Finding Consistency in a Third Pairing
The third pairing and seventh defenceman are likely to be made up of Christian Djoos and one of the Ducks prospect group. There are a lot of questions regarding whether this is the right move for a team that has playoff fantasies. Josh Mahura and Brendan Guhle both showed glimpses of offensive potential over their young careers thus far, yet both have been dropped to the AHL team to work on their defensive play.
It’s certainly a high expectation to imagine the third pairing players would perform to a standard set by the top 4, however, they’ll need to be trusted for at least ~17 minutes a game, in order for the top 4 group to remain fresh and productive. There should be some doubts as to whether these two players can be those players reliably and consistently. After all, playoff berths are most often built upon the backs of consistently good-to-great efforts on a night-in, night-out basis.
Jacob Larsson would also appear to be set as one of the 5th-7th defencemen. He too has a number of question marks to his name, though I may be higher on his future than many. As a “defensive” defenceman, I think he has some way to go, but I think he could potentially be part of a solid 2nd pairing in the future. At 22-years-old he has time to realize that potential.
The question arises as to whether he’s good enough now to fulfil a third-pairing role and contribute enough minutes to warrant him being part of a team with playoff fancies. If we take last season as a jumping-off point, Larsson played the 3rd most minutes of all the Anaheim Ducks defencemen, yet ranked 9th for ice time per game. Only Korbinian Holzer and Josh Mahura played fewer minutes per game.
Keep in mind that the Ducks seem pretty happy with their top 4 players and that the Ducks were near the bottom of the league in terms of goals allowed as well as shots on net allowed. Thus a great deal of improvement will need to be seen from the 3rd pairing if the Ducks are looking to bounce back with a strong defensive effort next season.
I suspect, at least at first, that Murray and Eakins will stick with the Ducks’ current group. They signed Kodie Curran as an experiment of sorts and have a few younger players on the books who they should at least consider continuing to play.
However, should Curran not pan out or the younger players remain inconsistent in their efforts and prove unreliable in an expanded role (increasing their time on ice to ~16-17 minutes per game), then I imagine Murray will make a move to bring in a veteran who he believes can consistently play that role. It wouldn’t be a shock to imagine a trade being made in the near future, shipping either Guhle or Mahura away in return for a steady veteran to play with Djoos on the third pairing. After all, they can’t all play, the expansion draft is coming up, and the Ducks have some needs that may need to be met at some stage down the line.