(Ed. Note: It’s an Olympic year in the NHL. So, naturally, we decided to use the trappings of the Winter Games to preview all 30 teams for the 2013-14 NHL season. Who takes the gold? Who falls on their triple-axel? Read on and find out!)
In their first full season – OK, lockout shortened – with Bruce Boudreau as head coach, the Ducks sprinted out to lead the Pacific Division, keeping pace early on with the streaking Chicago Blackhawks in the conference. They finished with a 30-12-6 record and 66 points, earning the No. 2 seed in the West and a first-round matchup with the Detroit Red Wings.
Oh, and what a matchup it was: The teams went seven games, including four overtime games, before Detroit eliminated the Ducks in a series in which Anaheim had two chances to close out the Wings.
So, in the end, Boudreau failed to get a highly-seeded team out of the first round. Again.
Off the ice, the Ducks committed to both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf with 8-year blockbuster contracts; but the third member of that trinity of offensive stars, Bobby Ryan, was shipped to Ottawa.
The Ducks have strong goaltending, stars to build around and an impressive collection of young players. Does that translate into another playoff berth?
Dave Steckel is magic.
The debates about whether to trade Bobby Ryan ended when the Ducks finally, actually, truly did trade him to the Ottawa Senators for 22-year-old forward Jakob Silfverberg, 21-year-old forward Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick in 2014.
Replacing Ryan on the left side? Why, it’s their old friend Dustin Penner, signing a $2-million, 1-year deal after spending a few years with the LA Kings. Put area IHOPs on full alert.
Nate Guenin (Colorado) and Troy Bodie (Toronto) left via free agency. Toni Lydman was unsigned.
Forwards: After his worst season in the NHL, Getzlaf rebounded with a dominant 49-point performance in 44 games, playing to a plus-14 and into the Hart Trophy conversation. Perry matched Getzlaf’s goal total with 15. Kyle Palmieri was with this dynamic duo in the postseason, scoring five points.
Teemu Selanne showed some rust in a 12-goal, minus-10 effort last season but remains an asset on special teams. Plus, it’s his swan song, so expect a hell of an effort. Saku Koivu was re-signed for one season and was the Ducks’ leading faceoff man. Penner’s a veteran, but he’s coming off two goals in 33 games.
Jakob Silfverberg is a wild card offensively: Enormous talent, and he could blossom quickly if he earns top six minutes.
As is a trademark of Boudreau teams, the grunts contributed to the Ducks’ success. Nick Bonino, Matt Beleskey, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik gave Anaheim quality performances. Emerson Etem will build off a moderately successful rookie season, while Peter Holland seeks further improvement.
Defense: Francois Beauchemin had his best season in the NHL, with 24 points and a plus-22 and exceptional play until an injury slowed him. Sheldon Souray, second in ice time last season (20:55), will miss at least the first two months of the season with a wrist injury. Mark Fistric was signed as a veteran placeholder.
Cam Fowler stumbled at the start offensively but was a better all-around defenseman last season. (He’ll also be playing for an Olympic berth.)
Luca Sbisa was abjectly terrible last season until the end. Bryan Allen was also a disappointment after looking like a free-agent coup, showing a lack of speed. Ben Lovejoy had his moments, and earned a 3-year deal in the summer.
Goalies: Here’s a blessing of riches. Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth both won 15 games last season, splitting the starts. The emergence of Fasth made it appear like Hiller and his $4.5 million cap hit (with one season left) would be a goner, but both are back. Can Fasth be as effective his second time ‘round the conference? And how long will the Ducks allow uber-prospect John Gibson to percolate behind them?
Boudreau remains one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, Non-Playoff Edition. He activated the team’s offensive players as he did with the Capitals, but once again, postseason success eluded him despite home-ice advantage.
Bob Murray went all-in to keep Perry and Getzlaf from leaving as UFAs which will affect the budget for the rest of the roster and, frankly, have them under contract well into the downside of their careers. But he got a sneaky good return for Ryan and continues to find diamonds in the rough for the supporting cast.
Pretty easy call when the team has its own triumphant movie theme, no?
The goaltending. You can see why Murray would be hesitant to blow up this successful tandem, as Hiller can steal games and Fasth was a revelation last season.
Getzlaf. He was maligned for one terrible season, but he’s been well over a point-per-game player every season since 2006. Anyone claiming he’s not a star player is a bald-faced liar. (OK, poor choice of phrase, considering Getzlaf’s sunroof.)
Selanne and Koivu. Another year with two of the classiest veterans in the NHL on the ice is a good year indeed.
The PK. The Ducks’ power play is a star-studded top five group when healthy. But for the second straight season, their kill was middle of the pack.
Battling for the wild card with teams like Edmonton, Phoenix, Minnesota and potentially the Canucks. The Ducks will have to overcome the loss of Ryan’s goal-scoring and hope that the goaltending overcomes the shortcomings of the defense.
But count a Boudreau team out in the regular season? Fat chance. (OK, once again, poor choice of phrase …)