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Summer report card: Pacific Div.

Ducks keep cool as Kings rule and Stars tread water

Posted: Friday August 24, 2007 2:41PM; Updated: Friday August 31, 2007 1:46PM
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Anaheim Ducks
2006-07 Record Grade
2006-07: 48-20-14, 110 points
Pacific Division champions
#2 in Western Conference
Stanley Cup champions
B
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Mathieu Schneider (UFA, Det), Todd Bertuzzi (UFA, Det), Shane Hnidy (UFA, TB), Dan Lacouture (UFA, NJ)
BACK IN THE FOLD
J-S Giguere, Travis Moen, George Parros, Sean O'Donnell, Kent Huskins, Brad May, Joe DiPenta, Aaron Rome
GONE
Dustin Penner (RFA, Edm), Ryan Shannon (trade, Van), Shawn Thornton (UFA, Bos), Joe Motzko (UFA, Was), Sebastien Caron (UFA), David McKee (UFA)
YET TO SIGN
Teemu Selanne, Ric Jackman, Trevor Gillies
Offseason Evaluation
GM Brian Burke had about 10 minutes to celebrate his team's Cup victory before focusing on the possibility of replacing two Hall-of-Fame-caliber stars in Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, but wisely covered his bases in case they chose to retire. Neither Schneider or Bertuzzi is capable of filling those skates, but both can be above-average assets when healthy. Bertuzzi is a bigger risk, especially at his salary, but his style of play seems to mesh perfectly with these hard-nosed Ducks. (If either Selanne or Niedermayer decides to play, Burke will have to make a deal before the season, a situation that could impact his summer grade.) Burke made the right choice on Penner when backed into a corner by Edmonton's offer sheet to the RFA winger. Burke walked away from his second-leading goal scorer, but has top prospect Bobby Ryan ready to challenge for a top-six role at a much lower cap hit. Burke also deserves kudos for locking up several key players in the title defense, including Giguere, O'Donnell and Moen.


San Jose Sharks
2006-07 Record Grade
2006-07: 51-26-5, 107 points
#5 in Western Conference
B-
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Alexei Semenov (UFA, Edm)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Joe Thornton, Craig Rivet, Rob Davison, Dmitri Patzold
GONE
Bill Guerin (UFA, NYI), Vesa Toskala (trade, Tor), Mark Bell (trade, Tor), Scott Hannan (UFA, Col)
YET TO SIGN
Mark Smith
Offseason Evaluation
The Sharks were close last season ... close enough that GM Doug Wilson felt comfortable relying on the talent he'd already assembled to take the next step in 2007-08. Not that he sat on his hands all summer. Wilson went to the draft without a first-rounder and left with a pair, deftly adding Logan Couture and Nick Petrecki to an already strong farm system. The assets he dealt, including Toskala, were spare pieces in his puzzle. That he was able to move the troubled Bell at the same time was a bonus. Wilson also bumped his grade with a pair of key internal signings. Thornton at $7.2 million per over three years looks like a remarkable bargain. Rivet's play after being acquired at the deadline gave Wilson the confidence to let Hannan go and save a million bucks with the steady ex-Hab. But for all those moves, Wilson seems to have ignored the lessons imparted by their second-round loss to Detroit. The Sharks simply didn't compete on a consistent basis, and desperately need an energy injection. Passing (or missing out) on warriors such as Ryan Smyth or Chris Drury left Wilson with a top-of-the-shopping-list item to grab as the season nears. But there's method to an approach that has the Sharks closer to the floor than the cap. They may not be better than last season, but Wilson didn't lose ground. By not awarding any bloated, long-term deals, he left himself the flexibility to deal with the 10 free agents he'll have to ink after the season, including captain Patrick Marleau.


Dallas Stars
2006-07 Record Grade
2006-07: 50-25-7, 107 points
#6 in Western Conference
D
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Brad Winchester (UFA, Edm), Todd Fedoruk (UFA, Phi)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Sergei Zubov, Stu Barnes, Mike Ribeiro, Joel Lundqvist, Antti Miettinen, Junior Lessard, Jussi Jokinen
GONE
Darryl Sydor (UFA, Pit), Ladislav Nagy (UFA, Kings), Jon Klemm (UFA, LA), Patrik Stefan (UFA, Switzerland), Dan Ellis (Nas), Matthew Barnaby (expected to retire)
YET TO SIGN
Eric Lindros, Jussi Jokinen
Offseason Evaluation
Worst job in hockey? Might be a position in the Stars' ticket office. Seriously, what's the pitch? "Sure, we lost again in the first round, but hey, at least we took it to seven games this time"? Or maybe: "If you liked Shane Churla during his declining years, you'll looooove Todd Fedoruk!" Glass-half-full types can focus on the fact that, as constructed, the Stars are likely to remain one of the West's top regular-season teams. With that capable defense, the Pacific crown isn't out of the question, especially if the Stars avoid the injuries that kept Mike Modano, Brenden Morrow and other key players out for long stretches last season. But this team has been treading water for far too long, and with its core on the slippery side of 30, logic dictates it's time to fish or cut the proverbial bait. GM Doug Armstrong clearly thinks this team can still compete, but he has no reason to believe it's on the verge of postseason success. Where was the bold move to upgrade the anemic scoring? How about nabbing a gritty winger for the top six, to give one of the NHL's softest forward units a bit more snarl? Armstrong even seems content to play hardball with Jokinen, who might be regretting his decision to pass on arbitration. He's no grinder, but with 103 points after his first two seasons, his offensive potential shouldn't be overlooked. About the only positive thing to say about Armstrong's performance: none of the players he lost to free agency were being counted on this season. Hard to imagine a bit of optimism like that will have the hoi polloi lining up for tickets.


Los Angeles Kings
2006-07 Record Grade
27-41-14, 68 points
#14 in Western Conference
A-
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Michal Handzus (UFA, Chi), Ladislav Nagy (UFA, Dal), Kyle Calder (UFA, Det), Tom Preissing (UFA, Ott) Brad Stuart (UFA, Cal), Jon Klemm (UFA, Dal)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Jaroslav Modry, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mike Cammalleri, Jason Labarbera, Jeff Giuliano
GONE
Alyn McAuley (bought out), G Mathieu Garon (UFA, Edm), Aaron Miller (UFA, Van), Tom Kostopoulos (UFA, Mon), Jamie Heward (UFA, Russia), Jamie Lundmark (UFA, Russia), Mike Weaver (UFA, Pit), Oleg Tverdovsky (UFA, Russia), Sean Burke (expected to retire)
YET TO SIGN
No one of significance
Offseason Evaluation
The most improved team in the West? It says so here. With the building blocks -- Anze Kopitar, Patrick O'Sullivan, Jack Johnson -- in place for a successful, long-term revamp, GM Dean Lombardi masterfully used his time and heaps of cap space to build a solid bridge to that bright future. Handzus and Nagy are legitimate top six forwards who should blend seamlessly with the swift, creative crew already in place. By bringing in three sold vets and re-signing two of his own, Lombardi appears to have crafted one of the league's most formidable bluelines. He'll need it. While Kings fans are no doubt applauding his aggressive approach, they have to be wondering why he failed to find someone, anyone, to address the team's biggest need: a reliable No. 1 keeper. Unless Dan Cloutier morphs into the second coming of Rogie Vachon, goaltending will prevent LA from challenging for a playoff spot. But this isn't supposed to be the Kings' year. The faithful should take solace in the fact that better days lie ahead. And thanks to Lombardi's efforts, they're coming sooner than anyone would have expected.


Phoenix Coyotes
2006-07 Record Grade
31-46-5, 67 points
#15 in Western Conference
D
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
David Aebischer (UFA, Mon), Alex Auld (UFA, Fla), Mike York (UFA, Phi), Tomas Surovy (UFA, Sweden), Radim Vrbata (trade, Chi), GM Don Maloney
BACK IN THE FOLD
Brendan Bell, Bill, Thomas, David LeNeveu, Joel Perrault, Matt Jones, Josh Gratton
GONE
Owen Nolan (UFA, Cal), Dave Scatchard (bought out), Kevyn Adams (trade, Chi), Jeremy Roenick (expected to retire), Mike Ricci (retired), Jeff Taffe (UFA, Pit)
YET TO SIGN
Keith Ballard, Curtis Joseph, Pascal Rheaume
Offseason Evaluation
The 'Yotes were the caboose of the conference last season, and nothing Maloney did in his first summer spin as GM suggests they won't be pulling up the rear again. Maybe it's all part of the master plan to add Steve Stamkos to an offensively-stacked prospect pool that already includes high first-rounders Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal and Blake Wheeler. Or maybe this is just one of those situations that's destined to get worse before it gets better. It's hard to imagine coach Wayne Gretzky excitedly scribbling possible line combinations after the team's biggest adds were York (21 points and -18 last season with the Flyers) and Vrbata (41 points, but on his third team in 18 months). Instead, he's probably wondering why Maloney doesn't pony up for Ballard, a steady top-four defender who keys the PK unit and has yet to reach his top end. Or why the GM is going for quantity over quality in net, adding spare parts like Aebischer and Auld to fellow understudies LeNeveu and Mikael Tellqvist? Remember, Don: it's Simon and Garfunkel, not Garfunkel and Oates and Messina. Yes, it'll be another year of irrelevance for the Coyotes, where the primary draw will remain the chance to see Gretzky behind the bench, aging right in front of your eyes.

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