Under the management of Brian Burke and the coaching of Randy Carlyle, the Anaheim Ducks made their living by being a physical, hard-nosed hockey team with grit to spare.
Since that era the Ducks have seen a change in general manager and head coach, and have deviated from being a known physical hockey club to being a smaller, speed-focused team with a stacked first line. What does that remind you of?
Maybe I'm the only one thinking this, but it reminds me of the late 1990s Ducks teams. Tremendous talent on their first line, and a speedy supporting cast that was small, unproven and incapable of putting up big numbers.
Truthfully, elements and aspects of both styles and team makeups can work, but the Ducks need to meld those aspects into their lineup and move forward with a clear definition of who they are and what their game plan is. Looking at the team as they stand right now, they've got speed, hence they need to add more physicality.
It could be said that Anaheim is a more physical hockey club this year simply due to the fact that they've signed Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen, who are both hard hitting stay-at-home defenders. They've also added Brad Staubitz to the mix in the hopes of replacing the departed Sheldon Brookbank and George Parros.
However, it's not enough for the Ducks to just go out and sign bigger players. They need to make physicality a part of their team's identity, which is part of what made them so successful from 2006-2008.
With a new coach, and an entirely reworked roster, they have the tools they need to be both quick and physical. Their entire first line, comprised of Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf, is a quick and explosive line despite also being very physical. They're a good example of how to mix the two styles.
Will the Ducks make the playoffs next season? (Whenever that season is)
Anaheim needs to model the rest of their team after that line, and develop a system where they use the speed that coach Bruce Boudreau was able to utilize with the Washington Capitals, while also bringing back the physicality that made them so successful under Carlyle.
If the Ducks can do that they'll have an easier time moving on from the nostalgic glances back to their 2006-2007 Stanley Cup team. They'll be able to create a new identity for themselves under a new head coach, a fresh alignment of NHL divisions and possibly a fresh start after a year off from hockey. The Ducks came out of the last lockout a very different and improved team. Perhaps this lockout will have the same effect.