The Anaheim Ducks are ready to put their Cup hangover behind them and foot a solid playoff team this season. Their offense is led by youngsters Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and their defensive corps is one of the strongest in the league—Niedermayer or no Niedermayer.
Here's an in-depth look on how the Ducks will play this year:
Getzlaf and Perry will be counted on to produce the most points around the net, and that's a burden they can easily handle. Expect both to finish with 80-90 points in what should be breakout seasons for both of them into the NHL's elite.
Chris Kunitz will definitely improve his offense if he steps into the first-line slot, but he is still more suited to being a good second-liner than a first-liner.
However, secondary scoring will be hard to come by. Brian Sutherby and Todd Marchant aren't exactly household names. Brenden Morrison is talented, but coming off an injury-plagued season—and there are questions about whether he can produce.
Bobby Ryan may make a splash offensively, but he will need to impress in training camp to get ice time on the second line.
Grinders—such as Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer, May, and Moen—predominantly occupy the last two lines. Those lines will be good for shutting down the opponents' offfense, but won't produce much otherwise.
Overall, it's hard to believe the Ducks will put up a lot of offense outside of the first line.
Overall Grade: C
There's no other way to put this—Anaheim's defense is stacked!
Pronger, Niedermayer, and Schneider will all produce offensively and be responsible defensively. Although Pronger had an off year last year, there is no way a defenseman that good can be inconsistent for more than a year.
Francois Beauchemin also had a drop in production, but Schnieder's arrival meant Beauchemin's power-play time was limited.
Huskins is a good third-liner, and Brenden Mikkelson or Brian Salcido—the former a stay-at-home defenseman and the latter an offensive defenseman—should be able to cling onto a spot on the team.
My money's on Salcido, because they could use him at wing even if he doesn't crack the top six on defense.
Overall Grade: A
J-S Giguere is one of the best at his position and is expected to play 60 games this year. Last year, Anaheim only gave up 100 even-strength goals—mostly due to the play of Giguere.
Backup Jonas Hiller went 10-7-1 with a 2.06 GAA and .927 save percentage, and is all you could look for in a backup. He won't get more than 20-25 games in Anaheim, but he is as dependable as No. 2 goalies get.
Overall grade: A-
This club will keep points off the board and win a lot of close games by virtue of their defense and goaltending, as well as their checking line. However, you can't get over the hump if you can't score—which is why the Anaheim Ducks will fail to crack the top four in the Western CConference.
Team Grade: B
Prediction: Sixth in the West