After another strong regular season finish and an early first round exit, the Anaheim Ducks are setting their sights on the 2016-17 season.
The Anaheim Ducks finished the 2015-16 regular season with a record of 46-25-11 winning the Pacific Division title for the fourth year in a row. However, this was no easy task for the Ducks. The start of the season saw Anaheim desperate for goals and collecting a record of 1-7-2. They had a mid-season turnaround and with a hot streak of 20-4-2 between Christmas and February, catapulted themselves back to the top of the Pacific Division standings. After ending the season winning 6 of their last 10 games, the Anaheim Ducks began the postseason grind against the Nashville Predators. Despite gaining the series 3-2 lead after a Game 5 win, Anaheim was handed its fourth straight Game 7 loss as the Predators moved on to the second round. This resulted in the firing of head coach Bruce Boudreau and the rehiring of previous Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle.
Carlyle had previously led the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup Championship in 2007 and held a record of 230-155-49 from 2005 to his firing in 2011. Ducks general manager Bob Murray believes that Carlyle can help lead the club back to the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
“A proven winner and motivator, Randy has expertly managed the bench throughout his coaching career,” said Ducks general manager Bob Murray. “Our expectations are extremely high, and I believe Randy is the coach who can lead us to playoff success and our ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.”
Along with the coaching change, this Ducks team will look incredibly different on opening night compared to the team that played last season. For starters, Frederik Andersen was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 30th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. To fill Andersen’s spot, the Ducks traded for Jonathan Bernier to back up John Gibson. Despite having a poor year last season, he is still young and the change of scenery could help him significantly. The Ducks will also be without David Perron who returned to the St. Louis Blues and Chris Stewart who returned to the Minnesota Wild. Despite these losses, the Ducks still have plenty of talent to dominate the regular season and make the playoffs again.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are the backbone of the Ducks and will continue to dominate next season. Last season, Getzlaf recorded 63 points in 82 games including 50 assists, which was good enough to lead the team in points. Perry recorded 62 points in 82 games with 34 goals and the Anaheim will need to have him record similar numbers to ensure they stay atop the division standings.
With the lineup mostly finished, there are two remaining concerns for Bob Murray before the season begins. Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell both still need new contracts. With a little over $9.5 remaining in cap space, both deals should get done, but is just a matter of time. Rakell had a breakout year scoring 43 points in 72 games and finishing fourth overall in scoring. The 23 year old broke the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career and has incredibly high potential. Hampus Lindholm on the other hand had another consistent year with 28 points in 80 games finishing only behind Sami Vatenen for the most points scored by a defenseman. The Ducks will need to lock up both of these players long term and that is likely why the deals haven’t been signed yet.
The real X-factor for the Ducks’ success this season is their secondary scoring. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler will certainly put up big numbers, but the team will need more from its middle six if it wants to have another successful year. The loss of Perron and Stewart will certainly sting a bit, but the Ducks have plenty of talent to fill the holes. On top of the depth signings by Bob Murray, the Ducks will need a big season from Nick Ritchie specifically. Ritchie, drafted 10th overall in 2014, spent the season switching between the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls and the NHL. In his 38 games played with the Gulls, Ritchie recorded 30 points consisting of 16 goals and 14 assists. In his 33 games with the Ducks Ritchie amassed 2 goals and 2 assists. At 6’2″ and 232lbs he has the size to play in the NHL and will certainly get a good chance to make the opening night roster when training camp rolls around. Along with Ritchie the Ducks have prospects such as Shea Theodore and Stefan Noesen looking to make the full-time jump to the NHL as well.
PREDICTION: The Anaheim Ducks have had a lot of success in the regular season the past few years and they will continue to in 2017. They may not be a lock to win their 5th consecutive division title, but they’ll certainly be fighting for it and definitely finish in the top 3 of the Pacific Division.