Anaheim Ducks: Five New Year’s Resolutions


December 28, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) celebrates the goal scored by defenseman Cam Fowler (4) against the Vancouver Canucks during the overtime period at Honda Center. Getzlaf recorded an assist on the goal. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach the end of 2014, many of us are setting our goals for the New Year. Whether it’s losing some weight, meeting new people, or making more time for relaxation, our culture sees the first of the year as an opportunity to improve ourselves and start fresh.

The Anaheim Ducks are no different. While the Ducks currently lead the NHL in standings points (54), there’s always room for improvement. Here’s five resolutions the Ducks should committ to in the New Year.

Getting Back in Shape

Getting back into shape is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. Anyone who frequents a gym knows that the treadmills start to get awfully crowded after January 1st.

The Ducks should view the New Year as an opportunity to get healthy too. As of December 20, the Ducks lead the NHL in man-games lost—losing even more time to injury than much maligned teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.

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The Ducks were one of the teams bitten with the mumps virus circulating the league.

The illness struck key players like Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, and Clayton Stoner.

While Captain Ryan Getzlaf missed time due to “flu-like symptoms”, his mumps diagnosis was never confirmed.

Additionally, the Ducks missed Dany Heatley, Ben Lovejoy, Francois Beauchemin, Corey Perry, Mark Fistric, Kyle Palmieri, and Patrick Maroon with serious injuries at some point this season.

Currently, the Ducks are awaiting the return of Corey Perry and Kyle Palmieri, who was re-injured after missing the beginning of the season with an ankle injury.

There’s nothing the Ducks can do to better prevent being stricken by injuries, but they can hope that the New Year will bring back the full compliment of Ducks players.

Establishing Chemistry

Finding romance is another popular New Years Resolution. While as far as we know, it is not possible for a hockey team to fall in love, the Ducks can try to find some chemistry by sticking to specific lines.

Coach Bruce Boudreau is known as a sort of line blending mad scientist. Just when a group of forwards seems to find chemistry with each other, he mixes them up, sometimes mid-game.

Apr 25, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (left) celebrates with right wing Corey Perry (10) after the game against the Dallas Stars in game five of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. The Anaheim Ducks won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

While this allows coaches to see what works and what doesn’t, and allows players to be at least somewhat comfortable playing anywhere in the lineup, it robs teammates of growing truly familiar with one another’s tendencies.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been playing on a line together since they were rookies.

While each player is special individually, “the Twins” have such intense chemistry that together they make something greater than the sum of its parts.

Boudreau’s line blending prevents this type of beneficial chemistry from forming. This may be preventing the team from reaching its full potential.

We’ve seen a couple of successful line combinations just recently: The second line of BeleskeyKeslerEtem, and the third line of CoglianoRakellSilfverberg both saw success very recently, but were broken up last night against Vancouver.

This New Year, let’s hope that the Ducks coaching staff can allow chemistry to flourish within the lineup.

Fix the Powerplay

Many people resolve to fix the way they treat others in the New Year. The Ducks should resolve to fix the way they move the puck on the powerplay, which has been chugging along at an abysmal 16.0%, 21st in the league.

While the powerplay has been hurt by the loss of key players, like Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin and Kyle Palmieri, the problems with the power play unit run deeper than the cogs in the machine. The problem is in the machine itself.

When you look at some of the more perennially successful power play teams in the league, quick efficient puck movement is the name of the game.

For example, The Washington Capitals are a team that seems to constantly lead the league in power play conversion. This year, they’re ranked fifth in the league, converting on 23.8% of their chances.

The Caps have some good players on their extra-man unit, to be sure. They have a solid defenseman manning the point in Mike Green. They have a world class passer in the center of the ice in Nicklas Backstrom, and they have a hard shot from the circles from Alexander Ovechkin. We saw the Caps’ impressive unit at work last March in Anaheim:

The Ducks have similar components, with Sami Vatanen running the point, Ryan Getzlaf dishing the puck, and Ryan Kesler hovering near the left faceoff dot, waiting to be set-up.

The difference between the two teams seems to be the way they move the puck. The Capitals pass the puck quickly and purposefully, forcing opposing defenses to collapse around the puck and leaving players (like Ovechkin) open for deadly scoring chances.

When the Ducks are at their best, they play this way too. But far too often, the Ducks’ system is far too passive. Players hang onto the puck for too long, allowing defenses to close off shooting and passing lanes that may have been there if they had acted just a moment sooner.

The longer the Ducks hang onto the puck, the easier it is for opposing penalty kill units to disrupt their play, gain possession, and clear the zone.

The Ducks should resolve to improve their powerplay in the New Year, as part of an effort to improve their offense overall, which has yet to eclipse the success of last year’s 1st ranked offensive unit.

Well Deserved Rest

Reducing stress and getting more time for relaxation seems to be a popular New Year’s resolution. On the Ducks, nobody deservs a little R&R more than goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Following injuries to backup John Gibson and third-string Jason LaBarbera, Andersen was forced to make twenty consecutive starts before finally being relieved by the freshly signed Ilya Bryzgalov on December 19 against Ottawa.

If you think this story sounds familiar, you wouldn’t be mistaken.

Dec 13, 2014; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen (31) makes a save during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Last year Jonas Hiller went through a very similar scenario, taking the brunt of the work after losing backup Viktor Fasth to injury in late October.

Despite playing brilliantly, and winning an incredible fourteen consecutive starts, Hiller struggled later in the year as fatigue set in.

Hiller’s declining play led to a goalie controversy of sorts just before the playoffs, and Hiller, Andersen, and rookie John Gibson fought for time in the crease.

With Hiller now in Calgary, and John Gibson now in Norfolk, the Ducks cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.

While the Ducks signed Ilya Bryzgalov with this in mind, there have been concerns about his conditioning, as he apparently had not skated since May, until he was signed by the Ducks in early December. Consequently, Bryzgalov performed poorly in his two appearances since being signed, including a six-goal night against the Ottawa Senators.

While Bryzgalov’s legs may not be back under him yet, it’s important that the Ducks still find a way to get Andersen some rest. If that means calling up one of John Gibson or Jason LaBarbera from Norfolk to start the second of back-to-back games, then so be it. If that means letting Bryzgalov go through a trial-by-fire of sorts, then so be it. The important thing to remember is that Andersen is rested and ready to go for a deep run into the postseason.

Thinking Long Term

Finally, New Year’s resolutions are traditionally short-lived. Come February, the gyms begin to look a little less crowded; the lines at Subway a little thinner; the resolve of resolution-makers a little weaker. However, it’s important for the Ducks to think long-term.

The Ducks should take a lesson from their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Kings: that is, in the grand scheme of things the regular season doesn’t matter all that much.

While setting regular season records and ensuring playoff position is nice, ensuring that the team learns the right lessons, gets into the right habits, and picks up momentum in time for the postseason is far more important.

At this point, the Ducks should be far more concerned with improving the way  they win games than how many they win.

The Ducks need to start to understand this. Starting a fatigued Frederik Andersen on the second night of back-to-backs may make short-term sense if you don’t trust backup Ilya Bryzgalov, but it could have long-term ramifications if Andersen is burnt out by April.

Juggling line combinations may make short-term sense if a player isn’t performing up to standards, but it could prevent long-term chemistry from developing.

Changing the way the power play operates may be difficult, and the unit might struggle at first, but over the long-term the team will improve because of it.

At this point, the Ducks should be far more concerned with improving the way they win games than how many they win.

Too often, the Ducks get away by the skin of their teeth, in games where by all accounts they don’t deserve to win by the way they’ve played. The Ducks should resolve to put together full 60-minute efforts in which they control play and relentlessly attack opponents, because that’s the kind of hockey they’re going to need to play in the postseason.

If the Ducks want 2015 to be the year they raise the Cup, they should resolve to look at the bigger picture.