Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Best Assets: The Anaheim Ducks look a little different than last year's top Western Conference point-getter in the regular season, but the guys who make the team one of the top contenders aren't going anywhere. Star forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are locked up long-term and make the Ducks one of the most threatening offenses in the NHL after finishing first with an average of 3.21 scored per game last season.
Defenseman Cam Fowler is finally blossoming as an offensive blueliner, and the team added veterans Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley in the hopes the team can spread the scoring out a little more this season and beyond. Rookie goaltender John Gibson will battle this year with solid sophomore Frederik Andersen to give the Ducks a stellar one-two punch in net.
What's Holding Them Back: There is some uncertainty about health and production from Kesler and Heatley, who have logged a lot of miles in the league and will need to prove they can still contribute in big support roles for the Ducks to continue to thrive in a tough Western Conference. Kesler will be counted on as another team leader but doesn't have the same spirit as the now retired Teemu Selanne, a player who had the Ducks playing for him as much as themselves the past couple of years.
Defensively, the Ducks need their young players Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm to mature relatively quickly with a cast of older and slower veterans filling up the other spots on the back end, which could lead to too much pressure on the inexperienced goaltending tandem
Stanley Cup Window: The time is now for the Ducks, whose top players—Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler—will turn 30 before the next Stanley Cup is handed out. Younger support players like Jakob Silfverberg, Devante Smith-Pelly Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey still have affordable contracts underneath the sizable deals of the team's stars but that will come to a head in the next couple of seasons with the team having to focus on the defense next summer with three pending unrestricted free agents. The immediate window will likely close on the Ducks after the 2015-16 season.