It's easy to recognize the talent level of the Anaheim Ducks; however, they are searching for an identity.
According to many experts, such as Pierre McGwire of TSN and NBC, the Ducks may have the best line in the entire NHL. They also have a clear and well respected No. 1 goalie and a proven winning coach. All that sounds good but with the official retirement of future Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer the Ducks needed to turn the page.
The process has had a few practice runs starting with Niedermayer's first attempt at retirement and then the changing of the guard from the Brian Burke era to Bob Murray regime.
Until Scotty officially walked off into the sun set the Ducks were holding on to the image of being the team that won the 2007 Stanley Cup. As great as that feat was they had become a shadow of that group.
The new direction took a big step when they named Ryan Getzlaf as their new leader. His intensity and skill set are amongst the game’s elite. Captain Getzlaf can take over a game at anytime and was voted to the "C" by his peers for the honour, which is a true sign of respect.
During the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Getzlaf was battling a well-publicized ankle injury. Despite this, Getzlaf made his mark and played a key role in the Canadian Gold. This wasn't Getzlaf's first taste of International success. He played in the IIHF Under-17, Under-18 and twice in the World Juniors. Ryan played alongside of current teammate Corey Perry as well as longtime rivals Sydney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf, plus several more of the NHL top shelf.
Getzlaf still has future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne to lean on, but make no mistake: This is Getzlaf's team.
Getzlaf and his line mates Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry will need to be the best players on the ice, night in and night out, for the Ducks to have success in a crowded Western Conference.
Jonas Hiller stood on his head for the Swiss Olympic hockey team and over the last two seasons made trading former Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastian Giguere not just possible but necessary.
Not too long ago the Ducks were recognized as clearly having the best blue line in the league and now they are thin at best. The addition of Cam Fowler at this year’s draft was an outright steal but how large a role he's ready for is still unclear. Adding giant rear guard Andy Sutton and soft Fin, Toni Lydman was less then sexy moves and both must step up while Lubomir Visnovsky has to anchor this group.
Are they rebuilding or just in limbo? Will the solid core with the same stars make waves or will the unbalanced lineup be their downfall. The Ducks front office will take until at least Christmas to decide where they stand on that very query.
If they start slow they will likely lead to larger roles for the kids and the unloading of veteran pieces like Koivu, Marchant, Visnovsky and maybe even Corey Perry. The odds of finding a buyer for Jason Blake are highly unlikely, sorry!
On the other side, a strong start by these Ducks would lead me to believe they will be buyers. A top-six power forward to skate with Selanne (maybe Brad Richards) and/or a top-four defenseman (say, Tomas Kaberle) could vault the Duck into contender status.
It's hard to say what this season has in store of the Anaheim Ducks but in the end Ryan Getzlaf, Jonas Hiller, Randy Carlyle and Bob Murray will all play a role.
My vote...It's a rebuild!