The question this team will have to answer will be “Which Anaheim Ducks will show up this season?” They can be either the team that upset the President’s Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks and took Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings to a seventh game in the second round, or be the team that struggled for most of the regular season before the trade deadline.
General Manager Bob Murray said in an interview that “Rebuilding is not in our vocabulary right now, I don’t like that word.” Well the Ducks sure aren’t rebuilding after becoming sellers at the trade deadline last season, but they are reloading. They still have one a quality top-line combination with center Ryan Getzlaf and wingers Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry. The oldest player of the trio (Getzlaf) is only 24 years old, which means they can continue to grow and dominate opponents together.
With youth as the top line, the Ducks have an experienced supporting cast of forwards. They signed Joffrey Lupul and Saku Koivu to compliment Teemu Selanne on the second line. The Ducks have arguably one of the best two-line combinations in the league.
The Ducks will have some quality talent to replace on the blue line as defensemen Chris Pronger, Bret Hedican, and Francois Beauchemin are all gone. The 48 points Pronger scored last season will be difficult to replace, but there is youth on defense in favor of James Wisniewski and Nick Boynton. That duo is projected to headline the second defensive unit.
Further down the depth chart, look for rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa to begin the season as the sixth defenseman but should crack the second defensive unit and see time on special teams if he plays well early in the season.
One question they do have however is in goal. They hope that Jean-Sebastien Giguere can regain the form he had in previous years, when his 3.10 GAA was his highest in 10 years when he appeared in 5 games for Calgary in 1999. In that 10-year span, he never had a GAA over 2.66. A goaltending competition between him and 27-year-old Jonas Hiller is healthy for both of them, but Giguere has said he won’t be content in a backup role. If Giguere wants to start, he must let his play do the talking and not his mouth.
This is the last season for 39-year-old Selanne, and being paired with countryman Koivu should help the Ducks compete with San Jose for the division title. This team can be either hot or cold throughout the season. If the team can click on all cylinders early on, expect this team to take the division and place either second or third in the west. But if the team can’t find their groove, the Ducks can slip to a low seed or even miss the playoffs.