After a tough start to the season, the Anaheim Ducks battled back and did what they always do. The Ducks had a terrific second half of the season and found their way into the playoffs. While they didn’t win the Pacific Division for the first time in five seasons, they still opened the playoffs with home ice advantage. It didn’t matter, as San Jose beat them easily in a four game sweep that wasn’t even close.
There are questions in Anaheim now. Can this core group go on another run? Is Ryan Kesler’s career over? Is it time to rebuild after a decade plus of stability in Orange County? Bob Murray has questions that he must answer as the off-season gets underway.
Another 100 point season, another spring with home ice advantage in the playoffs. The Ducks battled after suffering some major injuries and deserve a ton of credit for keeping themselves in the race. They had their typical second half, putting together torrid stretches and passing teams, before settling in as the second seed in the Pacific in the final days of the season.
The Ducks looked slow, however, and were easily over-matched by the Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs. The Ducks could not keep their composure, they didn’t have the speed or depth of the Sharks and they simply didn’t have enough offensive pop to compete. They looked, for a lack of a better term, bad.
That said, the Ducks weren’t a bad team in the regular season, and you have to think they have enough to get back to the playoffs in the spring of 2019 … unless they change course that is.
Rickard Rakell is the best player you probably haven’t heard of in the NHL. He posted 34-35-69 in 77 games for the Ducks this past season and was by far their most consistent player. He brings speed, skill and defensive awareness to the table. At just 24-years old, he’s a player that should be a core piece for the Ducks for the long haul. That’s good news for a team with an aging core.
Ryan Getzlaf may be aging, but he can still play. Getzlaf only played in 56 games this past season, but posted 61 points (11-50-61) and dominated at times. He’s getting up there in age (32) and I’m not sure how much he has left in the tank, but he put together another good season in 2017-18 and is a good bet to do it again in the upcoming season.
John Gibson, in my opinion, is the best goaltender in the Pacific Division and is very underrated. He’s had injury issues during his career, but he still appeared in 60 games this past season. Gibson’s save percentage of .926 is very strong, and I thought he kept the Ducks in the race early. He’s a franchise goalie in my estimate, and at 24 will only get better.
Pieces To Build With:
The Ducks don’t have a dominate force like Getzlaf and Perry their primes coming up, but Rakell is a quality player and a good piece to build with. Ditto for 26-year old winger Jakob Silfverberg, 27-year old center Adam Henrique, 21-year old winger Ondrej Kase and 21-year old winger Nick Ritchie. Defensively, the Ducks are set for the long haul with Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Brandon Montour, Hampus Lindholm and Marcus Pettersson locked and loaded.
Of course, Gibson has the Ducks covered long-term in goal, and should give the team a chance to win every night he is out there. As countless goalies have proven in the past, sometimes that is all you really need.
Anaheim has a really strong defensive base to build with and some nice pieces up front, but I don’t see a difference maker like some of the other teams in the division have. Luckily Getzlaf should still be good to go in the fall.
I liked what Anaheim did at the draft, selecting center Isac Lundestrom 23rd overall and Benoit-Olivier Groulx 54th. They needed to add to their forward cupboard, and they did that in Dallas over the weekend. Lundestrom and Groulx are classic Duck picks.
Figure out a direction. Bob Murray must ask himself if he thinks this team can compete for the Stanley Cup next spring, or if it is time to go out and get a little younger, retooling on the fly. This team simply isn’t bad enough to tank, but I’m not sure they are good enough to be a real player either.
If the Ducks are trying to compete next season, they need a top-nine center to replace Kesler, an NHL defender and a bottom-six forward or two.
The Ideal Off-Season:
- Sign C Tyler Bozak to a three-year deal ($3,750,000 per season)
- Place Ryan Kesler on LTIR
- Sign F Anthony Duclair to a one-year deal ($1,000,000 AAV)
- Sign D Joe Morrow to a one-year deal ($950,000 AAV)
- Re-sign F’s Antoine Vermette, Ondrej Kase, Derek Grant and Nick Ritchie, and D Brandon Montour
Rickard Rakell – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Tyler Bozak – Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie – Adam Henrique – Ondrej Kase
Anthony Duclair – Sam Steel – Troy Terry
Antoine Vermette, Derek Grant
Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson
Cam Fowler – Brandon Montour
Marcus Pettersson – Jacob Larsson