Yesterday Rudy and I collaborated to present 10-6 in the "Greatest players to have worn Kings and Ducks uniforms" series, and today we've got the rest! And honestly, I'm much happier going nostalgic these days than writing about the awful plight of the current Anaheim Ducks (Fire Carlyle).
The Final Five
5. Mathieu Schneider
Rudy: Schneider's kind of a weird entry for this list because, while he was never exactly instrumental for either team's success, he was kind of around when they were successful. For the Kings, Schneider was a key contributor on those turn of the millenium teams that made a brief foray into relevance. Schneider's best year came in the Kings' best year since the Cup run, when he averaged over 23 minutes a night and scored 50 points back in 2000-01. That whole defensive core was pretty great; you had Schneider & Lubo providing the offense, Aaron Miller & Mattias Norstrom providing the defense, and then Jaroslav Modry and Andreas Lilja were there too. Oh and that Blake guy for a little while but fuck him.
Earl: For the Ducks, Schneider had one excellent season, but it was marred by a short-and-sour playoffs and an unretirement salary cap mess that threw Anaheim for a loop. The Ducks would end up buying out Todd Bertuzzi, trading away Andy McDonald, then late in the summer trading away Schneider's contract for two games of Ken Klee, all while GM Brian Burke was working his way to Toronto.
But as a Scott Niedermayer replacement-then-complement, Schneider was great on the ice. He had 39 points in 65 games and was a +14, then like a lot of Ducks went flat in the playoffs -- one point and a -3 in six games. Still, with Schneider playing on a third paring behind Niedermayer-Beauchemin and Pronger-O'Donnell, that was easily the best blueline that Anaheim has ever iced.
4. Sean O'Donnell
Earl: Every nice thing I said about Dan Bylsma consistently making safe plays goes double for Sean O'Donnell. If there was any slight chance that his point shot would be blocked, he'd shoot at the corner of the rink -- safety first! But these days especially, that sort of mindset is pretty desirable, and O'D was fantastic at it.
He'll get overlooked because he was paired with Chris Pronger and played behind Scott Niedermayer, but it wasn't really anybody who could instantly play well with Pronger -- when the Ducks deviated from that pairing, results usually suffered. Reliable and steady -- O'D was damn solid.
Rudy: Oh Sean, you old goat. O'Donnell had 2 stints with the Kings: first as a youngster in the mid-90s, then as a greybeard a few years ago. I think I liked him more the 2nd time; he needed some time to grow into his role as a defensive roughneck but eventually he proved to be invaluable for the maturation of both Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty. I still miss him.
Also, does he look like the dragon from Bone to anyone else?
3. Lubomir Visnovsky
Earl: What's the biggest difference between last year's Anaheim Ducks and this year's? Last year Lubo had an unbelievable season; this year (before he got injured) he's been invisible or worse; hopefully some time off allows him to re-find his game.
Last season, Lubo was an offensive powerhouse -- on the ice for more goals-for than any non-goaltender in the league. He was a huge part of Anaheim's potent power play, a consistent even-strength goal-creator, and despite his wandering and diminutive size, Lubo wasn't a defensive liability. He'd play tough minutes, definitely with a lot of help from Toni Lydman, and ended the season with a pretty amazing +18. An outstanding season for sure.
This season has been a lot more fumbling, a lot less production, and way more goals-against; Lubo currently is a -7 and only has four points, and the Ducks are the worst offensive team in the league. I give the top line a lot of shit, but really it's because I'm way too in manlove with Visnovsky to point any blame in his direction -- get awesome soon, Lubo.
Rudy: (*Bursts into tears)
2. Tomas Sandstrom
Rudy: Woohoo, fuck yeah Sandstrom! Sandstrom was awesome for 2 reasons:
1. His name kind of sounds like "Sand Storm" and I would totally buy that G.I. Joe.
2. He had a wonderful habit of getting completely fucked up.
Just check out the Youtube videos you get when you search for his name. I don't know what it was about him but people couldn't fucking stand the guy. Probably because he threw cheap shots and then dove like a little bitch but hey, you don't notice those things when you're 10.
Earl: Even before we put our lists together on this project, I warned Rudy that I was going to criminally overrate Sandstrom -- on my first draft, he was #1. And sadly, it doesn't even have that much to do with Sandstrom the actual player so much as it does with Sandstrom the digitally-rendered SNES NHL 94 character. That's right -- in the game that converted me into the hockey fan I am today, digi-Sandstrom was my first favorite player. I was a one-timing fool, and his shot was quick and accurate, which I assume reflected something about the actual player.
But even as I sort of morphed into a fan of actual NHL players, Sandstrom remained my first favorite. I was fascinated with him -- how did a guy born in Finland end up playing on the Swedish national team? Why weren't coaches designing all their plays around his wicked one-timer? When he finally became a Mighty Duck, it was kind of a silly dream come true for me. Even though he was at the end of his career and everything, it was just cool to have my favorite player playing on my favorite team, especially in those early days of innocent fandom.
1. Jari Kurri
Rudy: Jari fucking owned and is pretty clearly the greatest Finnish player to ever play in Southern California. Way better than that other loser... what's his name... oh yeah, Jere Karalahti. This clip is pretty much my childhood:
Gretzky gets all the attention but I end up loving Kurri more. Plus, the Kings are embarrassing.
I'm not sure why Kurri's on this list, though, since it's about guys who played for both the Kings and the Ducks and of course, Kurri never played for the Ducks.
Earl: Yeah he did, right at the end of his career. It was 199-
Rudy: Nope, sorry.
Earl: Really, there are pictures and everything. Here, I'll show you one...
Rudy: Lalalalalalala (*runs out of room)
So that's our list -- feel free to offer your corrections in the comments.
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Prediction: Another incomprehensibly tight game, I guess. If there are any goals for either team, they're scored by Kurri and Sandstrom.