Too much time has been wasted already. No sense wasting any more. Now that a new CBA is in place, approved by both owners and players alike, a condensed NHL schedule has been released and the Ducks are back on the ice.
Training camp began in earnest for all 30 teams, who begin official NHL play next Saturday, January 19.
Coach Bruce Boudreau will get to have his first training camp in Anaheim with the team he joined mid-season. Not quite as much preparation as he hoped for, but it will be good, nonetheless.
"The big unfortunate thing about that with me is you'd like to see everybody in the organization and talk to everybody," Boudreau told the OC Register earlier this week. "So the organization knows who you are. That's the great reason in going down to Norfolk for training camp and the two other visits I've gone down. So you get to know the organization well. But the guys that are going to be here, I know them all pretty confidently."
Good thing, because there won't be time for pre-season games. Players on the cusp have no time to grow and develop in camp with hopes of earning a job. They need to come ready to play, ready to work, ready to impress, because cuts will be made quickly.
Only 29 players are coming to camp, so most of the "easy" cuts have already been made.
There are four goaltenders coming and only two will remain. Jonas Hiller is pretty much a shoe-in. But who will be his back up? 30 year old Swede, Viktor Fasth? Will they stay with Jeff Deslauriers, who backed up last season? John Gibson is also in the mix, just off a stellar performance in the World Junior Championships where he helped Team USA earn gold. Gibson will certainly push the others and if the Ducks organization can keep him, he will be a bright future in net for Anaheim.
There are eight defensemen fighting for six spots. Francois Beauchemin is healthy again, as is Toni Lydman. Beauchemin had surgery in April to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Lydman also underwent the knife in April to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Lydman also has finally recovered from a shoulder injury that has hampered him considerably. Cam Fowler continues to grow and develop into a steady defenseman and Fowler will benefit from more of Scott Niedermayer's presence with the team as an assistant coach. Luca Sbisa also returns. Nate Guenin was in and out of the line up last season and he will want a permanent spot.
Sheldon Souray is the new face in the group, having signed as a free agent in July. Souray brings size and experience that will help to replace the vanished Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky was traded to the New York Islanders during last year's entry draft and it is still questionable if he will ever play a game for that team. Currently in the KHL, he appears to want to stay in Russia rather than be stuck on Long Island.
The other new faces on the blue line are Bryan Allen and Jordan Hendry, both free agent signings last summer. Allen has over 600 NHL games under his belt, while Hendry is still trying to get out of the minor leagues.
Comparatively speaking, there will be more cuts to be made at the forward position, with 17 players showing up at camp. Of those 17, there are plenty of youngsters competing for spots on the roster.
Returning veterans include Teemu Selanne, who at 42 is likely in his last season of hockey. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan continue to produce reliably. Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano also provide experience and depth to center..
New veterans joining the Ducks include Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz. Both were signed as free agents last summer.
Of the youngsters, Matt Beleskey is likely to stick around, and Nick Bonino seems here to stay, having been assigned a lower number for training camp. Devante Smith-Pelly made the team last year and did well until he broke his foot. Kyle Palmieri could finally make the jump after having played 18 games with the Ducks last season.
On the cusp players include Peter Holland, who made more than one appearance with Anaheim last season. Emerson Etem was drafted the same year as Smith-Pelly, only earlier in the draft, and he will be competing hard for a spot. Patrick Maroon spent more time in Syracuse than in Anaheim, but he would like to change that. Ricard Rakell gained international experience playing for Sweden in the World Junior tournament, but has he developed enough to earn a roster spot? Finally there is Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond, who is in camp on a professional tryout.
Camp opened up at the Honda Center but will continue the remainder of the week at Anaheim Ice (also affectionately known as Anaheim Iceberg). Coach Boudreau expects to have at least one scrimmage later this week
The Ducks then fly off to Vancouver to begin their season in Canada against the Canucks. To say the schedule is a bit wacky would be an understatement, but all the teams are experiencing that. Trying to schedule 48 games in 99 days is a daunting task and lends to unusual circumstances you would not find in a longer season.
The Ducks will play Phoenix and Dallas three games in a row each (somewhat like a mini playoff series). The Red Wings will be around for two games in a row in Anaheim at the end of March. They also play Edmonton, back to back, up in Edmonton.
The final game of the abbreviated season will be at home on Saturday, April 27. You can bet that will be a hot ticket if Selanne does decide to retire (and actually announce it in advance.)
Regardless of the quirks, regardless of the time line, it just is nice to have hockey back again.