Quack of Dawn: Ducks Report

The Sporting Tribune's Derek Lee has the latest on the Anaheim Ducks.

IRVINE, Calif. – On any other day, the biggest news for the Anaheim Ducks might have been that Brock McGinn, one of the newest members of the team, was practicing with them for the very first time.

However, this was no ordinary day. Prior to their practice at Great Park Ice, the Ducks held a press conference to announce that assistant coach Mike Stothers had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma of the Lymph Node. Stothers was given the diagnosis on Feb. 21. He is under care at UCI Health and will begin treatment and surgical intervention in the coming weeks.

Shattenkirk on Stothers

“Yeah it was tough,” said Kevin Shattenkirk, who took time after practice to discuss what transpired when Stothers informed the team prior to their game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 25. “We got called into a meeting after a big win against Washington, kind of not really knowing what it was about. As soon as (head coach) Dallas (Eakins) kind of got the ball rolling, we knew that something serious was up. I just remember him kind of letting (Stothers) talk and I kind of knew right away as soon as he started to choke up. It was tough, a lot of tears. It was a tough thing to hear.”

Shattenkirk said that Stothers means a lot to him, not just as a coach but as a person as well. He also said that Stothers and he can both lean on each other and talk through different plays and areas where the team can each improve.

Feb 25, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin (74) battles for the puck with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) and center Derek Grant (38) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

“He is great at communicating that way and finding out the player’s perspective,” said Shattenkirk. “He makes things fun. He just wants us to play hard and I think that’s all you can really expect from us. He’s not going to get all over you over mistakes. If they’re lazy mistakes, that’s what really irks him. That’s what I appreciate about him the most, is that he just expects maximum effort all the time.”

Stothers’ mind never takes a day off when it comes to hockey either, says Shattenkirk. The defenseman was leaving the rink on Monday and Stothers was just arriving in his car. He called Shattenkirk over, with the defenseman expecting another update on his condition. Instead, Stothers laid out the game plan for the penalty kill and each different scenario.

“He’s such an easygoing guy for a big, intimidating man,” said Shattenkirk. “His sense of humor and personality is something that I’ve always clicked with and loved.”

Eakins Speaks on Stothers

Who is Mike Stothers to Dallas Eakins? He’s one of the most giving, selfless people he knows. “It’s interesting,” said Eakins after this morning’s practice. “You talk to him (and) his main concern right now is ‘How can I help someone else get ahead of where I am?’ and that’s all you need to know about that man.”

Eakins and Stothers have known each other for a long time. The man known casually as “Stutts” manned the opposing bench on more than one occasion as head coach of the Ontario Reign (formerly known as the Manchester Monarchs), the Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate over the course of Eakins’ tenure as head coach of the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks AHL affiliate. The pair also played against one another in the minors when Eakins first came into the league.

Eakins said the quality that he appreciates most about Stothers is his care for the players. “I think Stutts is a misunderstood guy on the outside. He’s big, he’s imposing (and) he is not afraid to tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not. But, he has an exceptional love for his players and the players certainly know that he cares about them first.”

Feb 20, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins looks on during the second period against the Florida Panthers at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Stothers certainly doesn’t want anyone to tiptoe around him because of the prognosis and Eakins said as much. “If you do tiptoe by him, he’s going to grab you and shake it out of you.” Stothers will not travel on road trips––Anaheim departs for Seattle on Monday––with the Ducks for the time being, but he will still be involved with the team on a day-to-day basis, said Eakins.

“We thought we had been through adversity and we thought we had been through hard (things) this year. Then, we were reminded when Stutts told the team that we’ve really been through nothing and we really haven’t been through hard (things). What he was embarking on was real adversity (and) was going to be really hard, and being in that room when he gave the news to the team certainly showed a love of our guys for each other.”

Final Notes

Andrej Sustr––who was acquired Friday from the Minnesota Wild in the John Klingberg deal––will report to AHL San Diego first in order to work out an injury that he recently picked up, according to general manager Pat Verbeek on last night’s pre-game show on the Bally Sports West broadcast. Sustr will report to Anaheim once he is back to full health. The Ducks currently only have six defensemen on their active roster after trading away Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov yesterday.

Verbeek also disclosed on Ducks Stream’s “The Beeker” yesterday that Nikita Nesterenko, whose rights were acquired in the Klingberg deal, will sign an amateur tryout (ATO) when his collegiate season with Boston College concludes with an eye toward signing an entry-level contract (ELC) in the fall. Defenseman Jackson LaCombe will also sign an ELC with the Ducks following the conclusion of his collegiate season with Minnesota.

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