The Ducks will start the 2009-10 regular season with a drastically different group of players than played in the playoffs last season. Here you will find a complete preview including a listing of the key additions, subtractions, and issues facing the Ducks as the 2009-10 regular season gets underway Saturday versus the rival San Jose Sharks.
Joffrey Lupul- W – Age: 25, 6’1″ 205 lbs
Luca Sbisa- D – Age: 19, 6’2″ 190 lbs
Saku Koivu – C – Age: 34, 5’10” 182 lbs
Nick Boynton- D – Age: 30, 6’2″ 220 lbs
Justin Pogge- G – Age: 23, 6’3″ 204 lbs
Evgeny Artyukhin- W – Age: 26, 6’5″ 270 lbs
Steve Eminger- D – Age: 25, 6’2″ 212 lbs
J.S. Giguere and Jonas Hiller are both capable of being a starting goalie, so it’s unlikely that either would accept a backup role. General Manager Bob Murray would probably have liked to trade Jiggy this offseason, but his $6 million salary and no-trade clause are prohibitive to that process, and Giguere is owed another chance. Hiller, meanwhile, has a much more affordable contract, but is in the final year of his deal before unrestricted free agency.
Here’s what Ducks fans should hope for: both goalies play extremely well, but Hiller earns the starting job. Why? Because Giguere would then become a valuable trade asset, and would be willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to go somewhere he could be a number one goalie. *Cough*Colorado*Cough*
The loss of Stanley Cup-winning defencemen Pronger and Beauchemin is huge, then consider they are being replaced by a teenager and other defencemen that haven’t had much playoff experience. It’s not too difficult to imagine that when the postseason comes around this may be cause for some concern.
If it’s any consolation, Ducks fans can at least enjoy the fact that their defencemen are still big, strong guys. The smallest among them are James Wisniewski and Scott Niedermayer, and we all know they can handle themselves quite well. But Wisniewski and a number of other Ducks defencemen gained valuable experience in last year’s playoffs, and we all know how that worked out for the Ducks the year after falling in the 2006 Western Conference Finals.
Checking and Energy Lines
The entire checking line from the 2007 Cup-winning team is gone, and what are left to replace them are young, offensive-oriented players. With the top two lines seemingly set, Coach Randy Carlyle will have a project on his hands to rebuild the final two lines. It’s no secret that Carlyle likes to have two scoring, one checking, and one energy line. But with the players available, it might be difficult to build the lines in the mold that he’s accustomed to.
He will, however, have a number of pieces to work with. To fill out the bottom six, Carlyle can choose from Artyukhin, Mike Brown, Ryan Carter, Erik Christensen, Andrew Ebbett, Todd Marchant, Petteri Nokelainen, and George Parros. Carlyle also has the option of going with a third offensive line or can to form a true checking line, both of which he experimented with in the preseason.
Didn’t I just talk about the defense? Well, sort of. The Ducks had no less than 12 players competing for a job on defense when training camp got underway but most were clearly not ready for the NHL. The result of those training camp battles is the top three that were always expected to make the team, plus the three new acquisitions. Sbisa, Boynton, and Eminger will shore up the Ducks blue line to start the season, with Sheldon Brookbank as the seventh defenseman. If any of them falter or get injured, Brendan Mikkelson proved that is ready to step in if needed.
OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES
– The Ducks have one notable constant from last year: the top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. Arguably the best line in the NHL, this trio was able to light up the scoreboard in the last half of the season and the playoffs and continued their dominance in the preseason. Look for them to continue that trend as the regular season begins.
– For the first time in a few years, the Ducks will enter the season comfortably under the salary cap. They can recall players as many times as they like without having to worry and might even be able to make a big trade acquisition for the playoff run (Ilya Kovalchuk, anyone?) if GM Bob Murray chooses to do so.
– Another event that hasn’t occurred in the last few years is the Winter Olympics. The Ducks are lucky and unlucky to have players that are skilled enough to be called the best from their respective countries, and quite a few Ducks are expected to play. Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Selanne, Koivu, Whitney, Ryan, Sbisa, Hiller, and possibly Perry are headed to Vancouver for the Olympics this year. Wisniewski might also be able to make the United States’ roster if he plays well enough in the regular season.