After thinking about their disappointing exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, the Anaheim Ducks are getting ready to report to training camp for the 2016-17 season.
Make no mistake about it, the Ducks are a team with question marks. Opening night in October will mark the beginning of Randy Carlyle’s second stint as head coach of the franchise, while the team has handed the starting goaltender reins to someone who has just 62 career starts under his belt and there’s still questions about how the Ducks will bounce back from that aforementioned early postseason exit.
But not all is cloudy in Anaheim. Judging by recent history, we can already say these things are “safe bets” for the Ducks heading into the 2016-17 season.
Their scorers will bring the offense
The Ducks have issues they need to iron out in training camp, but their offensive stars are going to be some of the least of their worries.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf and fellow forward Corey Perry are both entering their 12th season with the organization — the only club either player has known — and they’re still arguably the most dynamic duo in the league.
Getzlaf appeared in 77 games last season and posted 63 points (13-50—63), while Perry played in all 82 of Anaheim’s regular season games last year and notched 62 points (34-28—62). Despite the combined 125 points though, this was actually a drop in production for both players. Perry’s offensive production dropped from 82 points in 2013-14 (his last full healthy season) to 62 points last season, while Getzlaf’s dropped from 87 to 63 in the same span.
Furthermore, Getzlaf only registered an assist during the Ducks’ very sluggish October last season while Perry had just three assists in the same amount of time.
The duo should bounce back this season and at the very least post numbers similar to the ones they had last season, but scoring isn’t an issue with the Ducks, especially when you add in Ryan Kesler, who is a top-line player in his own right, and Antoine Vermette, who is looking to regain his scoring touch in Anaheim.
Gibson will have help
Since making his NHL debut with the Ducks back in the 2013-14 season, goaltender John Gibson has shown flashes of being an everyday starting goaltender in the big leagues, and now he’ll get the chance to show what he can do with former Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen now in Toronto.
With a career 37-21-4 record in 66 NHL appearances, there’s little doubt on whether Gibson has earned this opportunity to start, but there’s a lot of questions about his immediate future. Can he handle the responsibilities of being an everyday starting goaltender? Can the 23-year-old handle the pressure of playing for a team that is pushing hard to make a deep run through the postseason?
But one question that won’t need to be asked is whether he’ll get support from his defense in his first season as a starter.
The Anaheim “D” was arguably as good as any team’s last season, having surrendered a league-low 192 goals. The Ducks’ roster also features some dynamic defensemen like the up-and-coming Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa and the young Hampus Lindholm (who is currently a restricted free agent).
If Gibson struggles between the pipes this upcoming season it might have little to do with the guys in front of him.
They’re a playoff team
After a quiet offseason that didn’t produce a lot of big changes and a revisit to Carlyle’s coaching philosophy, there’s some who are wondering just how good will the Ducks really be this season, but it’s a safe bet to say this team will be in the postseason come April.
When we last saw the Ducks they were a dejected and shellshocked bunch, but let’s not forget what the makeup of the roster looks like. As previously mentioned, this team still has elite scorers, a strong defense and it’s very likely that Gibson will round out to be a very strong starting goaltender for this group.
Just how far they’ll go is the real question.