Anaheim Ducks Stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler Must Step Up


The Anaheim Ducks seem to be adding players to their Injured Reserve by the day. Currently, the Ducks have six players on injured reserve, and most of those players will not return until mid-December (and that is an optimistic estimate). The player expected to return first is Clayton Stoner, who has been battling the mumps virus himself. Mark Fistric has resumed skating after a lower-back injury and taking a puck to the face, but his return date has still not been set. John Gibson has been nursing a groin injury suffered on November 2nd. His original timetable was six weeks, putting his return around mid-December. His return would be well-appreciated: Frederik Andersen has done a decent job holding the fort by himself, but he has been inconsistent in net. Fatigue in net may be a factor, and with Jason LaBarbera suffering an upper-body injury, the Ducks are suddenly very thin in net.

The bulk of the Ducks injured lie on the defense. Francois Beauchemin, Ben Lovejoy, Stoner, and Fistric all will be out for some time. Because of this, the Ducks are being forced to rely heavily on very young defensemen. Eric Brewer, who was recently acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning, should give the Ducks some help in the short-term, but the Ducks are relying on five defensemen who are under the age of 25. The most experienced player in that group is Cam Fowler, who has only four full seasons under his belt. In these adverse situations, the Ducks need their leaders to step up most. If the Ducks have any hope of staying near the top of the Western Conference, they need their three best players to rise to the occasion. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler all must help.

As the main leaders on this team, those three players need to will the rest of the Ducks to play 60 minutes each night. Injuries are a part of the game and will happen during the season, but the teams that battle through that adversity and raise their compete level are the ones that succeed. It’s only December: the season is not even two months old yet, and there is still a lot of hockey left to play. However, those three need to take ownership of their leadership positions starting tonight.

There were initial doubts as to whether Getzlaf was the correct choice in succeeding Scott Niedermayer as captain of the Ducks, but he has proven time and time again why he is the correct choice to wear the “C” on his jersey. He had one of his finest seasons last year, and he validated his leadership with his exceptional play during the playoffs. Getzlaf was the engine behind the Ducks’ playoff run last season, putting his skill and leadership on display, especially in the first round against the Dallas Stars. In that series, Getzlaf tilted the ice in the Ducks’ favor whenever he was out for a shift. He made big plays and scored or set-up key goals. A Tyler Seguin slapshot to the face in the closing seconds of Game 1 was not enough to keep Getzlaf out of the lineup, as he got stitched up and returned two days later (after the birth of his third child, Willa). Obviously, the stakes in the regular season and postseason are not the same, but the Ducks are in desperate need of that sort of transcendent performance. Before his three-point outing on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks, Getzlaf had been held pointless in three consecutive games. Bruce Boudreau separated him and Perry to begin the game against the Sharks. Though the Ducks lost the game, that move seemed to spark Getzlaf a bit. He scored all three of his points after he and Perry were re-united near the end of the second period Saturday. The Ducks earned no points in the standings, but the engine began running again for the team, and the Ducks almost completed a rally from a four-goal deficit. The Ducks are better when Getzlaf is playing well, and this is the time they need him to do so.

But Getzlaf cannot be the only player that must step up: Perry needs to elevate his game as well. Perry missed five games in November because of the mumps virus, which forced him to get hospitalized and had him lose ten pounds. Perry has returned to the line-up, but he has not always showed the lethal form he was in before he went out of the lineup. Perry is not the inspirational leader that Getzlaf, Beauchemin, or even Kesler are, but Perry is still trusted enough by the coaching brass to wear an “A” on his jersey. In the early part of this season, Perry was scoring at nearly a goal per game pace (12 goals in 13 games), and he was on pace to shatter his career best totals of 50 goals and 98 points. The Ducks don’t necessarily need Perry to score 50 or 60 goals, but it is much easier for the Ducks to get secondary scoring when Perry is going strong. Before the San Jose game, Perry had been held scoreless in two of  the previous three games, and he had scored just one goal since returning from the mumps. However, Perry scored three points as well against San Jose, all when he and Getzlaf were re-united (two goals, one assist). That kind of production needs to continue into December and for the remainder of the season. So far, the Ducks are 14-6-5 overall and 7-2-0 when Perry scores at least a goal. Perry needs to take charge and get back to his lethal goal-scoring form. He was entrusted by the team to be a leader for this team, and he needs to do so at this point. His scoring goals will not only have a trickle-down effect for the whole team, but it will help out the Ducks’ young defense and goaltending.

Lastly, the Ducks need Kesler, the team’s blockbuster offseason acquisition, to be the leader he naturally is. Kesler is more like Getzlaf in the way he carries himself on and off the ice. Kesler is a passionate, intense player who is known to give 100% on each shift, and that is needed more than ever. He was brought in for his playing style, secondary scoring, and leadership abilities. Kesler has the ability to take over a game, just as he did in the Ducks’ first meeting with the Los Angeles Kings. Kesler singlehandedly carried the Ducks and willed them to comeback win. Kesler currently has six goals and 18 points on the season, but he has scored only three points in his last five games. Kesler also hasn’t scored a goal since scoring three goals during the home-and-home series against the Kings on November 12th and 15th. Kesler needs to start finding the back of the net more. He has contributed a lot to the Ducks’ secondary scoring, but right now, the Ducks need him to step his game up as well. Kesler needs to play the brand of hockey that makes him notorious in the National Hockey League: a strong, two-way player who isn’t afraid to engage in the dirty areas and steal the puck. He has also been on the Ducks for over five months and has had time to establish his voice in the locker room. Kesler is known throughout the league as one of the fiercest players and one of the great leaders in the game. Despite being the new face in the room, there was a reason why Kesler almost got the second “A” on his jersey for the Ducks (the one that Perry currently holds). He’s had time to establish his leadership, and with Beauchemin out and Kesler donning the “A” in his absence, the Ducks need that to continue to truly hit their potential as a team.

As Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler have struggled to put up points, the offense has followed suit. If the Ducks can turn around their offensive misfortunes, it must start with these three players. Kesler said that injuries are just an excuse. He’s correct: the team needs to step up and overcome them. This team is built to win and win now. The Ducks have shown flashes of what they can be through stretches this season. In a league with professionals, it takes hard work and effort each game to walk out of the arena with a win. The Ducks haven’t played a full 60 minute game in quite some time, and they’ve paid the price for it. If that is to change, Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler must lead the way in making that change.