Ducks look for repeat success in Teemu's farewell tour
Mark Fistric, Dustin Penner, Jakob Silfverberg, Zack Stortini, Nolan Yonkman.
Bobby Ryan, Harry Zolnierczyk.
Last year: While the rest of the hockey world focused on the off-ice business of the Ducks, Anaheim was able to string together an eventful, successful 2013 campaign.
The Ducks opened the season with a blistering 7-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks, setting off a 3-1-1 January.
And once the calendar turned to February, the Ducks found another gear, particularly at the Honda Center. The Ducks reeled off 13 straight home victories between January 26 and March 10. What made the streak even more impressive was that it started with a netminder not named Jonas Hiller.
Rookie Viktor Fasth - at 30 years of age - enjoyed a magnificent start to his NHL career, going 8-0 before finally being handed a loss by the Los Angeles Kings near the end of February. While Hiller would hold his starter's job, Fasth’s 11-3-1 rookie season turned plenty of heads.
And then there’s Francois Beauchemin, who finally re-emerged as the blue line pillar the Ducks thought they were getting when they parted with Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul. He averaged more minutes than any of his teammates while finishing just two points shy of his 2011-12 total in 34 fewer contests.
The Ducks even got around to the off-ice business by locking down Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to eight-year contract extensions. The two contracts - totaling $135 million - not only locked in the franchise duo, but also quelled any whispers that either/or would test free agent waters this past summer.
The playoffs would not be kind to the Ducks, however. They dropped a frantic and eventful seven-gamer to their old nemesis - the Detroit Red Wings. Four of the seven games went to overtime, with the Ducks dropping three of those.
In fact, the Ducks entered OT of Game 6 needing just one goal to eliminate the Wings, but Henrik Zetterberg’s winner would force the final game of the series, and the Ducks’ season.
This Year: In with the old and in with the new… it’s a motto that’s benefitted the Ducks for a few years now.
The Ducks have done nicely to insulate their veteran pieces – Perry, Getzlaf and Beauchemin – with young blood from the pipeline, so the team is fairly well-balanced age-wise. What’s nice for the Ducks is that Perry and Getzlaf are still on the right side of 30.
The balance around those two has shifted. Bobby Ryan is gone and it opens up space for Kyle Palmieri, Jakob Silfverberg and Emerson Etem. The team also gets help from its veteran group (Teemu Selanne for one more year, along with Saku Koivu) and lets their wisdom trickle down to the young, hungry players that look up to them.
There’s very little reason to worry about the Ducks this year for that very reason. Sheldon Souray is out for at least half the year, but it frees up minutes for Cam Fowler or Hampus Lindholm.
The goaltending is so deep that even their top prospect John Gibson could likely handle everyday duty, but he won’t have to. Another strong season is expected from this team, especially if the likes of Selanne and Koivu get hungry for one last Cup run.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Ducks' performance after a shortened season?
The shortened year helped the Ducks claim their first Pacific Division crown in six years, so their achievement will be put to the test over the course of a full year.
One does have to wonder, however, whether Francois Beauchemin’s career year can be repeated over a full 82 games. The 33-year-old earned his first-ever NHL All-Star Team selection last season, but can he do it again over nearly twice the games?
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Ducks make to get themselves back in cap shape?
After locking Perry and Getzlaf down, something had to give with the Ducks and that something wound up being Ryan.
Ottawa was only too happy to pay the prospect price once it became clear that franchise cornerstone Daniel Alfredsson was moving on and while Anaheim probably didn’t want to deal Ryan, the $5.1 million it saves them in each of the next two seasons cushioned the blow substantially.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Ducks after realignment.
There’s good news and bad news awaiting Anaheim in the new Pacific Division.
The good news is that Anaheim inherits under-performing Northwest opposition from Alberta in the Flames and Oilers. The bad news is that the Canucks are along for the ride.
Between the perennially-strong Sharks and the Cup-contending Kings, the Ducks have not had an easy ride in the Pacific recently. But they’ve still managed to be a playoff team more often than not. While the addition of the Canucks doesn’t make life easier, the Ducks can still be counted on to compete.
Plus, should they make the playoffs, the Wings are no longer a concern in their conference!
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Jakob Silfverberg, RW - Acquired as part of the Bobby Ryan deal this summer, Silfverberg was the Player of the Year in the Swedish Elite League in 2011-2012 and had a solid, if not spectacular debut in North America, scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 48 games for the Senators following 29 points in 34 AHL games. Add in the fact that Silfverberg registered 2.79 shots on goal per game, ranking 50th league-wide, and it's reasonable to have high expectations for his offensive prodcuction going forward.
Moving to Anaheim could bring with it an opportunity to play the left side with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks' No. 1 line. It's not assured that Silfverberg will land that plum spot, but the upside that would come playing in that spot is going to make Silfverberg worth an upside play in the later rounds on draft day.
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Pressing Question: Who’s the next great goal-scoring threat?
Ryan took his quartet of 30-goal seasons with him to Canada’s capital and Getzlaf and Perry can’t carry the mail alone. So who becomes the next offensive weapon for the Ducks and when?
Palmieri showed flashes of being that guy with 10 goals in 42 games last year and shared the team lead with three playoff goals, so is he the heir apparent to Ryan?
Etem and Silfverberg may have the potential, but it might still be early to expect one or the other to become a top line NHL forward and come next year, someone’s going to need to replace Selanne on that top power play unit.
So, who ya got?
- Anaheim Ducks Preview by Shane McNeil, TSN.ca