The past few days, we've posted some Q&As with Puck Worlds and Behind The Net -- serious hockey talk for the serious hockey fan.
Now we'll change tunes a bit. Battle of California is a blog that James Mirtle started as a semi-joke and now it's, well, still a semi-joke, but that's intentional. Things don't get taken too seriously as Earl Sleek, RudyKelly, and Megolodon (all real names, for sure) talk trash about the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. You'll find references ranging from Red Dead Redemption to bad chick flicks to Chuck Norris Facts. Oh, and you can't forget Earl Sleek's signature cartoons.
(Fun fact: Because I used to write for BoC, apparently there was a search engine hit for "Red Dead RedemCHEN." That is 100% awesome.)
There's some serious hockey talk underneath the goofiness, but a quick visit and you'll see why BoC gets plenty of traffic from hockey fans outside of California. The BoC folks were good enough to censor the swearing (well, for the most part) and put on their hockey thinking caps for a little Q&A:
Which summer roster move did you like best from your team?
Earl Sleek (Anaheim): While I spent most of the summer waiting for Teemu Selanne to re-sign for another year, the move I'm most happy with is the re-signing of Saku Koivu, a move that helped convince the Finnish Flash to keep playing. A year ago, Koivu signed a bargain 1-year $3.25M deal and worked his tail off for the Ducks; now he's re-signed for two more years at even a bigger discount -- $2.5M per year. Saku can win faceoffs, contribute on both ends of the ice, and provides important leadership -- he may end up being the next captain, and he's already one of my favorite players.
Megalodon (San Jose): I loved the signing of Niittymaki. As soon as the Sharks were eliminated I knew that, with all the players to sign in the off-season, Nabokov was most likely not going to fit in the salary picture. I'm excited to see Nitty (I guess I'll use that nickname, since he put it on his mask and everything) play, and I'm also really looking forward to the young goaltenders in the system getting more playing time.
RudyKelly (Los Angeles): Well the Kings have only made one thus far sooo... signing Alexei Ponikarovsky, I guess. He's like a knockoff version of Alex Frolov: he's kind of Russian, he's kind of good at possessing the puck, he's kind of good defensively... it's like when you open the birthday gift from that weird great-aunt on your mom's side and you have to feign excitement at your new "Adolescent Tortoise Fighter" toy.
Which summer roster move did you like least from your team?
ES: I'm going to cheat a little bit here -- I think the "move" that disappointed me the most was Scott Niedermayer's retirement, because it truly left Anaheim's blueline in shambles. The Ducks parted have parted ways with their #1, #2, #3, #4, and #6 defensemen in terms of overall ice time last season, and even though they've brought in some experience with Toni Lydman and Andy Sutton, they're definitely not going to be as good as they could have been with Scotty involved as a player. Aside from Scotty's retirement, getting a 3rd-round pick for defenseman James Wisniewski seems like a low return.
M: I'm not a fan of the signings of Wallin or Huskins. One of them would have been okay, for less money. Two mediocre defensemen getting paid more than a million each is not what the Sharks need.
RK: Losing out on Dan Hamhuis, losing out on Paul Martin, losing out on Ilya Kovalchuk, (probably) losing out on Willie Mitchell, not re-signing Sean O'Donnell, not re-signing Frolov... basically, everyone Dean Lombardi wanted didn't want LA and everyone that wanted LA weren't wanted. It's been the worst summer ever.
Do either of your California rivals scare you?
ES: For sure they do -- in nature, the duck's biggest asset is his fear of everything. And besides, let's not forget what happened last season -- through February 4, the Ducks were a staggering 0-7-0 against the intrastate Kings and Sharks, and a respectable 27-17-7 against everybody else. The BoC rivalry was killing Anaheim, and it pretty much kept the Ducks out of the playoff hunt. The Sharks and Kings collectively outscored the Ducks 43-28 last season, so I think my fears are legitimate. In the postseason, I'm not afraid of either of them, though.
M: Nope. This has been a weird off-season for the Pacific. Most of the teams have, by not making any major moves, regressed a little bit. So far nothing has happened with either the Kings or the Ducks to make me think they will be significantly better than last season.
RK: Haha, no.
Pick one player from each rival that you'd want on your team.
ES: The Ducks need blueline talent, so my Kings pick obviously goes to Drew Doughty -- he could come in and replace a lot of Niedermayer minutes. From the Sharks, though, I think Dan Boyle might be a bit redundant with Lubomir Visnovsky's skillset, so I'd nab Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He's signed at a reasonable $3.1M for the next three seasons, and he's the kind of minute-eater that Anaheim could use back on the blueline. In different situations I'd totally nab Anze Kopitar or Patrick Marleau, but the Ducks' current need is on defense.
M: From the Kings I'd love to have Anze Kopitar. He's a serious talent that would be scoring MASSIVE amounts of points if he had someone to pass to. From the Ducks I'd take Lubomir Visnovsky, because I've always liked him and he would really help the Sharks. Also, then we could recreate the "Vote for Lubo!" video, which is just about the greatest thing that has ever happened.
RK: From the Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic. I love this guy. He's only 23, which is kind of surprising because it feels like he's been around forever. He's really smart and solid positionally, he's a pretty smooth skater and he has a very nice first pass out of the zone. I think he goes under the radar because he's never been a top-pairing guy but he's probably the best defenseman from his draft class so far. I don't think there are many guys that young that have his hockey IQ.
Plus he sounds like a knight. Verily, that is cool. For sooth.
From the Ducks: Teemu Selanne. That way I can admire his stunningly good looks without it feeling so wrong. Well, it'd still feel wrong but for an entirely different reason.
And pick one player from each rival that you are so very glad is NOT on your team.
ES: For the Kings, it's Ryan Smyth -- his cap hit is higher than any of the Ducks and runs two more seasons, and he's not aging as gracefully as Teemu Selanne. For the Sharks, I'll say Dany Heatley -- I know he's an Olympian and a fantastic goal-scorer, but he's got the highest cap hit in the state of California, plus the 2nd-longest contract duration. Heatley is worth his salary in his good years, for sure, but with the contract risk, plus the fact that I'd have to root for a murderer, I'll pass. Besides, Heatley is one of my favorite recurring Anaheim postseason victims.
M: I would find it physically painful to cheer for Corey Perry or Ryan Smyth.
RK: From the Sharks: Antero Niitymakki. Having to spell his name all the time would drive me to drink.
From the Ducks: F*** Corey Perry.
Need a good chuckle mixed in with your hockey? Visit Battle of California, and don't forget to hit the In n' Out Burger while you're there.