(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!)
Last Season In Emojis
Last Season, In Summary
The Anaheim Ducks were good, really good, in the regular season despite some statistical anomalies.
The team (54-20-8) set a franchise high in season-points-earned at 116, and were one-point away from earning the President’s Trophy. For a second-straight season, they captured the Pacific Division title. Throughout the year, the Ducks put together four win-streaks of five games or more, including one eight-game and one 10-game run.
They were led by the play of captain Ryan Getzlaf. For the first time since 2008-2009, Getzlaf surpassed the 80-point mark with 31 goals (career high), 56 assists for 87-points. He earned himself nominations for the Hart, Lindsay, and Messier awards.
All was fine and good in Orange County until the team hit the playoffs. Right on cue, the drama began.
In Game 4 of the series against Dallas, Teemu Selanne was benched by coach Bruce Boudreau. Frederik Andersen was yanked after giving up four goals in favor of Jonas Hiller. Both Andersen and Selanne returned to the lineup for a Game 5 victory. Game 6 came right out of a Mighty Ducks movie. Andersen was once again pulled after giving up four goals and replaced by Hiller. The veteran netminder kept out all the shots he faced as the Ducks overcame three different two-goal deficits in Dallas. With 24-seconds left in the game, Devante Smith-Pelly scored the game-tying goal, and 2:47 into overtime, Nick Bonino potted the series winner. It was the Ducks first playoff series win since 2009.
Round 2 was a matchup Southern California waited 20 years to see: Anaheim vs. Los Angeles. Hiller earned the right to start the series versus the Kings; however, after two-straight losses at home, Andersen was deemed the Game 3 starter. He played well allowing only one goal; however, he sustained an injury and was replaced by Hiller in the final half of the third period.
The consensus thought was that Hiller would start Game 4. Boudreau did the exact opposite by calling up and starting wunderkind goalie John Gibson who had exactly three (3!!) games of NHL experience. Drawing on the Mighty Ducks movie magic again, Gibson pitched a shut-out won the following start putting the Ducks up 3-2. His luck would only last so long. He wasn’t given the run-support he needed in Game 6, losing 2-1; the Kings had forced a Game 7.
Bruce elected to go with Anaheim’s future No. 1 over their past one. Gibson and his teammates were demolished by the Kings. He gave up four goals before being replaced by Hiller who allowed in another two goals. For a second year in a row, the Ducks laid down – on home ice – and handed a Game 7 victory to their opponents.
Last Season’s Definitive Highlight
This is the moment when all of the Ducks good luck was officially used up.
The Ducks did more subtraction than addition in the off-season. Part of that can be attributed to the depth Anaheim has built in the farm system.
Anaheim acquired Ryan Kesler and a 2015 third-round pick from Vancouver for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa, and two 2014 draft picks (first and third round). Bonino had set career highs in all offensive categories and was third on the Ducks in regular season and playoff scoring behind Perry and Getzlaf.
Also acquired via trade was center Nate Thompson from Tampa Bay for a fourth and seventh round pick in the 2015 draft, and center Louis Leblanc from Montreal for a fifth round 2015 pick.
Both Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were lost to retirement. Selanne had announced prior to the start of last season it would be his last; however, he seems to remember differently when the season didn’t go the way he wanted. Koivu was not offered a new contract by the Ducks and couldn’t find any takers to his liking on the free agent market; he opted to retire.
The Ducks have always been a ‘budget team’. GM Bob Murray has shrewdly managed the club’s salary cap leaving a $9.37-million cushion, even after re-signing much of his young talent in the off-season: Sami Vatanen, Patrick Maroon, Jakob Silfverberg, and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Although, I’m not sure what Murray was smoking when he signed defenseman Clayton Stoner to a four-year, $13-million free agent contract. Akin to what the team did with Dustin Penner a year earlier, the team signed fading-star winger Dany Heatley for one-year at $1-million. If it doesn’t work with Heatley, the Ducks can ship him off at the deadline; no harm, no fowl. (Pun fully intended.) Veteran goaltender Jason Labarbera signed a one-year deal as an insurance policy for the two young goalies ahead of him in the depth chart.
Allowed to walk during free agency were Stephane Robidas (Toronto), Jonas Hiller (Calgary), Daniel Winnik (Toronto), and Mathieu Perreault (Winnipeg). Robidas logged heavy ice-time for the Ducks after he was acquired midseason from Dallas; however, he re-broke his leg during the playoffs and the 36-year-old became expendable. In an ironic twist, Hiller’s time in Anaheim came to an end the way he ended that of his predecessor, J.S. Giguere, by being replaced by younger talent. Winnik posted a career-high 30-points, and was a dependable grinder on the third-line and penalty kill. Perreault was not tendered a qualifying offer on his RFA contract. It caught some off guard after he cemented himself as a go-to face-off guy (52.6%) and was fourth on the team in scoring with 43-points in 60 games.
Letting these guys go clearly indicates Anaheim’s intention to rely heavily on the Ducklings they’ve drafted and developed.
Although spreading the offense around the team has been a hallmark of the Bruce Boudreau administration in Anaheim, the Ducks forward corps begins and ends with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
The two forwards combined for 169-points a season prior, and just think of what they could have done had they had a consistent left winger. In the preseason, Dany Heatley was penciled in as the likely candidate, but had since suffered a groin injury that will keep him out of action, at least, until the season opener. It’ll be interesting to see if Heatley can fit with the two because they play a physical, cycling game, and he, well, doesn’t.
Nick Bonino and Matthieu Perreault emerged as a point producers, but they weren’t physically suited to face-off against the best of league on the opposite site of the dot; hence the move made to get Ryan Kesler. Kesler replaces the offensive production, face-off ability (52.6%), special teams play of the two, and most importantly, adds a much needed physicality plus skill to get on the ice after Getzlaf is off.
With Heatley out of the lineup for now, Devante Smith-Pelly and Patrick Maroon have a good chance at filling the top-line wing opening. DSP made his presence felt during the playoffs with five goals in 12 games. Maroon had a career season posting 29-points and 101 PIMs in 61 games. Kyle Palmieri, currently injured, is another good candidate for that spot once he returns to full health.
If Maroon isn’t working with the topline, he’s been skating with Kesler’s second line along with Jakob Silfverberg. Anaheim is expecting a lot from Silfverberg as he was one of the two players sent over in the Bobby Ryan deal; Stefan Noesen is the other and is currently down in the AHL. Both players suffered significant injuries last season.
Newly acquired Nate Thompson is expected to center the third line and it’s a battle between William Karlsson and Rickard Rakell for the fourth line center spot. This is Karlsson’s first year in North America after spending a couple seasons lighting up the Swedish Elite League.
Andrew Cogliano and Emerson Etem have been assets on the penalty kill using their speed to force teams to cough up the puck. Matt Beleskey and Tim Jackman will drop the gloves when necessary and can even kick in some offense here and there.
Justin Bourne described the Ducks defense best in his tape review of the team: they’re just plain vanilla.
They play fundamentally sound, and can be at their worst when they make the wrong snap judgement on the ice. The system is always the same. One d-man joins the rush while the other stays back. It shows in how Boudreau puts together his pairings.
The No. 1 pairing is led by Francois Beauchemin. He is a workhorse with an average 23:05 TOI and led the team with 171 blocked shots. Hampus Lindholm is the active, roaming defenseman alongside Beauch. Lindholm is prone to young player yips, but still managed to toss up 30-points in his rookie season.
It took a couple years, but Cam Fowler finally showed why he had garnered comparisons to his coach, Scott Niedermayer, at the 2010 draft. Fowler led the Ducks in average ice-time at 23:51, and he was the highest scoring defenseman with 36-points, 15 of which came on the power play. Ben Lovejoy is the physical half of the pair with a team-high 215 hits. Fowler and Lovejoy combined to block a total of 272 shots the previous season.
After the top two d-groups, there is a smattering of other defenseman who try to comprise the third pairing. This includes the newest Duck, Clayton Stoner, and returning vets Bryan Allen and Marc Fistric. The most promising of all of the leftovers is Sami Vatenen. The 5’10” (on skates) defenseman has a booooming shot. He’s been inconsistent over the past two seasons; however, he’s played only 56 regular season games in his career. The Ducks are hoping a full year with the big club, which will include the tutelage of Coach Niedermayer, will do wonders for the 23-year-old.
With Jonas Hiller gone, the torch has been passed to Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Both men are under the age of 25, and possess a total of 31 regular season games played in the NHL
Andersen appeared in 28 games and posted a 20-5-0 record with a .923 save-percentage and 2.29 goals-against. Gibson was 3-0-0 with .954 save-percentage and 1.33 GAA. There is no clearly defined No. 1 goalie as the season draws closer, but a good guess is to pencil Andersen in as starter until Bruce decides otherwise.
Jason Labarbera will wait in the wings should anything befall the two kids. He is a journeyman goaltender, last appearing in seven games as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
Probable Text Conversation Within Organization
The team is lethal when playing 5-on-5 leading the NHL with 192 even-strength goals. So naturally the power play would follow suit? Not so much. Anaheim had a miserable power play ranking 22nd in the league at 16.0-percent. They scored 44 goals on 275 power play opportunities, and had eight short-handed goals against.
The penalty kill fared a bit better. Ranked 13th, the Ducks allowed 48 power power play goals against on 270 times shorthanded. They scored 10 short-handed goals, good enough for third place in the league.
GM and Coach
Bob Murray won GM of the Year at the NHL Awards. He’s safe. As is Bruce Boudreau who just received a contract extension.
And Now, A Blooper
Ahh, the glass incident to start the 2013-2014 season. Good thing Corey Perry was there to make sure everyone was safe when the teams met later on back in Denver.
The Potential Best Thing About This Team
The depth at the forward position is something Anaheim hasn’t seen in years. All the players in their system have been proven as skilled offensive weaponry at one level or another.
The Potential Worst Thing About This Team
The youth movement is a huge gamble, especially at the goaltending position. There is no Jonas Hiller to fall back on should Freddie or Gibson tank. Seeing Jason Labarbera in net means something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Single Emoji Prediction
Anaheim has all the potential to be great again, but there are question marks on if the youngins’ are ready to take the leap and fill in where their elders left off. If they’re not, then it’s on Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler to carry the team.