Anaheim Ducks: 5 Reasons to Remain Positive as 2021-22 Season Starts

Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

After a long summer hiatus, the NHL is back for another season and better than ever. That means the Anaheim Ducks are back on the ice. This year, the Western Conference has been realigned to its original standings, with the addition of the Seattle Kracken to the Pacific Division. With a new season ahead of us, there is new hope on the horizon that finally, the Ducks can break out of their slump.

With a clean slate, and hopes high, we’re going to take a look at five reasons why we should feel hopeful about the Anaheim Ducks season ahead. Some of these reasons are fantastical, while others are well-grounded. So, here we go.

1. The Race for 3rd

This year, the Pacific division got an uplift. Gone is the Canadian Division, which means, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver return to the Pacific division, rejoining LA, Anaheim, San Jose, and Vegas. The Seattle Kraken are open for business as well, rounding out the members of the newly formed Pacific division.

Outside of Vegas and Edmonton, who most believe are the prohibited top two teams in the division, there is a lot of talk as to who can claim the third spot in the Pacific division. With six teams competing for one spot in the division playoffs, there are a lot of questions hovering over the remaining teams.

Let’s start with the Canadian teams, Calgary and Vancouver. Last year, the Flames and Canucks both missed the playoffs. The Canucks finished last in the All-Canada division a year after surprising the NHL world by upsetting the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames finished fifth in the all-Canada division, missing the playoffs by four points. They too were another team that missed the playoffs after making the playoffs the year before. Their run was short-lived, after beating the Winnipeg Jets, the Flames flamed out against the Dallas Stars, the 2019-20 Western Conference champions.

This year, the Flames and Canucks are back, and they look to shock the world in the Pacific Division. For the Flames, Johnny Gaudreau leads the way along with Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk. Meanwhile, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Elias Petterson are the stars for the Canucks. With new additions on both sides, the Canucks and Flames look to take advantage of a wide-open Pacific division.

Next, are the Seattle Kraken, the new expansion team for the upcoming season. Their roster is a hodge-podge mix-up of players. While there are some noticeable faces on the team, there isn’t a noticeable star on the Kraken team. With Seattle being an unknown, there will probably be some time before we can judge them wholistically.

This leaves the California teams, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. In contrast to the Kraken, the Kings have noticeable faces on the team. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar lead the offense for the Kings as the alternate and team captains, respectively.

Of course, there’s Drew Doughty leading the Kings defense, and in net, future hall of famer, Jonathan Quick. They also have rising stars on the Kings roster, Adrian Kempe, Andreas Athanasiou “AA”, and Viktor Arvidsson, just to name a few. The Kings will have some offensive firepower heading into this season.

The Sharks are looming in the shadows. Long-time Sharks return such as Logan Couture, the Sharks team captain, former Anaheim Duck Andrew Cogliano, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson lead the group of Sharks from San Jose.

This leaves the home team, the Anaheim Ducks; Of course, you have to start with the captain, Ryan Getzlaf, Max Comtois, Adam Henrique, etc., on offense. Cam Fowler, Kevin Shattenkirk, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm lead a veteran Ducks defense. Of course, John Gibson holds it down in the net.

Now, with all the pleasantries laid out, I’ll give my explanation as to why I think the Ducks can compete for the third spot in the Pacific division. I don’t buy into the Canadian teams because I believe that outside of their stars, they’re overrated. Calgary in particular has shown that while they have the offense, they seem to fold when it matters the most.

With Seattle as an unknown, that leaves the Sharks, Ducks, and Kings remaining. I think it can come down to Anaheim and Los Angeles fighting for the third and fourth place spots in the division. The Kings have the veteran presence on all three fronts while the Ducks are being led by their mixture of veterans and young guns. In the end, I think it can come down simply to the annual Freeway Faceoff that can determine which team makes the cut. My preseason prediction for the end of season standings are the following:

1.     Vegas Golden Knights

2.     Edmonton Oilers

3.     Anaheim Ducks

4.     Los Angeles Kings

5.     Calgary Flames

6.     San Jose Sharks

7.     Seattle Kraken

8.     Vancouver Canucks

2. Bounce Back in Net

Over the last few years, John Gibson was considered by Ducks fans to be a Vezina caliber goaltender. The only reason he wasn’t getting the nod was because the Ducks weren’t good enough. This year, it all changes. I believe in a wide-open division, the Ducks will have better success against everyone else outside of Vegas.

I think John Gibson is due for a Vezina caliber season. I think he’s wanting to show the NHL world that he’s on par with the Vasilevsky’s and the Rinne’s of the world. If the Ducks are to be competitive, Gibson is going to be the reason why.

I also think Gibson’s backup will be Anthony Stolarz. Stolarz showed last year some reasons why he could take the mantle once Gibson is gone. He won several games for the Ducks, making save after save while on duty. If Stolarz is anything like last year, don’t be surprised if the Ducks will have fresh legs in goal.

In order for the goalies to have success, the Anaheim Ducks defense has to show their brute strength. Over the last few years, the Ducks have lost some of its’ bite. They were bullied by Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota last year which made the Ducks’ defense worse than they have been in years past. While Colorado and Minnesota have moved back to the Central division, Vegas is now accompanied by Edmonton, a thorn in the Ducks’ side.

Outside of the four Ducks’ vet D-men, guys like Josh Mahura and Jamie Drysdale need to show improvement to give the vets some time off the ice. While they possess raw talent, the Ducks’ young guns on D have to show patience and commitment to play stout defense to preserve Gibson and Stolarz.

3. Return of the Fowl

This is where I sway myself away from the play on the ice and into the stands. I do think that the fans being back at Honda Center will reinvigorate the Anaheim Ducks. While the players have to perform, the fans provide a presence that can’t be quantified.

There are also nationally televised games for the Ducks as well, which can give the national audience a chance to see the rebuild in full effect. Now, of course, that can mean the Ducks can lose and the whole world sees it and turns it off. I tend to see it differently. I think if the Ducks are competitive, that means there is hope for the near future.

So, my advice to all the fans is this. Don’t quit on this team when they go through the losing streaks. The young guys are learning to find their wings and that means there will be some growing pains. There will be duds and times where you’ll be shaking your head. If the Ducks don’t make the playoffs, it won’t be surprising.

What we need to see, what we want to see, is if the Ducks can be competitive. If they’re showing some fight and they won’t back down to the top teams in the league, then that is signs of life. As Hans put it best, let the young guys “Learn to Fly”.

4. The Young Guns Soar

Speaking of the young guns, I’m particularly confident that the young core of Ducks will lead them to greatness. Four of the young guns are all on the offensive side. Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Max Comtois, and Max Jones are the guys who I believe can lead the Ducks to new heights. Zegras, Terry, and Comtois have the potential to flashback to a familiar line in the 90’s-early 2000s of PK9-Teemu-Rucchin. Emphasis on the word potential.

While Comtois provides the brute force, he showed last year that he had the scoring touch. Meanwhile, Zegras and Terry showed flashes of speed when they were paired together. Together, the three of them can form a lethal scoring line. With Tracey and Jones added to the mix, the Ducks have plenty of young scoring guns that can lead the way.

I also have faith in the young guns on defense as well. Mainly I have faith in Jamie Drysdale. I know that people were down on him, but I think he can grow into a dependable defenseman. I also believe in Josh Mahura as well that he can show improvement heading into this season. If the young pair can show improvement this year, it can lower the amount of time that Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, and Shattenkirk have to spend on the ice.

Swan Song for the Anaheim Ducks Captain

Time doesn’t last forever and that goes for the Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. He’s entering his seventeenth year in Anaheim and has a hall-of-fame career. That said, Getzlaf may have only a few chances left before his career is over. After what he’s brought to the community in Anaheim on and off the ice, a perfect storybook ending would be the Ducks winning the Cup in his final year. If that doesn’t happen, at least getting to the playoffs.

If this is his final season, the one-million-dollar question is: who will be the team captain when he’s gone? Some people say it should be Cam Fowler, another long-tenured Duck. It can also be one of the younger guys that can take the torch from Getzlaf when he retires. Either way, Getzlaf is determined more now than ever to go out on his own terms and that means looking for a vocal, physical, and passionate Ryan Getzlaf this upcoming season.

dark. Next. Predicting the 2021-22 Season Leaders

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