Last season, the Anaheim Ducks were among the best teams in the league. They led the league in goals and had 10 double-digit scorers. They featured one of the best 1-2 forward combinations in the league in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But where they were strong the Ducks were weak on the back end as they were near the middle of the pack in goals allowed. Gone are longtime veterans Teemu Selanne and Jonas Hiller, which means they are a new crop of talent heading to Orange County for Bruce Boudreau to work with in a championship-or-bust season.
What was their strength became their weakness in the playoffs. During the regular season, they depended on the trio of Andrew Cogliano, Getzlaf, and Perry. They accounted for 29.6 percent of scoring in the regular season, but that percentage went up to 35.8 in the playoffs. As their production went up, their lack of depth showed when Cogliano and Perry were kept in check against Los Angeles in the playoffs. Lack of depth can get you through the regular season, but it won’t get you to the Stanley Cup.
To combat that lack of depth, General Manager Bob Murray went out and got a couple of top forwards in Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley. Kesler will add depth to the second line and could be paired with Heatley and Jakob Silverberg. Gone from the team are top-10 scorers Mathieu Perreault and Daniel Winnik, which means depth players like Kyle Palmeri and Patrick Maroon will be counted on even more to get their name on the score sheet.
On paper they are one of the best puck moving teams in the league. Last year they had five players score 17 or more points in the regular season. Look for Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchamin to carry the bulk of the blue line work again. One player to watch for is Sami Vatanen. Vatanen scored 21 points in 48 games, which was good enough to place him third in points among defensemen. Let’s see what he can do over the course of a full season.
This is the area that can be the biggest X-factor for the Ducks. With Hiller off to Calgary, there isn’t a clear No. 1 goalie. If the season started today it’s possible the starting role will go to John Gibson. Gibson carried a 21-17-4 record last year with Norfolk in the AHL. Gibson went 3-0-0 with the Ducks last season as well. Last year’s backup Frederik Andersen went 20-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage. Murray added more fuel to the fire by bringing in Jason LaBarbera who saw more time in the AHL than the NHL last season. If Gibson is given the bulk of starts, he could be a Calder Trophy candidate.
The season outlook lies in Boudreau. Dating back to his days in Washington, he hasn’t work consecutive playoff series. And like in Washington, they would boom in the regular season and bust in the playoffs. He can’t afford to do that again this season given the talent on the roster. Look for the Ducks to win the division and advance past the first round of the playoffs. But once the games become more important, they need to tighten things up and win the games that count.