Defending the Defense
The acquisition of Shattenkirk stabilizes the Anaheim Ducks top 4 defensive unit. At least on paper. If we assume that Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are pencilled in as one of the pairings, then that leaves Cam Fowler to slide in with Shattenkirk. There are some question marks as to how exactly those four players will be mixed and matched, but it’s a reasonable hypothesis to work with for the time being.
In theory, the Lindholm-Manson pairing would provide the Ducks with a strong defensive unit when the situation calls for it. They struggled last season under Dallas Eakins tutelage, and indeed Manson has not particularly been an effective player over the past two seasons. That isn’t to say that he’s been a poor player, just that he’s not performed to the level he had in the few years preceding these last two.
At 29-years-of-age, it is not impossible that Manson gets his mojo back, though as age creeps up, it’s also worth considering that his past two years may be his new normal. Lindholm has well, had a poorer season last year, though he did improve as the season went on. At 26-years-of-age, I have fewer concerns that he’ll regain his form.
The Fowler-Shattenkirk pairing would appear to be a stronger offensively orientated pairing at first blush. Both are more renowned for their offensive games than their defensive acumen, though neither are slouches in that area.
In fact, there remains a lot of for Shattenkirk to essentially make the Ducks defense his own. If he can score at the same pace as he did this past season (40 points per 82 games), he would reach a mark that no Anaheim Ducks defenceman has hit since 2009-2010.
This is true of the power play as well, given that no Duck managed to score 10 power-play points this last season, and none have hit 20 points in the past decade. For all the hype the Ducks defense has gotten from its fans this past decade, they’ve truly underwhelmed in terms of transitioning defense into offense. It’s here that Shattenkirk can make his mark on the team.
How that gels with the current defensive group however is up for some debate. In particular, there should be some concerns as to whether Fowler will gel with Shattenkirk, as he’s seemingly had difficulties when paired with other mobile, offensive defencemen in the past. Sami Vatanen comes to mind as one player who played a significant volume with Fowler for mixed results.
On one hand, they contributed to absurdly high shot volumes in favor of the Ducks, yet on the other, goals-against increased while that pairing was iced as well. If John Gibson returns to his all-world form of years past, that goals against concern could be moot and void, leaving only the sweet goodness of seeing the Anaheim Ducks actually shoot the puck.
All four of these players are relatively young enough and have each made it as far as a conference final or two, so there’s oodles of experience in that top 4 group. The different play styles of both pairings, and indeed each of the players, gives the Ducks the ability to mix and match in that area of the ice to respond to whatever situation arises with each game.