The Anaheim Ducks have gotten so close and fallen short, but they will reset and hope for change in 2018.
The Ducks have had an incredible run of regular season success, but have yet to turn that into a Stanley Cup championship. In the past five seasons Anaheim has won the Pacific Division title eclipsing the 100 point mark in four of the five seasons (2012-13 was the lockout shortened season). After retooling the lineup in the offseason, Anaheim hopes to finally capture the franchise’s second Stanley Cup in 2018.
In terms of goal scoring, the Ducks have a variety of options. As it has been since they first broke into the league over a decade ago, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are the powerhouse of the Ducks’ offense. Getzlaf, 32, lead the Ducks last season with 15 goals and 73 points in 74 games. Despite getting into his early 30s, Getzlaf is still a force in the NHL and one of the more underrated players. Although rarely appearing on the league’s highlights, Getzlaf consistently puts up 60-80 points while dominating in the playoffs. If there’s a reason why the Ducks haven’t gotten back to the Stanley Cup Finals, it certainly isn’t Getzlaf.
On the other hand, Corey Perry is looking to have a bounce back year in 2018. Despite finishing third on the team in points, Perry finished the 2017 season with his worst goal scoring total (19) since the 2009-10 season (excluding the 2012-13 lockout season). As the second best goal scorer in Ducks history, behind only Teemu Selanne, I’d be surprised if Perry doesn’t rebound to his usual 30-40 goal range next season. Couple these two players with Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and the newly extended Patrick Eaves, the Ducks should have no problem scoring goals.
As for defense the Ducks have one of the best cores in the National Hockey League. Anaheim with the third least goals scored against them last year (197) and will have it mostly intact next season. With the Expansion Draft looming, it looked as if the Ducks would lose one of their key defensemen to the Vegas Golden Knights. However, General Manager Bob Murray had to make a difficult choice trading Shea Theodore to the Golden Knights so that Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee would select Clayton Stoner instead of someone such as Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson. Despite Theodore having high potential, Bob Murray viewed his present defensive core higher than a player who doesn’t have a lot of experience in the NHL.
Speaking of present defensive core, Bob Murray locked up one of the Ducks’ best defensemen, Cam Fowler, to an eight year contract extension with average annual value of $6.5 million. Fowler, 25, has been with the Ducks since his rookie season in 2010 where he tallied 10 goals and 40 points. Since then Fowler has remained one of Anaheim’s most consistent defensemen and a major piece of their lethal backend. Although his numbers may not jump out at anyone, consistently putting up 40 points a season while playing a strong two way game makes him one of the more valuable defensemen in the National Hockey League. Fowler along with Vatanen, Lindholm, Manson and Montour all bring in one of the league’s best defensive cores at 25 years or younger (excluding Kevin Bieksa). With much of the core locked up for at least the next three years, the Ducks have time on their side.
Goaltending is something that had been in question for the Ducks for the last few years. However, after last season, there are no more doubts that John Gibson can be the starting goaltender. After starting 40 games in 2016, Gibson elevated his game starting 52 games compiling a 25-16-9 record with a 2.22 GAA and .924% save percentage. At 24 years of age and a cap hit of $2.3 million for two more years, Gibson has no where to go but up and with the stacked team in front of him, he should continue to have success.
Although the starting position is locked up, the Ducks made an interesting choice signing Ryan Miller to a $2 million 2 year contract. Miller, 37, had spent the past 3 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks where he had frankly, under performed. Although Miller did play with the Canucks who finished towards the bottom of the league, there is some concern for signing a 37 year old backup goalie to a 2 year contract. Last season Miller finished accumulated a 18-29-6 record with a 2.80 GAA and .914% save percentage. His numbers should bounce back up with the Ducks, but hopefully there is enough left in the tank to help Miller put more wins on his stat sheet.
PREDICTION: Regardless of the fact that the Pacific Division has gotten stronger with the improvements of the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks should still easily finish in the top 3. Who knows, with the level of production on this team a sixth straight division title is certainly not out of the question.