The Anaheim Ducks finished the 2013 NHL season with the highest winning percentage in franchise history.
Off-Season Game Plan looks at why the Ducks ought to be wary about that record and how it should shape their decisions going forward.
Compiling a 30-12-6 record in the shortened season, Anaheim achieved that success despite faring poorly in puck possession metrics. Special teams worked for the Ducks, as they had the fourth-best power play (21.5%) and the goaltending tandem of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth delivered a .917 save percentage. It's not easy to maintain success based on special teams or percentages when the puck possession at 5-on-5 is closer to the lower third of the league.
The Ducks have raised expectations, based on their place in the standings, as head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Associated Press, ""We did a lot of good things, but in the end of the day, we fell short, maybe not of the predictions before the year, but once you start gaining that respect with what we accomplished during the course of the year, we didn't get done what we should have got done."
What the Ducks have to consider, then, as they build a team for next season is that they are going to need to improve their puck possession at even-strength if they are going to be able to duplicate their success in the shortened 2013 season. After committing their future to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, two outstanding players (who are also top-tier possession players), the Ducks have to surround them with suitable complementary pieces. That probably means looking to prospects and younger players to build a group that is capable of achieving success that is sustainable year after year.
The TSN.ca Rating is an efficiency rating based on per-game statistics including goals and assists -- weighted for strength (ie. power play, even, shorthanded) -- plus-minus, hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways, penalty differential and faceoffs. (Stats are listed in this format: G-A-PTS, +/-, PIM, GP). Generally, a replacement-level player is around a 60, a top six forward and top four defenceman will be 70-plus, stars will be over 80 and MVP candidates could go over 90. Sidney Crosby finished at the top of the 2013 regular season ratings with a 93.65.
Salary cap information all comes from the indispensable www.capgeek.com.
Bob Murray/Bruce Boudreau
Ducks Forwards Usage Chart from somekindofninja.com
Following a down season in 2011-2012, Ryan Getzlaf returned to scoring better than a point per game for the fifth time in the last six seasons. He's one of four players to have at least a point per game in at least five of the last six seasons; Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are the others, so he's keeping pretty nice company. It's that kind of production that he Ducks will need from Getzlaf to provide adequate return on their investment.
While his 50-goal season in 2010-2011 may be an aberration, Corey Perry is one of the game's top snipers, scoring 190 goals over the last six seasons, ranking seventh over that span. He's also the only one in the top 30 to have more than 400 penalty minutes (and Perry has 631). The Ducks dropped big money on Getzlaf and Perry and they'll have to be excellent for the Ducks to remain successful.
Bobby Ryan struggled in 2013, with his goal (0.24 gpg) and point (0.65 ppg) production at his lowest level since his 23-game stint in 2007-2008. Even so, Ryan has rare finishing ability for a power forward and his 106 goals in the last five seasons is tied for eighth. A rebound year from Ryan would go a long way to helping the Ducks avoid any potential regression pitfalls next season.
Though he missed a good chunk of the season with a torn hamstring, Nick Bonino was slotted into a second line role once he returned. Bonino contributed some offence, but he was getting overwhelmed in terms of puck possession. It's possible he can improve, but it may be more important to shelter his usage so that he is better positioned for success.
A career-best goal-scoring rate (0.27 gpg) and career-high plus-14 rating, with strong possession numbers, made 2013 one of the best of Andrew Cogliano's career. After several years of relatively disappointing production, perhaps this is a step forward for the 25-year-old's career.
Though Emerson Etem didn't produce much as a rookie, scoring three goals in 38 games, he matched his goal-scoring output in seven playoff games and showed signs in the Detroit series of being able to have an impact on the game with his speed. Bigger and better things to come for Etem; it may just be a matter of when he gets the right opportunity in the Ducks lineup.
A strong puck possession winger who scored five goals in the first four games last season, Daniel Winnik managed a single goal over the next 44 games, falling back to more typical offensive production.
A big and aggressive winger who has played five years in the AHL, putting up 124 points and 259 penalty minutes in 139 games over the last two, Patrick Maroon has three points in 15 career NHL games, but he's signed to a very reasonable one-way deal over the next couple seasons, which should give him a decent shot at earning a spot on the roster next season.
Tough guy Brad Staubitz saw action in only 15 games last season, so he's a part-timer, but is available should the Ducks be worried about having a dance partner for opposing heavyweights.
Kyle Palmieri has some finishing ability, as he has shown in limited ice time, but he's going to have to play more than 12 minutes per game if he's going to provide real offensive value. He has 83 points in 84 AHL games over the last two seasons, so it should come as no surprise that he can score in the NHL too.
Hard-nosed winger Matt Beleskey bounces around the lineup, skating on the fourth line one day, then with Getlaf and Perry the next, but last season's modest production gave him career-high rates in goals (0.19) and points (0.31).
For several years now, the Ducks have waited with baited breath for Teemu Selanne to decide if he's going to come back. The 42-year-old's production took a nose dive last season, as he finished the year with one assist in his last 33 games. If Selanne should choose to return, it would at least have to be at a discount from last year's contract.
The Ducks have enough prospects on the way that they could look to fill holes internally with Peter Holland or Rickard Rakell, both of whom saw action with the Ducks last season, but if Teemu Selanne and/or Saku Koivu move on, the Ducks will have to decide whether they want to go with youth or turn to veteran free agents to fill those holes.
Free Agent Defence
||'12-'13 Cap Hit
Ducks Defence Usage Chart from somekindofninja.com
33-year-old Francois Beauchemin is coming off the best season of his career. He contributed offensively (0.50 ppg was second-highest of his career) and he finished with a career-best plus-19 and didn't miss a game, despite playing the last month of the season with a torn ACL (during which time he was decidely less productive). Beauchemin has long been a reliable top-four guy who can play big minutes -- over 23 minutes per game in each of the last eight seasons -- but he was even better than that in 2013.
Sheldon Souray's career looked like it might have been swirling the drain a couple of years ago, when he was banished to the American Hockey League, but he's been pretty effective in two seasons since, scoring 13 goals and registering a plus-30 rating, one of four defencemen to do so.
With the older guys taking on big roles, 21-year-old Cam Fowler actually received the least ice time (20:26 per game) of his three-year NHL career. Fowler has the mobility and puck skills to be a factor on the power play and really should be a bigger part of the Ducks' defence corps, but an early-season injury in 2013 sidetracked that progress.
A physical defenceman, Luca Sbisa continues to evolve and played a career-high 19:50 per game last season. He led Ducks defencemen in hits, but there's something to his subpar possession numbers that would result in having more opportunities.
With good size and more than 600 games under his belt, Bryan Allen is a safe and tough defenceman, though he struggled last season and, for the money he's being paid relative to his role, could be expendable.
If the Ducks lose Ben Lovejoy and Toni Lydman to free agency, there will be some holes to fill. Top prospects Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm could be ready for their big-league opportunities, but another veteran addition could be sensible. A right-shooting free agent like Ian White, Michal Rozsival or Joe Corvo could make sense at a reasonable price.
As more and more teams look to Europe for free agent goaltenders, the dream scenario is coming up with one like Viktor Fasth. The 30-year-old showed up, delivered a .921 save percentage and was more effective than starter Jonas Hiller. When it came time to pick a goaltender for the playoffs, however, the Ducks went with Hiller, as Fasth was dealing with a lower abdominal strain late in the season.
Jonas Hiller is no slouch in the Ducks' net either. He has a .917 save percentage since arriving in the league in 2007-2008, ranking 10th, so he's holding up his end just fine. That the Ducks also have a pair of quality goaltending prospects in the pipeline, however, might make it less likely for Hiller to be part of the Ducks plans when his contract expires following next season.
||17-9-1, 2.41 GAA, .928 SV%
||1-10-11, +5, 4 GP
||21-23-44, +19, 40 GP
||11-22-33, +10, 32 GP
||4-24-28, +17, 50 GP
||9-36-45, even, 62 GP
||19-20-39, -13, 45 GP
||24-18-1, 2.19, .929 SV%
||22-86-108, +16, 68 GP
||14-18-32, -20, 65 GP
Goaltending prospects are notoriously difficult to value, but the Ducks have a blue chipper in John Gibson, a second-round pick in 2011 who has a .928 save percentage in 59 OHL games over two seasons and has excelled for Team USA in international play. He turns 20 this summer, and the Ducks have quality goaltending already, so there's time for him to develop, but it will be interesting to see how patient the Ducks can be if Gibson continues to dominate when he turns pro.
The sixth overall pick last summer, Hampus Lindholm played in the AHL as a 19-year-old and showed solid two-way skills, at least when he wasn't dealing with concussions. A healthy Lindholm should be expected to be a major part of the Ducks' blueline, the only question is how soon that time will come.
A first-round pick in 2011, Rickard Rakell got into four games with the Ducks before he was returned to the OHL last season. He's a skilled, two-way player who plays responsibly and has offensive upside.
One his NCAA eligibility saga ended, Nic Kerdiles enjoyed a productive freshman season for Wisconsin, scoring better than a point per game. His size and speed figure to translate well to the pro game when that opportunity comes for last summer's second-round pick.
Drafted in the second round in 2011, slick playmaker William Karlsson had a productive first season in the Swedish Elite League, and can continue to get stronger before he gets his chance in Anaheim.
A small defenceman who will always have to deal with bigger forwards that can overpower him, Sami Vatanen is mobile, moves the puck well and showed in his first AHL season that his ability to run a power play came with him to North America after three effective seasons in Finland.
With good size and skill, Peter Holland has managed six points in 25 career NHL games, but 105 points in 109 AHL games suggests that the 2009 first-round pick is ready to make the jump and contribute offensively.
23-year-old Danish netminder Frederik Andersen was excellent in his first North American season -- his AHL numbers scream out for an NHL chance -- but he's facing a crowded crease in Anaheim at the moment.
A playmaker who had 153 assists -- assists -- in 136 OHL games over the last two seasons, Charles Sarault was an undrafted free agent who will need to show that he's strong enough and willing to go to the dirty areas so that he can be a productive pro, but his offensive upside makes him worth watching as he embarks on his pro career.
Sturdy winger Devante Smith-Pelly spent most of 2011-2012 with the Ducks, scoring 13 points in 49 games as a rookie, before spending much of last season in the AHL. Even if he doesn't develop offensively, he plays a physical game that should fit lower on the depth chart.
The Ducks have also bolstered their prospect list by signing free agents including lanky centre Antoine Laganiere (Yale), diminutive winger Steven Whitney (Boston College), small Quebec League defenceman Kevin Gagne and, last year, Chris Wagner, a centre out of Colgate.
26th - Madison Bowey, Ryan Hartman, Morgan Klimchuk.
According to www.capgeek.com, the Ducks have approximately $53.2M committed to the 2013-2014 salary cap for 16 players.
Check out my possible Ducks lineup for next season on Cap Geek here.
Needs: One top six forward, depth forwards, depth defencemen.
What I said the Ducks needed last year: Three top six forwards, two defencemen.
They added: Kyle Palmieri, Daniel Winnik, Nick Bonino, Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, Viktor Fasth.
Bobby Ryan, Bryan Allen.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.