Anaheim Ducks: 10 Offseason Moves to Ensure a 2011-2012 Playoff Return
No Ducks' fan can deny that the 2009-2010 season was a disappointment with Anaheim on the outside of the playoff spots looking in.
But things took a turn for the—at least temporary—best with the Ducks making it into the postseason, only to get wiped out in the first round by the Nashville Predators.
So what does Anaheim need to focus on during this offseason to get back into the playoffs next year and have a solid run for the cup?
Here's my list of 10 things the Ducks should focus on during this Summer break.
1. Jonas Hiller Needs to Get Healthy
Let's start with Anaheim's issues surrounding one name, hopefully it's more well known after his impressive stint in the All-Star game, Jonas Hiller.
Hiller's departure with more than one-third of the regular season still left to play was a huge curse for the Ducks, a curse that nearly left them out of the playoff seats for the second year in a row.
Jonas Hiller had an unbelievable start to the season, however, after being plagued with vertigo-like symptoms, it was in his best interests to take some time off.
If Anaheim has any hope to get into the playoffs next year, a good weight will fall onto the back of this star goalie who has proven he can bear the burden of stealing wins night after night.
2. Decide on a Single Backup Goaltender
When Anaheim was in a time of need in terms of goaltending, their white knight came in the form of Ray Emery who seemed, at least at the time, a completely unnecessary signing after Anaheim traded former-backup, Curtis McElhinney to Tampa Bay for Dan Ellis.
Well, I can safely say I am thankful that GM Bob Murray covered his bases twice, not just once with Ellis.
Ray Emery has been a complete blessing for Anaheim this year, and considering the Ducks should really take this offseason to relax into a single starting goalie (Hiller), and a single backup, Emery has my vote for the latter.
3. Drop the Players Who Never Blended Well
This season could arguably be called a rebuilding kind of year for Anaheim, and unfortunately a good number of the new guys just didn't mesh well at all.
Some of the players that really should be allowed to walk without even a second look are undoubtedly Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja, and arguably both Brad Winchester and Jarkko Ruutu as well.
All of these players seemed to do more harm than good in a Ducks sweater, and because of that, the Ducks should let them walk away and focus their efforts on finding a strong defender to help out the veterans of Beauchemin, Lydman and Visnovsky.
4. Sign a Solid Defender
Yes, I know that it's a picture of Ed Jovanovski, and I know that is pretty unlikely, but I can dream, right?
Anaheim is clearly still struggling to rebuild a defense that Scott Neidermayer, apparently, single-handedly carried until it ran him ragged.
Granted certain signings and trades, including the acquisition of Visnovsky, Lydman, Beauchemin, and Fowler were all steps in the right direction, Anaheim needs a really solid stay-at-home defender.
So, I know that shooting for Jovo-cop is a little unrealistic, but Anaheim really should target a solid defensively-minded defender for next year's campaign.
5. Secure Teemu Selanne for Another Season
We all have said it time and again: age is just a number, but in reality, Teemu Selanne really proves it.
The Finnish Flash is set to turn 41 years old early this July, however he still manages to find the back of the net a surprising number of times each season.
For a team that so heavily relies on the top two lines for scoring, and has limited depth further than those top six players, they really need to find a way to persuade Teemu for one more year in order to keep those top six going strong.
6. Secure Todd Marchant for Another Season
One of the most unsung heroes on the Ducks roster is Todd Marchant who, although he doesn't post the strong numbers in the goals column, is a monster in the faceoff circle and is a force on the penalty kill.
Marchant is another player, alongside Teemu Selanne, who has flirted with the idea of retirement, and for Anaheim's sake I hope he has at least one more year left in his tank.
Marchant has been a key leader on the ice when it comes to the faceoff circle or killing penalties, and because of that he's a player that Anaheim can't afford to let hang up the skates.
7. Find a Reliable Shutdown Trio with Chemistry
One of the key components to a team in today's National Hockey League is the ability to shutdown the opponent's top line, and no one can deny that Anaheim's 2007 Championship team had one of the best shutdown lines in Rob Neidermayer, Sammy Pahlsson and Travis Moen.
During this offseason, it would really help out Anaheim's chances next year if they found a trio of strong back-checking forwards who had a similar chemistry, and could hold off their opponents' top scorers.
Even though a chemistry like the one in the picture is pretty rare, once there is a line that clicks, they are an impenetrable force of defense that really helps a goalie out.
8. Improve and Solidify the Penalty Killing Units
After Anaheim had a pretty mediocre season killing penalties, things got even worse in the post-season, when one of the weakest power plays in the league lit up the Ducks penalty killers time and time again.
One of the main things that the penalty kill is centered on is the decision that Todd Marchant makes in regards to retirement.
However even if Marchant does decide to conclude his career, Anaheim needs to make some magic happen and find some sort of four-way connection in order to kill the penalties two minutes at a time.
9. Corey Perry Needs to Find a Way to Keep Growing
The young power forward led the league in goals this season, with a career high 50 goals in this one season.
Yet Perry claims he still wants to keep growing as a player.
Exactly how that will happen is a mystery, but if he manages to find a spark to light the goalies in the league up for an even bigger year than this season, I'm sure I speak for all of Anaheim when I say that I'd love to watch it happen.
10. Veterans Need to Stay Strong, Younger Stars Need to Grow and Contribute
One of the main questions surrounding Anaheim's roster is whether or not the veteran players can continue to produce and contribute while the younger players progress towards their potential.
Key players such as Toni Lydman, Lubomir Visnovsky, and even Francois Beauchemin are trying to carry a defense with youngsters such as Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa both in the lineup each night.
So the veteran players, even those on the offense like Saku Koivu and Jason Blake, need to find a way to stay hot, and stay young while the younger players on the team hurry to catch up and grow as fast as they can.
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