After a dominant several years under Randy Carlyle, the Anaheim Ducks have been a non-playoff team for two out of the last three seasons. That stretch of disappointment included an early playoff exit at the hands of the Nashville Predators in 2011 and the dismissal of Carlyle himself.
At times, the dilemma in Anaheim has been hard to discern. In recent years, the Ducks have struggled with shot blocking and shots against per game, leading many to speculate that their defense was the area that needed to be examined.
However, the last three years have seen an equally evident decline in the Ducks' scoring abilities, particularly as it relates to their top offensive assets.
During the 2011-2012 season, the Ducks' power play came in 21st in the league, while they ranked 23rd in goals per game. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry also saw significant drop-offs in production, going from 76 and 98 points respectively to 57 and 60 points. Thus, the outlook coming out of the 2012 season was one of concern for both the offensive and defensive aspects of Anaheim's hockey club.
Add to that the uncertain futures of Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, as well as the departures of Niklas Hagman and Jason Blake, and you have a team with all the markings of one in the midst of a rebuild.
But is that really the case with the Ducks? If they were truly a team that needed to take a step back and rework their roster, several of the qualities that I believe they possess wouldn't be present.
Those qualities make up five reasons why the Ducks do not need to rebuild.
The Washington Capitals didn't have to gut their roster for Bruce Boudreau to be successful as their head coach. In fact, Boudreau arrived to a Capitals team in 2007 that bears a striking resemblance to the Ducks team of 2012. After inheriting a 6-14-1 team, he went 37-17-7 the rest of the way.
While his success in Anaheim wasn't quite as remarkable, he does have talent on the Ducks' current roster to work with.
Considering his early success in Washington, he needs to be given a chance to replicate that success in Southern California, with Anaheim's current roster.
Even after losing Justin Schultz and Jake Gardiner, the Ducks continue to boast some of the most promising defensive prospects in the league.
With Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa already getting significant ice time at the NHL level and newly drafted Hampus Lindholm getting valuable playing time with the Norfolk Admirals, the Ducks' defense is set to become incredibly convincing in the near future.
The added experience and leadership of Francois Beauchemin and Toni Lydman make the Ducks a complete team defensively, without any need for significant changes in the foreseeable future.
In addition to their youth on the blue line, the Ducks have spent their post-Stanley Cup years compiling one of the best offensive farm systems in the sport.
Even besides headliners like Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri, the Ducks have seen significant potential from Peter Holland, Patrick Maroon and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Anaheim is banking on at least a couple of those players blossoming into offensive threats at the NHL level. If that doesn't happen soon it will certainly be a surprise, and if it does, there won't be any need (or talk) of rebooting the Ducks' roster.
Despite their recent downturn, the Ducks' first-line trio is still one of the most threatening in the league, especially considering that all three are yet to reach their prime playing years.
Anaheim will need to sign Perry and Getzlaf, who will otherwise become free agents, to new contracts after this coming season. Assuming the Ducks are able to do so, their offensive core will boast no shortage of talent.
In that situation, you don't "rebuild"; rather, you put on an extra room or two, and maybe add one more bathroom to increase the value of your home. With the "RPG" line intact, the Ducks should be looking for offensive depth, and not a complete do-over.
When an NHL team is in need of a rebuild, they either have no pieces with which to work, or the pieces that they do have aren't getting the job done. Neither is the case in Anaheim.
Even down to the goaltending of Jonas Hiller, the Ducks have strong foundations set in every area of their team. Anaheim has defensive pieces to build around in Beauchemin and Fowler, as well as the obvious offensive pieces of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan.
Changing that foundation isn't what the Ducks need. Instead, they need to add depth to their team and build on what is already there.
If Anaheim can be patient and choose their moves wisely, they'll be competitive in the Western Conference again very soon. However, if they panic and move their most valuable resources, the "rebuild" that will inevitably ensue will be a lasting, self-inflicted wound.