Naturally given there are only so many roster spots to go around, some players will miss out. Some of those players will be fan favorites. Without going into too great of detail, some potential trajectories are outlined below.
Carter Rowney: As harsh at it may be to Rowney, he isn’t likely to be a big part of the Ducks future. Certainly not at the expense of some of the younger players who will be expected to grow into future playoff contenders. Thus for the moment, Rowney becomes the Ducks 13th forward. Defensively responsible and capable of playing the all-important center position, Rowney is the perfect guy to sit on the bench until needed. In order to keep him in game shape, it would behoove Coach Eakins to play him on a semi-regular basis. Perhaps switching in and out of the team with Derek Grant or even the younger Devin Shore.
Maxime Comtois: At this stage of the season, there doesn’t appear to be a readily available roster spot for him in the top 9 forward groupings. Although a trade can happen at any time and open one up. However, for a younger player who, while posting strong offensive numbers, had abysmal underlying metrics, a season in professional hockey (the AHL) could pay dividends. There is no rush to push Comtois forward, and keeping him down is likely to help the Ducks financial situation going forward as well, as his contract will remain relatively cheap.
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Nicolaus Deslauriers: I mention him here only due to the Ducks giving up an asset to acquire him, and that the Anaheim Ducks will be going with a large youth contingent and the GM Bob Murray is as old school as it gets. Realistically Deslauriers will play games for the Ducks, but he won’t help them, won’t be part of the future, and will actively make them worse each time he steps foot on the ice. The data doesn’t support the use of enforcers as a deterrent, nor does it come close to suggesting that icing an enforcer will reduce injuries (to the contrary, they actually increase). Of course, the purists of hockey will appreciate him interrupting the hockey game for a poorly skilled fight, and won’t mind the Ducks lowering their overall skill level and chances to win games. My best guess is that he plays 30-40 games on the season.
Jani Hakanpaa: It might seem out of place to have the fresh new signing out of Finland out of the team, however, being new on North American ice may resign him to the AHL for the short term. Certainly, his size and reach are notable, as well as being a right-handed shot (which would allow the Ducks a right-left combination on all three pairings.) For this reason, It’s likely that Hakanpaa is the Ducks first choice call up in case of injuries throughout the season.
It could even be a consideration to play him in Del Zotto’s spot for a number of games to get him acclimated to the game. Playing on his off-wing may present some challenges there, but it would also allow him to intercept passes and interrupt passing lanes with a little more ease. That particular pairing with Manson would also provide a very large blue line to counter-balance the small forward group, that that pairing is currently locked in with. At 27 years of age, they’ll want to see what he has to offer sooner than later, but there’s no rush to push him to jump just yet. Anaheim Ducks fans will definitely see him at some stage.
Brendan Guhle: Quickly a fan favorite, Guhle presented positively while paired with Cam Fowler in a small sample, last season. At this stage, I believe that the current lineup presents the best opportunity to develop players and systems, however, Guhle could force himself into the lineup as the season progresses. This may be due to Larsson not panning out, or him presenting solid enough numbers to rejig the defensive pairings. Until that time, however, I would presume that logging a high TOI in the AHL, and being the Ducks second choice call up option in the case of injury would suit him well. Playing a high number of youthful players is a balancing act, and unfortunately for Guhle, Larsson has a longer history with the present coach and the forwards are all more highly touted.
While only a sample of the potential combinations that Coach Eakins could employ, the above hopefully provides some ideas for what the Anaheim Ducks may be expected to do. While there are certain methods, such as using wins above replacement, that may produce stronger lines or units, I believe that as a rebuilding team the Ducks should be focused on concepts.
Yes, they play in the Pacific Division, which means they could easily end up in the postseason, yet they shouldn’t be considered a Cup fancy. That will take some years, as the current young crop gain experience. What better way to gain that experience and time, than by developing a number of new systems and combinations?
The Anaheim Ducks have a lot of options they can explore as far as lineups this season. Do you agree with the possible combinations discussed in this article, or do you have a different idea? Let us know in the comments below and leave us your line combinations as well!