Mighty Ducks Season in Review

By Martin Dittman

The Mighty Ducks thought this was the year they were gonna become
contenders rather than the standard pretenders. As usual, the team’s high
hopes were dashed by mid-season and the Ducks will have to look to the
future again to become contenders.


The year was full of disappointments. From Maxim Balmochnykh’s
suspension to the firing of Cincinnati coach Moe Mantha, 2000-01 is surely
to be a year of transition for the Mighty Ducks organization. The future
still looks bright as several of their younger players did step up to have
productive seasons but the lights have dimmed. For each player who had a
successful season, another was a disappointment. Just another year in
Duckville.


REPORT CARDS


Jorgen Jonsson – Forward

Grade – Inc.
2000-01 Status – Back to Europe?

Comments:
Jorgen Jonsson had a productive first year in the NHL only to see it fall
apart once he joined Anaheim. On Long Island, Jonsson was a force, and
often the top player for the lowly Isles. With Anaheim, he was invisible
and struggled to get the ice time he needed so badly. The year is an
incomplete from an Anaheim standpoint although an A is in order for his work
with the Isles.


Next year is where the questions pop up. Jonsson has been considering a
trip back to Europe. The Swedish born Jonsson didn’t enjoy Long Island and
had he stayed there, he proabably would be in Sweden next year for sure.
But now he’s playing in sunny Anaheim which may factor into his decision
whether to stay in the NHL or head back to Europe. The Ducks will obviously
offer Jonsson a lucrative contract to lure him back but Jonsson’s family may
come first.


Vitaly Vishnevski – Defense

Grade – A
2000-01 Status – NHLer

Comments:
Vishnevski was a menace on the ice just as the Ducks had hoped he would
be. He endured a slow start in Cincy only to blossom in Anaheim.
Ironically, Vish ended up in Anaheim just by chance. The struggling Ducks
brought Vishnevski in just to shake up team chemistry. Instead, Vishnevski
bumped Jason Marshall from the lineup and became one of their top two
defenseman down the stretch.


It was clear from his very first NHL shift that Vish belonged in the NHL
rather than the AHL. He took no prisoners as he hammered Joe Nieuwendyk and
Brett Hull in his first game. He raised the ire of Scotty Bowman with his
checks. Bowman called them “dirty” and the Ducks couldn’t be happier about
that. Sound the alarms. The Ducks have a punishing defenseman with no
faults – finally.


Maxim Balmochnykh – Forward

Grade – C
2000-01 Status – AHL/NHLer

Comments:
Inconsistent would be the best way to describe Balmo’s first season in
North America. He was bothered by injuries all season and never found his
game consistently after enduring an eight game suspension at the beginning
of the year with Cincy. He made his NHL debut only to get injured and again
be sent to the AHL. A rocky start indeed, but the future still looks bright
for the youngster.


Next year will be critical for Balmo. The freshman adjustments will be
done and it will be time to show if he is the player that everyone thinks he
is. Sniper or enigma? It could be the turning point as he will battle for
an NHL spot.


Niclas Havelid – Defense

Grade – B
2000-01 Status – NHLer

Comments:
Havelid was one of the surprises of the season and fits in nicely with
Anaheim. His speedy heady play made him a favorite with the coaching staff
and proves that the team stole him in the draft. Just what kind of
defenseman he turns into remains to be seen. He struggled offensively which
was a disappointment considering the Ducks labeled Havelid as a power play
quarterback. He should be part of the defensive rotation again next season.


Ladislav Kohn – Forward

Grade – A-
2000-01 Status – NHLer

Comments:
Kohn was one of Anaheim’s most energetic players this season. He added
plenty of spunk to the third and fourth lines and even dropped the gloves a
couple times. His offensive numbers were a disappointment but Kohn
solidified a spot with Anaheim just for his spark plug play.


Mike Leclerc – Forward

Grade – B
2000-01 Status – NHLer

Comments:
Leclerc burst onto the scene this season and looked like he would become
Anaheim’s power forward of the future. The train quickly derailed after
injuries and Leclerc faded down the stretch. The Ducks shouldn’t be worried
though as Leclerc would make a great player on a checking line who can score
a few goals. The ultimate hope is that he finds his offensive touch once
again.


Gregg Naumenko – Goalie

Grade – A-
2000-01 Status – AHLer

Comments:
Naumenko started off the year as the sensation of the AHL leading Cincy to
their best start ever. After the all star break, Naumenko struggled as he
battled fatigue and a nagging groin injury. The stress of facing 30-40
shots per game got to the the rookie in his year out of college and he
disappeared down the stretch. The Ducks will be patient with Naumenko and
as he matures, it looks like he will become a quality goaltender.


Jay Legault – Forward

Grade – B-
2000-01 Status – AHLer

Comments:
Legault is still aways from making the NHL as his first AHL season proves.
The roller coaster season featured highs and lows as he worked on his game.
He must improve his game for Anaheim to even consider him as an NHLer.
Training camp will be critical for him.


Jordan Leopold – Defense

Grade – A
2000-01 Status – NCAA?

Comments:
Leopold had another superb season. He used all his tools of expertise amd
had his best all around season. He was captain of Team USA at Worlds and
was one of the best defenseman there as well. The remaining question is if
Leopold decides to go professional or stay in Minnesota.


Tom Askey – Goalie

Grade – C-
2000-01 Status – Ducks Optional Contract

Comments:
Askey might be done as a Mighty Duck. Playing behind a porous defense in
Kansas City, Askey struggled badly and became a bench warmer after KC
acquired Tyler Moss. Once moved to Houston, Askey improved greatly but
again was the backup goalie limiting his playing time. The Ducks hold an
option on his contract determining whether they keep him or release him.


Stephen Peat – Defense

Grade – B
2000-01 Status – Unknown

Comments:
One of the toughest players in hockey Peat had another rocking season,
this time in Calgary. He solidified himself as a true enforcer and those in
the NHL and AHL should be aware of Peat for the coming seasons. Reports
have the Ducks might balk on Peat because of injury problems, but when it
comes down to it, Peat is too tough to let go.


Petr Tenkrat – Forward

Grade – A
2000-01 Status – AHLer?

Comments:
A darkhorse out of the draft, Tenkrat has become a shocking discovery.
He has great hands and has abilities that make him a true candidate to play
in the NHL. He just recently signed a contact with the Ducks but where he
will play next year is still in question. He may get a shot to make the NHL
but will more likely be in Cincy. A real longshot has him back in Europe.


Andy McDonald – Forward

Grade – A-
2000-01 Status – AHLer

Comments:
A recent free agent signing, McDonald is compared to Brian Holzinger. Just
a little guy, he was a Hobey Baker Award Finalist and was named ECAC player
of the year. Just what kind of professional player he becomes is unknown,
but given his size, expect him to go to the AHL.

NOTABLES IN BRIEF


Mike Crowley – Defense

Grade – A-
2000-01 Status – Restricted Free Agent

Comments:
Most likely will be unprotected in the expansion draft. Expect Minnesota to
give the native a long look.


Joel Kwiatkowski – Defense

Grade – B
2000-01 Status – AHLer

Comments:
Had a good sophomore season progressing his game nicely. His overall game
is still a question mark.


Peter Leboutillier – Forward

Grade – Inc.
2000-01 Status – Free Agent

Comments:
Injuries ended his season early and probably ended his time with the Ducks.
A free agent, he will be free to look elsewhere for a job.


Bob Wren – Forward

Grade – B
2000-01 Status – Ducks Optional Contract

Comments:
Battled injuries to come thru with another strong AHL season. It’s 50/50 as
to whether the Ducks bring him back for another go. Expect him to stay in
Cincy if Wren wants to.


Frank Banham – Forward

Grade – C
2000-01 Status – Ducks Optional Contract

Comments:
Another inconsistent season from this former sniper. His future is in
question and could become expansion draft bait.


Torrey DiRoberto – Forward

Grade – B+
2000-01 Status – Restricted Free Agent

Comments:
A sucessful freshman year with Cincy. Adds plenty of energy and could have
a bright future with more work on his game.


Maxim Rybin – Forward

Grade – A
2000-01 Status – Juniors

Comments:
Rybin had a strong North America debut season spotlighting his awesome
skill. Has to shed notion that he is too small to play in the NHL.


Trent Hunter – Forward

Grade – A
2000-01 Status – Unknown

Comments:
He continues to put up big numbers in juniors only to have many question his
status as a future NHLer. Ducks still have to come to terms on a contract
with Hunter for him to go pro and prove the critics wrong.


Marc Chouinard – Forward

Grade – B+
2000-01 Status – AHLer

Comments:
Rebounded for a nice season in Cincy. He still has to work on his game but
has a longshot of being a checking line center in the NHL.


Blaine Russell – Goalie

Grade – Inc.
2000-01 Status – Free Agent

Comments:
Stuck in the ECHL, Russell will almost certainly look for a job someplace
else.


Lloyd Shaw – Defense/Winger

Grade – B-
2000-01 Status – Free Agent

Comments:
Adds plenty of grit to minor league teams. Wants to move on and Ducks will
probably let him.


NOTES

With the firing of Cincinnati coach Moe Mantha, candidates are lining up
to take over. Ducks scout and former Mantha teammate Lucien Deblois is the
favorite to get the job after Anaheim assistant George Burnett left to take
over in Oshawa. Mantha plans to stay in the Cincinnati area and has joked
about becoming an assistant with the rival Cyclones.