Turning those Scoring Woes Around
There’s no real way to beat around the bush in terms of scoring. The Ducks have been a below-average scoring team for a long while, to the point that their playoff runs of but a few years ago, primarily came on the backs of a strong defensive effort. That dearth of scoring has only reached a gloomier stage this previous season.
In some ways, the acquisition of Shattenkirk on defense offers up some hope with regards to revitalizing an anemic powerplay. His performance last season with Tampa was clearly stronger on the powerplay than it was at even strength. It will remain up to Dallas Eakins to make that work in Anaheim.
However, we can assume a slight uptick in production from the blue line should occur in that department. Similarly, it seems likely that a slight uptick in even-strength scoring could come about as a result of Shattenkirk’s smooth skating and handy puck distributions.
However, that single acquisition cannot lift a teams scoring from near the bottom of the league into the top half. It’s been mentioned before that the Anaheim Ducks forward group is one of the oldest in the league and one of the least productive. Last season the Ducks had a small fleet of 40-point scorers who flittered around the 65-game mark.
On a pro-rata basis, we’d be looking at potentially three high 40-point to low 50-point producers and a mid-40-point producer. These are nice numbers, yet they’re totals that are most often attributed to the supporting cast placed around the team’s stars, rather than the driving force of a team’s offense in their own rights. The fifth highest scorer, Ondrej Kase, is no longer on the team, having been traded at last seasons trade deadline, and the sixth-highest scorer, Sam Steel, scored most of his points alongside that traded player.
Thus, it should be expected that Murray may not be done remaking the team for next season. Certainly, there will be expectations that certain players will step up from last season’s step back. Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones, Maxime Comtois, Sonny Milano, and Danton Heinen, will all be asked to increase their scoring output. Though whether they are all part of the NHL team at one time is unlikely. There simply isn’t enough room for all of them, and Murray has highlighted that the rebuild is over and thus growing pains attributed to young players developing may not be acceptable any longer.
Thus, it’s worth mentioning that their futures are in Murray’s hands. Does he believe that the above-mentioned group will develop into consistent scorers on a nightly basis, at least enough to push the Anaheim Ducks into the middle part of the league? It’s worth noting here, that the Ducks sat 35-goals shy of the 15th placed Winnipeg Jets and 42-goals short of the 10th placed Las Vegas Knights team.
Bringing Derek Grant back as a free agent is not enough to bridge that gap, given he already finished the season as the Ducks 7th highest scorer. So how much rope will this young group get to develop their scoring acumen? Will they get significant game time in one particular role, or will they be routinely shuffled in and out of the team, and up and down the lineup, in short order?
It may seem silly to say, but relatively recent acquisition Daniel Sprong was often tasked with defensive assignments on the 4th line as well as scoring on the top line when he was sporadically moved in and out of the NHL team. It’s no way to develop consistency. Will we see more of the same?