Any team that has a 19-point performance drop from one season to the next would be cause for concern. The Anaheim Ducks paid the price for a disastrous first half last season. The big question Ducks fans are facing heading into the season is “How much of a window, if we have one at all, is remaining before we have to rebuild?”
The big areas of concern land with their forwards. Four of their top six forwards are entering the final season of their contracts. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Saku Koivu, and Teemu Selanne are set to hit UFA status at the end of this season. There is almost a certain all four players will not be retained at the end of this season, expect this to be a swan song season for the core of their franchise. Selanne led the team last season in assists (40) and points (66), which is something you would never expect to see from a 41-year old who plays on the second line. If the season is lost due to the lockout, it will be unfortunate to see Selanne end his NHL career in this fashion like Mark Messier and Scott Stevens. Those players played their last season prior to the 2004-05 lockout.
The rest of the above mentioned players along with Bobby Ryan each needs to score around the 15-goal, 65-point and above range for them to become a competitor in the West. For those who are betting men, take that figure especially for Getzlaf and Perry as they have big money contracts on the line if they have a season like they had last season. In regards to special teams, their power play has to return to the form they were in 2010-11, when they were third in the league with the man advantage. They were 21st last season, and look for Selanne to have a significant presence on the power play unit this season. Getzlaf is at a critical point in his career. At 27, he’s at the point where he can become set for a big payday entering the prime of his career or should be perform like he did last season get paid way less than he feel what he is worth.
Where they struggled last season with the power play was their play from the point. Getting shots from the defensemen on goal and through traffic is essential to score power play goals, and that is where Cam Fowler and the departed Lubomir Visnovsky struggled when teams were immediately able to hone on the point when the Ducks attempted to set up shop in the offensive zone.
The defensive unit has seen the most change from GM Bob Murray. With Visnovsky gone, the unit will be anchored by Fowler and Francois Beauchamin. Instead of Murray going after the big prize in Ryan Suter, he went for size and value when he signed Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray. Both guys are over the 6-foot-4 barometer and will be paired with veteran Toni Lydman and youngster Luca Sbisa. One thing for sure is the defensive unit will be bigger, but the verdict is still out there if they will be better than the 19th best defense in the league as they were last season.
Similar to Cam Ward in Carolina, Jonas Hiller hopes this season will be his bounce back season after needing a year to recover from vertigo. He’s well on his way doing so, as he played in a franchise-record 73 games last season. He probably won’t see that many games considering they signed Swede Viktor Fasth as a backup. If his team plays well in front of him, look for him to reach the 30-32 win range.
While the Ducks look like a good team on paper, it’s going to be a difficult fight for them to make the playoffs. Murray is also facing a hot seat season as they have missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. They haven’t make enough signings to give the fans something to be optimistic about. If they make the playoffs, they could be out in the first round.