The rumors coming out of the Anaheim Ducks' camp over the last few years have suggested that management is all but ready to hit the panic button. The Ducks have gone from being one of the dominant post-2005 lockout teams to missing the playoffs in two of their last three seasons, with the only appearance resulting in a quick first-round exit.
GM Bob Murray has shopped around nearly every player on his roster, including his star forwards, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. The resulting rumors were enough to discourage Ryan into speaking publicly about the matter, in what many people thought was the evidence for his inevitable exodus from Anaheim and a dismantling of the Ducks' core.
However, Ryan is still in Orange County and has been completely absent from the rumor mill since well before the current lockout went into effect. If Ryan's fate has indeed been settled, the question would then be weather or not Anaheim would re-sign Getzlaf and Perry, both of whom will be playing in the last years of their contracts this season.
Moving forward, this is Anaheim's core and future along with Cam Fowler. While the talk and thought of a completely blown up Ducks team might continue to creep up in NHL conversation, the case for keeping the team together is far stronger than the one for hitting the reset button. Here are a few reasons why.
Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are both incredible players, but they're in the twilight of their careers and are both likely to opt for retirement in the near future.
If Selanne and Koivu are gone, the top line of Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan will become even more crucial and important to Anaheim's offense. For the Ducks to lose nearly their entire front six would be hard to fathom.
To lose three players in their mid-20s who are without question in the prime of their careers would make no sense at all, no matter how you look at it. Perry is coming off his first Hart Trophy as league MVP (the first Duck to ever win it), and while Getzlaf has underperformed offensively in recent years, he's still thought to be one of the top centers in the league.
You don't replace these kinds of players; drafted and trained by Anaheim from the very beginning, the value that they have to the organization can't be understated and shouldn't be ignored when planning for the future.
Ryan has played four full seasons in the NHL and has yet to miss the 30-goal mark. That is an incredible accomplishment for such a young player, and why the Ducks ever considered him their most "tradeable" asset is beyond me.
Every time the Ducks hit the ice, Ryan is their most dynamic and threatening goal scorer along with Perry. He also has the ability to play center and can add a lot of fire power to the second line. If the Ducks lose Selanne and Koivu, they'll need a way to spread some scoring through their lineup, and Ryan is their best shot to do so.
The Ducks' defense has struggled intermittently ever since losing Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer, and it has subsequently been an area of concern for Anaheim's management over the last few years. After several drafts and free-agency periods spent trying to correct this part of the Ducks' game, they might have finally done it.
With the maturing of Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa and the signing of experienced defenders Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen, the Ducks' defense looks solid. With that problem appearing to have been addressed, losing their core offensive players would mean they would trade one problem for another and end up dealing with a weak offense in the years to come.
A strong defense will help make Anaheim's offensive players more effective. They need to try it at least once.
The Ducks have a lot of promising young talent in their farm system, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck. However, in order to give these players a chance to succeed, they need to have their core intact for the long term.
Players like Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem will have a much better shot at developing with players like Getzlaf and Perry to help bolster their numbers and make them more effective. The reality for the Ducks is that without their core as it is, they have no other real direction, and if that's the case, even those who would be brought in to replace them would have to start from scratch.
The Ducks need to build around players like Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan, and they need to do it without questioning the effectiveness of that core group. Not many teams in the NHL have three players at that kind of talent level, thus I think it's safe to assume that if the Ducks are struggling, it's not the fault of the first line.
What the Ducks do need is a proven defense and a solid supporting cast, not an overhaul of their core. Times might be tough in Anaheim, but if that's the case, don't dismantle the only part of the machine that's working.