The Anaheim Ducks Already Have Shutdown Wingers
With a number of directions they could work towards, given the Anaheim Ducks current centers in the system, the planning towards what each line may be constructed to do may then be somewhat dictated by the wings in the organization.
For instance, on the wings, Troy Terry has underwhelmed as an NHL scorer in the combined three seasons he’s played in the NHL, yet has shown considerable growth in his defensive game. His play in transition makes him an offensive threat, yet his relatively weak shot and passing skills have a toothless feel.
Moving him into a bottom-6 role alleviates the pressure of him being a primary scoring option and allows him to focus on the defensive play he is so good at. The lower level of competition he would likely face may also open up his scoring abilities if he can capitalize. This would make him an incredibly useful, and even dangerous, player for the Ducks to ice on any given night.
Intrinsically, now that the “Terry as a top-6 scoring option” experiment is complete, it would seem that Terry is best suited to fit on a line with a player like Groulx who is himself a two-way threat. With both players showing good defensive chops at such a young age, they should easily be able to improve upon that and become a strong duo who can be asked to shut opposition forwards down.
While Groulx’s offensive game is currently uncertain in the NHL, he projects as a relatively strong scorer (PNHLe ranks him as a potential 2nd-liner), whereas Terry too has some attributes that are interesting transitioning the puck from defense to offense. The questions then are whether the Ducks have a third player who would compliment them and whether this duo would be better suited to a third- or fourth-line role.
Max Jones may be another who could be suited to this role on the opposite wing. Known in junior as a quick skating bull-at-the-gate style of scorer, Jones has failed to live up to his draft billing. The Anaheim Ducks as a franchise certainly need to take a lot of the responsibility for this, as they gave him minimal ice time in the top-6 and nearly nothing on the power play.
However, Jones himself didn’t do a lot to put himself on the map and demand that much-vaunted position. It can be said that Jones didn’t receive much puck-luck, and he did produce a relatively high number of rush attempts (only Henrique and Silfverberg remain of players who produced more). What Jones did manage to do was cement himself in the top few players on the Ducks roster with regards to preventing scoring chances.
As a result, the on-ice expected goals against ratio was heavily tilted in favor of Jones. Only Terry, of the regular skaters (and soon to be regular, David Backes, in his 6-game sample) presented superior metrics.
On a poor defensive team, these numbers may not mean too much, however it should be considered alongside Terry and Jones both being very young to be tasked with defensive assignments. It would be relatively rare for these types of players to supersede their veteran counterparts. This gives hope that, should they pursue this type of role, that they would eventually begin to excel at it, even amongst their older peers on more successful defensive teams.
What makes them dangerous is their ability to skate and put pressure on the opposition, as opposed to merely being a defensive unit. With Terry being very adept at shutting down opposition offensive forays and Jones being strong at generating rush attempts, a line with both would then provide the Anaheim Ducks with a potential shut down unit that should be competent enough offensively, to allow the coaching staff to spread minutes amongst the entire forward group.
Being able to manage minutes in the manner should then allow the top-6 forward group to reduce their in-game fatigue and produce better results as a greater number of games are played. Thus, while Terry and Jones individually may struggle to produce in line with the expectations placed upon them prior to reaching the NHL, their contribution to the team’s offense could still be significant.
Thus a two-way “fourth” line of Jones-Groulx-Terry is born. Some would say that this line is too good to be a traditional fourth line, and they’d be right. But we’re paving the way for Duck domination. If our best-laid plans fall through, then it’s nothing to acquire the standard 4th line plugs that flit about the league and move this line into a middle-6 role.