At this point in the regular season, the Anaheim Ducks are still anything but a playoff contender. However, a recent streak of 4-0-1 has at least landed them a spot on the radar and put some distance between them and the trade rumors that have followed them.
If anything is true about the post-Stanley Cup Anaheim Ducks teams, it's that they play a tremendous second half. In order for this year's team to make the playoffs, it will have to be no different and probably better than in years past.
The Ducks' core is still intact and has survived a whirlwind of trade rumors and speculation. A playoff berth would go a long way towards putting a stop to the trade talks once and for all.
Here's what the Anaheim Ducks need to do to make that happen this year.
Anaheim is scheduled for a four game home stand at the beginning of February and a six game home stand (separated by a short trip to San Jose) near the end of March. The Ducks need all 20 of these available points, as they have historically been an excellent home team and this year have fallen behind considerably in that category.
During the last couple of weeks we've seen what can only be described as the resurgence of Jonas Hiller. His confidence is up, his numbers are improving and he's getting back to the Vezina caliber form he had last year before sitting out most of the remaining schedule with vertigo symptoms.
If Anaheim is going to make a run, Jonas Hiller absolutely must be consistent. When healthy, he's capable of being the Ducks' most valuable player and winning games on his own. Otherwise, Anaheim doesn't have a shot at any kind of postseason run.
The fact that Teemu Selanne leads the Anaheim Ducks in points is a testament to his remarkable talent and ability to stay in great hockey shape, even at 41 years old.
That being said, it's also an indication of the decline in production of Anaheim's top three forwards. Anaheim's coaching staff never expected Selanne to carry the offensive load. That role belongs to Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. Yet all three of those players trail Selanne on the score sheet.
If the Ducks are going to get back into the playoffs, Teemu Selanne needs to occupy the fourth spot on Anaheim's score sheet, by way of increased production from Anaheim's top line.
Trading away any of Anaheim's core players at this point would probably do more harm than good.
Obviously, it is impossible to tell what kind of offers GM Murray is getting for the likes of Bobby Ryan or even Ryan Getzlaf, and the return for them could be pretty spectacular. However, the adjustments and changes required to make such a drastic personnel change work are more suited to be tackled during the offseason rather than the All Star break.
It's easier said than done, but the Ducks need to maintain a certain momentum and winning atmosphere from this point forward.
The Ducks certainly don't need to win out to make the playoffs, but with 22 in the loss column already, another six or seven losses will put them pretty close to 30.
Thirty regulation losses make it difficult to be a playoff team, especially in the Western Conference. If Anaheim is going to take those losses, they need to spread them out and compile several three- or four-game winning streaks in between.
Simply put, they need to have the inverse of their first half of the season during the second half. It's difficult to be sure, but not impossible, and with a history of such strong second half performances, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the Ducks to make it interesting down the stretch.