Preface: After a bit of a break to go and talk to Pat Quinn, we're back with the season previews. Hope everyone had a good weekend.
The Anaheim Ducks were a year removed from their first Stanley Cup championship in team history entering last season, and they had hoped to repeat.
But after running into a few injury problems and having to deal with the 'will-they, won't-they?' situation floating above the heads of the organization, Teemu Selanne, and Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks needed to scratch and claw their way to fourth in the conference.
As they entered the playoffs as defending champs, everyone said that the playoffs were "a new season" where "anything could happen". You know, all the normal cliches.
Well anything did happen, and the surprising Dallas Stars knocked off the defending champs.
Now the ball is in Anaheim's court—either step up and compete with San Jose and Dallas and battle their way back to supremacy in the Pacific Division, or writhe in the middle of the standings, where they could be vulnerable to the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes.
I, for one, think this team will do all it can to step up and compete in the startingly tough Pacific.
Roster Additions: Joakim Lindstrom-F (Trade), Brian Sutherby-F (F.A.), Brendan Morrison-F (F.A.), Josh Green-F (F.A.), Eric Bougeniecki-F (F.A.), Steve Montador-D (F.A.)
Roster Subtractions: Marc-Andre Bergeron-D (Trade), Teemu Selanne-F (Status Unknown), Joe Dipenta-D (Europe), Jason King-F (Europe), Geoff Platt-F (F.A.), Jean-Sebastian Aubin-G (F.A.), Doug Weight-F (F.A.), Bruno St. Jacques-F (F.A.), Todd Bertuzzi-F (Buyout)
How did 2007-08 go? 47-27-8, 97 points, fourth in conference, second in Pacific Division, lost in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
2008-09 Goal: First in division, make the conference finals.
Let's Break'er Down...
The team with the Mighty Mascot could be at it again.
After inheriting a team that was built for a Cup run, Brian Burke added the flashier pieces (the Prongers and Niedermayers—well, one of them) to the puzzle, and brought California it's first Stanley Cup.
Now that we're a few years removed, Burke is driven to prove the naysayers wrong, and bring the team a fruitful season in what may be his last on the beach
Getzlaf your lazy butt, BT, and put Ryan in the Top 50!
Lately, we've been starting with the assortment of goaltenders that litter that Pacific division.
However—as I've already widely acknowledged—in my Top 50 Players article I missed out on Ryan Getzlaf, who's fast becoming the main man in Anaheim.
Don't get me wrong, the legendary Teemu Selanne is still the be-all, end-all of the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, but he's fading into history. He was weighted down with thoughts of retirement last season, and his production may take a hit this year—despite playing a full season—because of his age.
We may be exposed to a more San Jose/Colorado-level of production from Selanne this season, rather than his recent 90-point resurgence.
But back to Getzlaf. To start with, he's a big kid at 6'4". He plays a solid game, and he's consistently improved over his three seasons in the NHL. Last season was Getzlaf's first in which he posted better than a point-per-game average, and he looks to be developing into a good playmaker who can net 24 to 27 goals per season.
Lining up behind Getzlaf will be a favorite from the Brian Burke-Vancouver Canucks experiment—Brendan Morrison.
Morrison comes into Anaheim after a heavy season, injury-wise. He suffered a debilitating injury to his wrist, forcing him to miss 38 games, and then closer to the end of the year, Morrison tore his ACL.
With the Ducks, he's not going to be expected to take on a large role like he was in Vancouver. If he can gather 50 points and finish in the neighborhood of 20 goals this season, then Morrison may have found his niche in California.
To go along with the signings, the Ducks were also able to retain RFA of the Year Cory Perry. Perry, like Getzlaf, has been consistently improving over the past three seasons, and established himself last year as a threat to score 30 goals. With a fourth NHL season under his belt, it doesn't seem unlikely that Perry could break through with a 70-point campaign this season.
One of the players he may help along the way is Chris Kunitz, who could become a solid 25-goal man over the next few seasons, and could benefit from a strong finisher on his line.
Last season, 21-year-old Bobby Ryan was expected to fill the hole left by the departed Dustin Penner. Well, a limited offensive output didn't help Ryan's NHL prospects, and he was sent back to the AHL, where he put up 49 points in 48 games. This season, Ryan is once again expected to step into the Anaheim lineup and produce—hopefully at a better clip than his 10 points in 23 games from last season.
Bringing in a bit of a veteran presence this season will be Todd Marchant and Rob Niedermayer. While neither player will be the offensive dynamo the Ducks need—and Anaheim would be lucky to see either of them top 25 points—they'll provide the team with two solid two-way players, and some strong leadership on and off the ice.
Sami Pahlsson will provide his usual 15 to 25 points from the lower potion of the roster, while Ryan Carter will need to work on developing some consistent scoring panache at the NHL level.
One interesting player to watch this season may be Geoff Platt. The Anaheim system may be the perfect home for Platt, as following an early-season trade last year Platt's offensive numbers took a hefty spike in the AHL, leading to a brief audition with the Ducks and a solid playoff run with Portland.
As far as other parts, Joakim Lindstrom could provide a bit of depth, as well as some scoring prowess if he can handle the rigors of the NHL. Josh Green could provide some size, speed and grit. And Eric Bougenicki and Brian Sutherby provide some emergency insurance in the event of injuries.
Oh, and there's also Brad May. He can play on the fourth line.
And George Parros, wo fights people while growing an amusing mustache, which is a combination of that of a '60s cop and a '90s pornstar. Then take the offspring of that combination, and mix it with Tom Selleck, and hide it from every razor in the world.
I forget what we were talking about.
Ken Armer's Take (Yea....he's doing the Ducks too....jealous?): The Ducks have much the same squad up front they did last season. Teemu Selanne is as good as gold for returning. Morrison will be a good addition, but won't fill the hole left from the Andy McDonald trade last season.
Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are fast becoming household names in the hockey world, quite a great accomplishment from the black hole of hockey that is California.
Finally, this year is the year of Bobby Ryan. If he disappoints this year he may become a terminal AHLer or turn into trade bait. He must impress out of camp, and lock up his second-line spot with the Ducks. If he can produce in the pros his numbers could be fantastic if he plays on the same line with Selanne.
Probing and Pronger'ing into where Schneider might go...
Alright, so I wanted to save this until we found out what's going on with Mathieu Schneider, but the good folks in Anaheim don't want to tell me, so I guess we'll just ignore him.
Granted, we could speculate what they get in return, but seeing as I had to sort through 25 different forwards, and J.S. Giguere won't be going anywhere unless he gets "giggy" with a coach's wife, I'm pretty sure the Ducks don't need a forward or another goalie.
Hello, fifth-round draft pick.
Anyhow, let's get to the rest of the defense. While Schneider isn't showing up to camp (at least this past weekend he didn't), Scott Niedermayer decided to this season. Last year the Ducks were forced to suspend Niedermayer for missing out on camp while he was dealing with his retirement talks, but he's postponed those until this upcoming season is finished—and with it, his contract.
Niedermayer still brings all of the tools every defenseman should have to the game, and is still one of the best, but this could be one of his better years. Why? Well, last year was shrouded in doubt and decision. This year, Niedermayer may have a renewed fire to go out on top, meaning he could have one of his best seasons ever.
Or he could sit at the 50-to-55-point range, which is most guys' best year. What a choice, eh?
Pairing up with Scotty will be the "dirtiest player in the game"—sorry, Rick Flair—Chris Pronger. I'm not going to get into a shouting match over Pronger because really, I could care less about the stompings, the boardings, and all the rest.
The fact is, is that he's everything you'd want as a number-one defenseman. He's big, he's physical, and he shoots. And he's the last guy you'd want to meet outside a bar after you hit on his wife. Especially if you're in Edmonton. He doesn't like it there.
The late-blooming Francois Beauchemin has also made a name for himself in Anaheim, proving to finally be a key cog in an NHL defense. I would expect production more along the lines of the 2005-06 Beachemin (36 points) as the Ducks suffered through injury troubles last season, coupled with the fact that the 28-year-old will be coming into his own over the next few seasons.
Ottawa natives Kent Huskins and Sean O'Donnell will also be seen patrolling the blue line for the Ducks this season. O'Donnell has turned into a trusty defensive defenseman over the years, as the last minus season he posted was a minus-13 for the Kings in 1996.
Huskins, meanwhile, had an astounding season last year, with a plus-23 and 19 points. If he flies under the radar once again, Huskins could put together two of the most underrated and surprising back-to-back seasons in a while.
Steve Montador may also be a reliable, late-pairing pickup, but it'll depend how the rest of the young defensemen in Anaheim that are on the cusp of the NHL do in training camp.
If Brian Salcido is NHL-ready, then the Ducks will be working in a shiny, new, offensive defenseman coming off of a 50-point AHL season, who can also play steadily in his own end.
John de Gray could one day become a solid stay-at-home defender in the NHL, while Stu Bickel would provide some serious grit coming out of the WCHA. Brett Festerling could also be a good, late-pairing puck-mover.
Ken's take: The Ducks still can claim one of the best defensive corps in the NHL, even if you take into account the eventual loss of Schneider. Neidermayer will return to true form after a half-season hiatus last season. A young defenseman will likely earn a spot out of camp, but the Ducks are no slouch on the blue line.
Gettin' Giggy on a Hill(er) top....weird...
There's really no doubt who's between the pipes for the Ducks.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe trophy, and four 30-win season in the past five. Last year saw Giggy post his lowest GAA (2.12) ever, coupled with a very strong .922 save percentage.
While it's possible that Giggy slips a bit back to earth (.913-to-.917 save percentage, a 2.30 GAA), he's still going to be back there supplying a consistent effort night-in, night-out.
If Giggy needs a break though, then Jonas Hiller is a solid backup.
Hiller went 10-7 last season, but his athleticism and quickness could definitely help him improve on his win/loss ratio.
Ken's take: One of the best goalie tandems in the NHL, Hiller is more than capable of starting in net in place of Giggy for even half the season. J.S. Giguere will likely have a better year with Scott Niedermayer back in front of him for a full 82 games.
So what's it all mean?
The Ducks have weapons—but the question is, do they have enough?
They have a defense that has a few different guys that have the ability to put the puck in the net, and J.S. Giguere will stop his fair share of shots, but it's up to the forwards to show that, while there are a lot of two-way threats up and down the lineup, there are also names who can score and score often for the Ducks.
If the Ducks can score, then they'll be neck-and-neck with San Jose, waiting for the Dallas Stars to slip up.
If it's the Ducks that slip up, then they better watch out for the Coyotes.
Third in Pacific
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with him, you can do so through his profile. You can also read all of his previous work in his archives.
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