Dan Wood, the Anaheim Ducks beat-writer for the Orange County Register, was kind enough to give Illegal Curve some of his time today to answer questions about blogging, the underrated Southern California hockey market, and the futures of Brian Burke, Teemu Selanne and Mathieu Schneider.
Here is the interview:
Richard: Hi Dan, with the growing popularity of hockey blogging (especially beat-writer blogging), I wanted to ask how you divide your time between writing articles for the Register and writing for Ducks Blog?
Dan: I’m not even sure how to answer this question, simply because things have changed so much recently that we are placing more and more emphasis on our Ducks blog. I’m really not sure at this point how my time will be divided. A lot of time, what goes on the blog also appears in the Register. Other times, that’s not the case. If I had to guess, I suppose a 50-50 split might be reasonable.
Richard: Do you think the growth of the Ducks’ popularity in Southern California has gone unnoticed by the media and the fans across the league?
Dan: Largely, yes. So many people, especially in Canada, seem to make a sport out of bad-mouthing hockey in warm-weather markets. There is no question that the percentage of Southern California’s population interested in hockey is very small, much smaller than in any Canadian city, obviously. But there are so many people here that even a small percentage of the population is quite a few people. The people in Southern California who are into hockey are just as into it as anywhere else. There are so many more entertainment options here than most other places that hockey will never be front and center in Southern California like it is in Canada. But there is plenty of interest to sustain both NHL franchises in Southern California. And when you take into account the growth of youth hockey in Southern California and the young players who are going on to be drafted by NHL teams, play junior and college hockey and on U.S. national teams, hockey is plenty alive and well in Southern California.
Richard: Now onto hockey. If you had to make a prediction, would you say this upcoming season will be Brian Burke’s final season as Ducks GM?
Dan: Honestly, I think this could go either way. I really believe it’s pretty much 50-50. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to go one way or the other, I’d say he will continue to be Ducks general manager beyond this season.
Richard: With Teemu Selanne still seeming undecided on a return to hockey, what do you think the Finnish Flash will end up doing? And if Selanne were to not return, how do you think the Ducks would fill that fairly significant hole in their top-six forwards?
Dan: I think Selanne will be in the Ducks’ opening-night lineup. I don’t know that for a fact, but I have a very strong feeling that will be the case. He’s not going to play anywhere else. Selanne and his family love living in Orange County, and he’s not going to uproot his family. Had he wanted to play elsewhere, he would have signed with another team long ago. So it simply comes down to whether he wants to play another season, and I think he does. He’s talked often about how much fun he has had since returning to Anaheim, and I don’t think he’s ready to retire. Should he not return, the Ducks would probably try options such as Joakim Lindstrom, Eric Boguniecki and perhaps Todd Marchant as top-six possibilities. If none of them panned out, the Ducks might have to make a move at some point during the season.
Richard: Maybe tied to the question above, do you think Mathieu Schneider’s services are currently generating a lot of interest around the league?
Dan: From what I understand, there are multiple teams interested in acquiring Schneider, but most, if not all, of them are teams that are also interested in Mats Sundin. Probably none of them could afford both Schneider and Sundin, so those teams are waiting to see where the Sundin domino falls before possibly making a move for Schneider.
Richard: Finally, who is your favorite to win the Pacific Division this upcoming season? The Sharks, Ducks or Stars?
Dan: Tough question. I think any of them could win it. I guess I would pick the Sharks as the favorite, as far as the regular season goes. I would have to see them succeed in the playoffs before I believe in the Sharks. I
would say the Ducks and Stars are more likely to go deep into the playoffs than the Sharks. I also am very curious to see how the Coyotes build on their success from last season. They could provide some pretty strong competition for what we consider to be the top three teams in the division.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Richard Pollock.