The 2020 NHL Draft may be postponed, but now is the perfect time for the Anaheim Ducks to strategize. Tim Stutzle could be a surprising wildcard.
Hockey has gotten a little weird as of late. Unless you’ve completely tuned out to current events the past few months (I had a patient recently who had not heard about it yet, so yes, there are still a few out there shockingly enough), you’ll have known that the Anaheim Ducks season, and hockey as a whole, has shut down due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, there are rumors and the odd bit of water cooler talk that they’ll try to get things up and running, but the reality is that you can stick a fork in the 2019-2020 season. It’s cooked.
Hockey doesn’t have the draw ability to compete with summer sports. In places like California, the ice will be terrible should they go back. Who cares about going into a shortened playoff format, or playing a tournament style playoffs? It wouldn’t be the Stanley Cup and would forever have an asterisk next to the winners’ mark.
Even more concerning would be the risk to players who haven’t played in months or even likely trained with meaning and purpose. Going straight into a hard playoff series would wreak havoc on their bodies. Shortening the gap between a faux playoff and next season only increases the injury risk for next season.
More to the point, the current lockdowns are simply not going to be finished by then. Argue all you like that business will be back to normal by Easter, yet that doesn’t fit current projections, nor account for the multiple waves that may come with this pandemic before the mass production of a vaccine.
So putting aside the broken and shattered remains of the 2019-2020 season, what’s left to look forward to? The Anaheim Ducks themselves had a season to forget. After a hot start that may have led a few optimistic souls to get carried away, the rest of the league adapted and improved and the Ducks merely stayed the same.
The youth that they internally touted as future superstars and Calder contenders proved to be merely solid and unspectacular role players. They played to their draft positions. The coach that they hyped up so much before the season, was outcoached on a near-nightly basis.
Though one could argue was the lack of improvement in some players, and a clear decline in others, a result of the coach? Or was the coach held back by a lack of talent available? Whichever the reason, the Ducks fandom was not likely to be tuning in to the annual NHL awards ceremony, looking forward to a win, in any category.
For many, the remainder of the season was merely a countdown to the NHL draft lottery, and eventually the draft itself. For some, the continual loss of games produced light at the end of the tunnel. For even despite the draft being at the mercy of the lottery, a season without wins was likely to result in a top 5 draft selection, with the smallest chance of winning the lottery and sneaking into a superstar at the top of the draft.
For a time the Ducks started winning some games and it appeared that the Ducks would play themselves out of the chance to accrue a game-breaking talent, yet they were in part helped by their competitors actively attempting to rebuild their rosters with an eye towards the future. That’s not to say that the Anaheim Ducks didn’t rebuild their team at the trade deadline, just that their moves were made to maybe sneak into the playoffs in the near-to-middling future, and not to create a perennial cup contender in the middling-to-distant future.
Thus with the season over in everything but name, the Ducks sit at 27th in the league. Who knows what the league will do with regards to the draft lottery, and where that will leave the Ducks. My hypothesis is that should the Ducks creep up in the lottery into the 2nd or 3rd draft spot, that they’ll go for either Quinton Byfield or Jamie Drysdale, in that order. However, should they stay still in the 5th spot (with the Ducks luck that in itself may be a minor miracle), they would be ecstatic to select the jet from Germany, Tim Stutzle.