some tough minutes on your blueline, he likes to ride that edge of nastiness and can be very effective at it also. It will land him in the penalty box with some regularity, but he is certainly improved from the start of last season. Though he lacks creativity, he’s adequate in the offensive zone, and is a really good puck-clearer in the defensive zone.
When Bryzgalov threw his back-to-back-to-back shutouts this past postseason, the one guy who I thought was really playing an elevated game was Rusty. He had some good hits, sharp passes, and even scored two goals. He won’t always have that mojo goin’ like that, but I think you Panther fans are going to love that Belarusian demon (especially if you sit by the penalty box).
Vitaly Vishnevski, Atlanta Thrashers
And of course, the guy who was the next-longest-tenured Mighty Duck, Vishdog has played in Anaheim since 1999 (and only this year did I get a jersey!). Vishnevski, pure and simple, was the victim of a numbers game on our blueline, to the Thrashers’ benefit.
He’s awfully weird-looking, sure, and his English is no treat either. But what separates him from most is his focus, mostly on throwing his shoulder into an oncoming player. And he’s really good at it, too, with vicious timing and accuracy. Sure, he’ll get caught from time to time, but his hits are both effective and crowd-pleasing.
Vishnevski is 26 and in defenseman years, that is still maturing. Even though he’s shown limited scoring, he is a good puckhandler and skater, and I think his numbers will improve.
As for experience, Vishnevski has played more than 400 regular season games, and been part of two serious Cup runs (and on some decently successful Russian national teams, also). I think Thrasher fans are really going to enjoy the Vish show, and hell, there’s another team to watch on the ol’ Center Ice.
The Ducks have lost a lot of their first-round picks this offseason: Vishnevski (5th overall 1998), Lupul (7th overall 2002), Salei (9th overall 1996), Smid (9th overall 2004), plus one or two more upcoming ones in the Pronger deal.
Before the Pronger deal, I would have told you that only Salei would have been on this list.
Yulp! You better pay off, Prongerboy. You made me write a really long eulogy.