Ryan Getzlaf’s amazing NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks will be over before we know it. It’s time to start thinking about grooming his replacement.
Over the past 14 seasons, the Anaheim Ducks have been spoiled by the solid leadership and raw talent of their captain and first-line center, Ryan Getzlaf. However, all good things must come to an end. While Getzlaf certainly still has a few years left in his tank, the 33-year-old seems to be coming to terms with the fact that his role with the franchise is changing.
In his recent exit interview, when addressing the coaching changes in Anaheim, he exuded much wisdom about his future, and the future of the younger players, with the Ducks. He, more than anyone else, knows that his years with the organization are numbered as father time begins to catch up to him,
"“I don’t think the new coach is being brought in to coach me I’m I’ve been here a long time and obviously my years are numbered at the end.” -Ryan Getzlaf, 2018-19 Exit Interview"
With that being said, it’s time for the fans, and especially the Anaheim Ducks organization, to come to the same conclusion as Getzlaf himself. The day he hangs up his skates will definitely be a somber one for Ducks Nation and the franchise as a whole. However, they cannot go into this situation being led by blind faith that Getlzaf’s replacement will show up eventually. Now is the time for them to start their search and begin the process of grooming his successor.
Is Sam Steel the Next Ryan Getzlaf?
Going into the 2018-19 season, 21-year-old Sam Steel was one of the most highly touted prospects in the Anaheim Ducks system. However, his performance during his first stint with the big club left much to be desired. In hindsight, the entire team was a train wreck at the beginning of the season.
Prospects such as Troy Terry and Max Jones became the more popular prospects as the season went on. Both had grown in their confidence while down in San Diego and Bob Murray had given them the chance to prove themselves later in the season, and neither of them disappointed.
While Steel had also spent the season growing, developing, and becoming more confident under the leadership of San Diego Gulls coach, Dallas Eakins, there wasn’t much opportunity for him to earn his second call up of the season.
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After Ryan Getzlaf sustained yet another injury, Steel finally earned the call up he, and Ducks Nation, had been waiting for. After a difficult start to the season, Steel put on an incredible show during his second stint with the Anaheim Ducks. The most impressive moment was when he scored his first NHL hat trick, becoming the youngest rookie in Anaheim Ducks history to score a hatty. Not only was he the youngest rookie to record a hat trick for the Ducks, but he is now one of only three players to complete a hat trick with a penalty shot goal.
Steel only has 11 points in 22 games with the Anaheim Ducks, which isn’t a lot. However, he finished just two points below Troy Terry who played 10 more games during the season. He also produced more points than Corey Perry, who played 9 more games. If he had played the full season, Steel likely could have had a 40+ point season.
Is he the next Ryan Getzlaf? No. He is the first Sam Steel. He may possess similar qualities to Getzlaf, but Steel will follow a path all his own. The good news is, with there being big question marks surrounding Ryan Kesler‘s return next season, the likelihood that Steel will have a full-time spot with the big league looks good. Where he will slot in is still uncertain, however, this will give him the opportunity to grow and learn from the best, Ryan Getzlaf, night after night.
Finding a Gem in the 2019 Draft
Many fans doubt Sam Steel’s ability to take over the role as a dependable first line center, and having that opinion is okay. With only 22 games to his name, and starting the season off on the wrong foot, it’s hard to judge whether he could have tremendous success on the first line or not. There is a big possibility that he only reaches his full potential as a reliable second line center.
It is up to Bob Murray and the coaching staff to make that call, however. If they believe that Steel isn’t ready to take on that responsibility, it’s time that the Anaheim Ducks organization think critically about who they take in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Kirby Dach is said to have a style very reminiscent of Ryan Getzlaf. If he stays on the board when the Ducks draft 9th overall in June, passing up the opportunity to draft him would be a huge mistake. While players like Dylan Cozens, Alex Turcotte, and Peyton Krebs could be off the table, the same goes for them as well. If there’s an opportunity to draft one of them, the Ducks should not hesitate.
Waiting is not an Option
Whoever the organization relies upon to take on the responsibility of being next in line for Getzlaf’s job, we should have confidence in their decision. However, it is imperative that they do not wait until the last minute to start grooming one of their prospects for this position.
Bob Murray has made it clear that he does not want to make the mistake of throwing a player into the NHL before they are ready and have had the opportunity to develop fully. He made that mistake with Cam Fowler, and while he has fared well, he could have been a lot better had he been given the chance to develop more.
The future is now, and Ryan Getzlaf cannot hold his post forever. Eventually, father time will catch up with him and he will need to consider retirement. He even seems willing to take that step back while he is still on the team, which could indicate that he has an idea of who is ready and who is not. Besides, allowing Getzlaf’s “replacement” to learn under Ryan Getzlaf himself will ensure that the first line center role and the future of the Anaheim Ducks is in good hands.
Who do you think Ryan Getzlaf’s successor should be? Do you believe Sam Steel is ready or are you hoping the Anaheim Ducks strike gold in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.