Okay, a deal is in place, so now we should preview the upcoming Anaheim Ducks
2012-2013 regular season. But first, let’s make a slow recap of last season.
Recap 2011-2013 Season:
It began in Helsinki, Finland, and it pretty much went down the crapper after that. Former Head Coach Randy Carlyle was fired after a 7-13-4 start. He was replaced by former Washington Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. Under Boudreau the Ducks went 27-23-8, with much improved play and the team just looked better. The Ducks’ big line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan were particularly brutal. Perry’s production went from 50 goals and 98 points to 37 goals and 60 points. Getzlaf had a nightmare of a season and by far his worst of his career, posting only 11 goals and 57 points. Bobby Ryan dropped off the least, 71 points to 57 points. Jonas Hiller returned from vertigo to have a roller coaster of a season, with miserable lows early on, but finished very strong. The late playoff push was fun to watch, but the slow start doomed the Ducks from the beginning.
The biggest changes for the Ducks were made on the blue line. They signed veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray who resurrected his career with the Dallas Stars last season. He signed a 3-year, $11-million deal to help the Ducks power play that dropped to 21st in the league last season after being 2nd the year before. The Ducks also signed big, veteran defenseman Bryan Allen from the Carolina Hurricanes. He signed a 3-year, $10.5 million contract. Allen is one of the more underrated defenseman in the league. He is a big body that should really help shut down the opponents offense. The Ducks made some improvements to the bottom forward lines, by signing grinder Daniel Winnik and tough guy Brad Staubitz. When the Ducks have been a successful team, those bottom two forward lines were much more affective than they were this past season. They also signed Swedish goalie Viktor Fasth who has been one of the best goalies in the Swedish Elite League recently. Fasth will have to battle goalie Jeff Deslauriers for the backup spot behind Hiller.
The Ducks also lost a lot over the offseason. Lubomir Visnovsky, the Ducks most dynamic offensive defenseman, was traded to the New York Islanders. Lubo fought hard to null that trade, but to no avail. Long time fan favorite George Moustache, I mean, Parros was released by the Ducks and he eventually signed a 2-year contract with the Florida Panthers. Arguably the best defensive defenseman for the Ducks last season, Sheldon Brookbank chose to go elsewhere by signing a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks over the summer. Both Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman were released to try and make the team younger, both are still free agents. Probably the most difficult loss, is young defenseman Justin Schultz who never even suited up for the Ducks. He chose not to play for the franchise and signed with the Edmonton Oilers.
Preview Current Roster:
The Ducks will once again rely heavily on the RPG Line. Some believe that Boudreau might explore the possibilites with moving those three around with different combinations, but we’ll see what happens. Both Perry and Getzlaf are in contract years. They’ll want to put up some good numbers to prove their worth. Ryan has been mentioned numerous times in trade rumors and I’m sure his trust in this franchise is a little shaken at least. But he’s here and he’s gonna play well. The Ducks offense last year was anemic a lot because of their lack of scoring depth. After RPG, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are the only other proven point producers on the current roster. They have young guys with offensive potential, like Kyle Palmieri, Devante Smith-Pelly, Peter Holland and Emerson Etem. There’s also Andrew Cogliano who showed some spark during last season with 13 goals. There’s also Nick Bonino and Brandon McMillan who have seen some time up in the NHL but not made too big of an impact on the offense. However, I was really impressed with Bonino last season, by far his most impressive stretch in the NHL so far in his career. Palmieri and Smith-Pelly are locks to make the team, in my opinion. I think both Holland and Etem will spend most of the season with Norfolk.
Back on the blue line, I think the Ducks will be a little better than last season. Even though Souray is not an improvement over Visnovsky, Allen is definitely an improvement to Brookbank. Cam Fowler took a step back last season after an outstanding rookie campaign. However, The Hockey Writers who looked deeper into some advanced stats and said that Fowler “improved his ability to drive play and possess the puck, while playing against better opponents, and maintaining position in the zone where he can put his offensive gifts to the test. Fowler’s partner, Francois Beauchemin, was a rock for the defense last season, leading the team with 25:33 TOI. Luca Sbisa had a decent season last year, but in order for the Ducks to be serious playoff contenders, he will need to plus hockey and help out in the offense as well. I’ve already discussed both Souray and Allen. The final defenseman will most likely be Finnish veteran Toni Lydman. There are two young defenseman who may crack the top six or seven, like Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen. However, I think it’s pretty clear that the seventh and eigth defensemen will be Nate Guenin and Matt Smaby, purely because of experience.
In net, Jonas Hiller looked very good late in the season. He played a career high 73 games last year. He finished with 29 wins while posting a 2.57 GAA and a .910 SV %. I think he can continue to play like that. If he lowers the GAA and raises his SV %, the Ducks will be in every game. He should have a better defense in front of him as well. Deslauriers and Fasth will be battling it out for the back up job.
Key Player: C – Ryan Getzlaf
When he’s on his game, he can be one of the most dominant centers in the game. He struggled mightily last season. This being a contract year, he should have no excuse for not having any motivation to play well. If Getzlaf struggles, that will make Perry struggle and ultimately the entire team struggle.
Breakout Player: RW Kyle Palmieri
I am a huge Palmieri fan. He should be on the team for the full season. He’s got the potential and he’s already shown some of his offensive skills in his short time with the Ducks last season. His production could ultimately pick up for the aging Koivu and possible lack of Selanne.
Bust: D – Sheldon Souray
This would not shock me what so ever. His whole contract with the Ducks is based off of a good start he had early on last year with the Stars. He disappeared for large chunks of the season. I think this contract, in the end, will hurt the Ducks.
Predicting Best Storyline:
Teemu Selanne. Let the “One More Year” chants begin already!
This team is improved, but still not enough. The defense is better. The offense is still not good enough. The goaltending SHOULD be fine. This is still not a playoff team in my opinion. Yeah, I want to believe that this team can make the playoffs, but I would be surprised if they did. The offense needs to get some major production from young kids or “finished” veterans in order for the Ducks to make the playoffs. I think the highest the Ducks will finish in the division is third, but fourth is more likely I think. When it comes to the conference, I think the Ducks will most likely finish anywhere from 10th to 14th. Sorry, guys.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks Andrew Cogliano Bobby Ryan Brad Staubitz Brandon McMillan Bruce Boudreau Bryan Allen Cam Fowler Carolina Hurricanes Chicago Blackhawks Corey Perry Dallas Stars Daniel Winnik Devante Smith-Pelly Edmonton Oilers Emerson Etem Florida Panthers Francois Beauchemin George Parros Hampus Lindholm Jason Blake Jeff Deslauriers Jonas Hiller Justin Schultz Kyle Palmieri Lubomir Visnovsky Luca Sbisa Matt Smaby Nate Guenin New York Islanders NHL Nick Bonino Niklas Hagman Peter Holland Randy Carlyle Ryan Getzlaf Saku Koivu Sami Vatanen Sheldon Brookbank Sheldon Souray Teemu Selanne Toni Lydman Viktor Fasth Washington Capitals