(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
51-24-7, 109 points, first in the Western Conference
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
Better-ish. When the Ducks lost to Edmonton in the 2006 Western Conference Finals, then-GM Brian Burke realized the team was on the precipice of being great, but they were missing one piece to put them over the top. He went out and acquired Chris Pronger and as they say, the rest is history.
So is Kevin Bieksa – acquired at the draft – this team’s Chris Pronger? (STOP LAUGHING.) No, he’s not. There may not be a magic piece this time around. It may be more of a ‘let’s see what might work to get this done.’
Bob Murray’s goal this offseason was to create a faster team. Acquiring Bieksa did not help achieve that goal. Murray knew he was going to lose Francois Beauchemin to the open market, and he filled that gap – more or less – with Bieksa. After acquiring James Wisniewski at the trade deadline, the defenseman (and his gigantic cap hit) went unused during the playoffs. They shipped Wiz off to Carolina for backup goalie Anton Khudobin.
Trading away home-grown prospect Emerson Etem definitely decreased that speed component, but the return made up for it in Carl Hagelin. Etem had the speed but never displayed the skill needed to stay in Boudreau’s good graces. Hagelin is streaky in the offensive department but he’s got speed away from the puck to make the Ducks even more dangerous. He and fellow Swede, Jakob Silfverberg, inked four-year contracts with the club.
Anaheim made sure they wouldn’t be short in experience at center. First they locked up Ryan Kesler until the end of time; then they signed Mike Santorelli and Shawn Horcoff to one year deals. After a fantastic season, Matt Beleskey left the team in free agency, and Chris Stewart was brought in as a quasi-replacement.
Following Beleskey out of town was Tomas Fleischmann (via free agency) and Kyle Palmieri was traded to New Jersey. Mark Fistric was bought out one year after receiving a three years extension.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Frederik Andersen, G
Andersen is the No. 1 goaltender for the Ducks. Last season, he posted a 35-12-5 record with .914 save-percentage and 2.38 GAA. The team has made that clear as they intend to send John Gibson to San Diego (AHL) at the end of camp in order to get him as much work as possible and Khudobin will backup. Here’s the thing, the Gibson signed a three-year, $6.9-million extension scheduled to start next season. Freddie is in the final year of his RFA contract, and Bob Murray used salty pirate language to deny any plots to trade Gibson. Sources report the Ducks have been unsuccessful in making contact with Andersen’s camp to jumpstart negotiations.
2. Carl Hagelin, F
Conventional wisdom is the Ducks won the Etem-for-Hagelin trade. Sure Hagelin is a little bit older than Etem and more expensive, but Anaheim expects his style of play to mesh well with Boudreau’s system. Boudreau has the unique ability to draw out the offensive production in players. (Just look at what he did with Matt Beleskey and Andrew Cogliano.) Save one season out of four, Hagelin has produced 30-plus points. Playing with a center like Kesler or even possibly up with Getzlaf could see him netting more than 40-points.
3. Contract year RFA defensemen, D
Specifically Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres and Hampus Lindholm. Despres clicked with Cam Fowler after being traded to the Ducks midseason from Pittsburgh. Lindholm had been mentored by Beauchemin and will likely start the season paired with Bieksa. Hampus has shown flashes of brilliance but he’s still learning. Then there’s Sami. The Lilliputian defenseman was the highest scoring d-man on the team; 17 of his 37 points came on a (terrible) power play. All three men are in the final year of an RFA contract and keeping all three may be difficult.
4. Clayton Stoner, D
Few things are more frightening, yet hilarious, on this planet than Stoner getting the puck on his stick. He is terrified of playing with the puck and flings it wildly once it hits his tape regardless of where he is on the ice. If Murray wants to get faster, Stoner is, well, a very large stone. He hits and blocks shots, but tends to make poor decisions. The Ducks owe him $9.75-million over the next three years; could he be the next Mark Fistric? Oh and he killed a bear named Cheeky.
5. Patrick Maroon, F
He’s fascinating because no one seems to know what to make of him. As a big body grinder, he is consistently getting time with Getzlaf and Perry leading to the best offensive season of his career with 9 goals and 25 assists this past season; yet he finds himself in Boudreau’s dog house more often than not. Some of it is him playing himself into shape. Part of it is effort and consistency. Getzlaf and Perry need a steady left wing, is Maroon really it?
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
This organization is crazy deep with talent. Now that the AHL team is located in San Diego, a good 90 minute drive to Anaheim with minimal traffic, they can give many more young forwards a shot throughout the season. Names like Stefan Noesen, Max Friberg, and Nick Kerdiles are ones people should become familiar with. Only downside, many of these prospects have RFA contracts expiring at the end of this season.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
The power play. There is zero reason this team should have a bad power play even before they made big roster changes. The PP unit was third-to-last in the NHL last season at an abysmal 15.7-percent. Bringing in Paul MacLean will hopefully reinvigorate the unit.
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group:
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Cam Fowler. It’s a no-brainer to put Getzlaf and Perry out there together. They need a third person with them who will stay back and let them do their thing, and join in when time is right. The initial thought was to have Sami Vatanen out on the ice because of his bomb of a slapshot. Only problem is the defense part. He doesn’t skate as well as Cam and tends to be over eager to join the rush.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Eight-and-a-half. Bob Murray made it very clear he was NOT happy with his coaching staff following the Ducks exiting the playoffs with a big old fart at home – again. The GM took about a week before sacrificing assistant coach Brad Lauer to the Hockey Gods. Nothing could indicate Bruce Boudreau’s precarious perch at the top than the hiring of (former Ottawa head coach) Paul Maclean to replace Lauer. If the team stops responding to Boudreau, Mac is there is to jump right in. Fun fact: MacLean is in his second tour as an assistant with the franchise after serving under Mike Babcock.
Awkward Old School Video Break
Which was worse: this monstrosity for the first Mighty Ducks home game or the NHL Guardians?
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
The outstanding regular season team continues to be outstanding through the playoffs and all the way to the Cup.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
Epic failure in Game 7 – at home – for the fourth straight year and Bruce is out of a job.
Under Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks are beginning to reach San Jose Sharks level of expectations – and subsequent failure – minus the President’s Trophies. Bob Murray has done his part giving Gabby pretty much everything he needs to win. The yips by the team and the coach in Games 7 over the past few years are significant and weighing on the organization.
It’s Stanley Cup or bust for the team. They’ll make it to the Stanley Cup Final; however, a team from the East takes home the final crown … Probably in Game 7 with the Ducks up 3-2 in the series playing in Anaheim.
PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings/Florida Panthers/Detroit Red Wings/Dallas Stars/Columbus Blue Jackets/Colorado Avalanche/Chicago Blackhawks/Carolina Hurricanes/Calgary Flames/Buffalo Sabres/Boston Bruins/Arizona Coyotes