The Mighty Ducks of Ahaheim¹ started off by making what I thought was a shocking move. They used the second overall pick to select RW Bobby Ryan, a guy most analysts had projected to go fourth. As far as I know, every hockey analyst, every serious fan, every casual fan, even my grandmother who doesn't know the difference between a one-timer and a Buick, thought that the Ducks would take defenseman Jack Johnson. As an aside, I might has well get the "joke" out of the way.
No, not the surfer dude/feel-good folk-rocker Jack Johnson. The hockey player.He was the consensus "second best player in the draft". The other teams with early picks (and more specifically, the Canes) had been planning their strategy about which of the wonderful forwards they would select.
The pre-draft assumptions were that the Canes would take Gilbert Brule or Benoit Pouliot with the third pick, the Wild would take Ryan with the fourth and Les Habitants would take whoever was still available out of Brule or Pouloit.
When Anaheim threw a Duck wrench in the plan, I was shocked and surprised. With Johnson still available, it seemed a no-brainer. The best available player, and it addresses one of our needs. Although I'm pleased with it, many of the Caniac faithful over on the message boards voiced their opinion that they would have rather gotten a forward to address our offensive needs. I'm thinking that the Canes have some very specific plans for obtaining some well established, name brand goal-scorers in the free agency market.
The Wild picked Pouliot. No surprise there. Really, there were few big surprises in terms of when players were selected, although a few heads were shook in disapproval when the Habs chose Goaltender Carey Price with the fifth overall selection. Everyone and their dog was expecting them to go with one of the remaining blue-chip forwards.
Late in the first round came the announcement that the Canes had dealt Jeff O'Neill to the Maple Leafs for a conditional pick in the 2006 draft. There was already a lot of talk in Caniac Nation about letting O go. He's been unhappy with the Canes for a couple of seasons now, and getting in trouble off the ice pissed off a lot of fans and presumably the owners. He was to be a restricted free agent, and it was a well circulated rumor that we were not going to qualify him, and he had already expressed the desire to play in TO. Although there are many Canes fans who don't like giving up a potential 30 goal scorer for a fourth round pick, I like the move. We weren't going to qualify him anyway. He would have been picked up, and we'd have gotten zero compensation for it. A shrewd move by Canes higher-ups. Actually, from a humanitarian standpoint, this is an awesome deal. Jeff gets to leave a town where he wasn't really that happy (and wasn't playing to his potential), gets to play for a team he's always dreamed of playing for, and he gets to be much much closer to his parents. As you may recall, Jeff lost his brother to a fatal car crash last week. For a number of reasons, this is a good deal for Jeff. I wish him luck with the new start he's been offered.
In the second round, we selected another d-man whose name is in all likelihood, not even worth mentioning since we won't see him for a couple of years at the least. Caniacs started to get restless.
Later in the day came another trade involving the Canes. We gave up one of our fourth round picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 2006 fourth round pick and Defenseman Derrick Walser. I'd never heard of him, and I wasn't surprised when I found out that he's a young d-man with limited NHL experience and an offensive upside. Seems to be par for the course. However, I was pleased to find out that he's an excellent power-play guy. That's one of our biggest weaknesses. I'm glad to see that they're addressing a pressing need by getting a lot of young talented d-men, but a little offense would be nice too.
Looking forward to the free agency period, there should be a crapload of talented stars available. Some of them at cheap prices. I'm certain that the Canes have a plan, and it's probably a very specific plan. Unlike some of my peers, I'm not going to question the moves we've made so far. I haven't heard much on the rumor treadmill about what those plans are, but one of the names that's been thrown around a lot is Jason Allison. I really hope that he ends up here (question marks and all). There's a ton of other big-time offensive guys out there, but I can't really think right now.
¹ We, the staff of red and black hockey, are of the opinion that it's only a matter of time before the Ducks take a page out of their baseball playing bothers' book. We think that they'll want to be called "The Los Angeles Ducks of Anaheim". For the record, we still refuse to call the Angels by that rediculous name. They are still the Anaheim Angels to us.