As the calendar page has flipped to September, we are one step closer to the puck drop on the 2021-2022 NHL season. Back are the 82 games, fans in the stands, and a transition back to a new look Pacific Division for the Anaheim Ducks.
Gone are the Arizona Coyotes and the new Seattle Kraken take their place in what will be a new and exciting season. But with all the articles out there talking about this trade or that trade or doom/gloom on the horizon I believe it is time to swing the pendulum to the middle ground.
As fans of the Ducks, what are some realistic expectations for this coming season? Well here it is, and I promise it is much more positive than Twitter and other sites would have you believe.
The Anaheim Ducks Will Make the Playoffs
You heard it here first, and I will take all the accolades or all the nasty comments on this come April 2022, but yes, I believe the Anaheim Ducks will make the playoff field this season. As mentioned above, the Ducks return to the Pacific Division for this upcoming season. Gone is the Covid made Honda West Division and with it, the Colorado Avalanche, St Louis Blues, and Minnesota Wild are back to the Central Division.
They are also taking the Arizona Coyotes with them to allow the Seattle Kraken to slot in. So, the pre-Covid format and teams return. This means you need to be in the top 4 of your division to secure a playoff spot, and I believe the Ducks will do just that.
Yes, the Anaheim Ducks team that went 17-30-9 last season is exactly the same as the roster they will have this season (a fireable offense by Bob Murray there despite all his boasts about moving pieces, but I digress) and this time they will make the playoffs.
The reason I look to optimism here is the deeper numbers from last season. Of the Ducks, 39 losses, including OT/SO 19 of them were one-goal games. Roughly 50% of the Ducks losses were by a goal and 60% were by two goals or less.
Even with the young team and going up against arguably some of the best in the Western Conference in Vegas, Colorado, and St Louis, the Anaheim Ducks were not getting blown out in most of their losses. The results weren’t there but the on-ice play held its own more often than not.
Younglings Taking a Step Forward is the Extra Boost the Ducks Need
Those same players are also a year older and have more experience/know-how of what an NHL player needs to be. Max Comtois and Troy Terry took huge strides last season. As did the additions of Trevor Zegras.
All four of them should continue to take even bigger steps forward this year, and if players like Sam Steel and Isac Lundestrom can follow suit, and if Rickard Rakell can return to form along with a healthy Jakob Silfverberg. Add those to a Ryan Getzlaf that still has game, and despite his terrible contract, Adam Henrique will always put up points. And the forward group doesn’t look bad at all.
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Just like Zegras, Jamie Drysdale got thrown to the fire last season, and while the analytics may not say so, the eye test showed Drysdale belonged. (Yes, there is more to hockey than advanced metrics, but again, I digress). Bring back a healthy Hampus Lindholm along with Cam Fowler and Josh Manson, for however long he is still here, and the top 4 looks pretty good. And with the constant that is John Gibson, the back-end could be vastly improved from last year, although no one would fault Gibson for losing his mind that this is the same team as a year ago.
It is fair to just write this article off right from the start of knowing this team is the same as the one that finished 2nd to last in the league last year. However, with the young core taking the next step and looking at the division where I believe the Anaheim Ducks are better than the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, and Seattle Kraken at least.
And a battle between the Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, and LA Kings could land the Ducks in the post-season for the first time in a while. They may not be anything close to Stanley Cup contenders, but as teams have shown in the past, just get in and anything can happen. And next spring/summer I’ll be ready to care about playoff hockey for the first time in a long time with an orange-clad Honda Center ready to rock!
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