Over the span of six weeks, we’ll be taking a quick look at each of the 30 NHL clubs — examining their major storylines, pivotal players and the most important questions they need to answer heading into the 2016-17 season.
By the time we’ve hit every team, it will be mid-September. And that, of course, means it will be time for training camps to open. Perfect timing, really.
Today, we begin week four with the Anaheim Ducks…
For the first time in three years, the Anaheim Ducks failed to make it out of the opening round of the playoffs. And, for awhile there in the first half, it looked like they might miss out on the postseason completely.
Then Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry got going, Rickard Rakell erupted for 20 goals and John Gibson took over in net.
When the dust settled, the Ducks had actually won the Pacific. Again. It was their fourth consecutive division title, but it ended in disappointment, as they were bounced from the first round by Nashville in seven games.
Considering where they were sitting in December, that wasn’t the worst ending to the season. Taking into account that Anaheim had legitimate Cup aspirations last summer, however, paints a more bleak portrait of the year as a whole. And that was ultimately enough to cost Bruce Boudreau his job.
So which new voice did the Ducks bring in to shake things up behind the bench? Why, Randy Carlyle of course. And yes, that would be the same Randy Carlyle who coached the team from 2006 through 2012.
So much for a new voice.
Carlyle was there when the organization won its one and only Cup though. And with considerable talent still percolating on this roster, the front office hopes he can pull the right strings again, just ten short years later.
Is John Gibson ready for a full season as the clear No. 1 between the pipes?
Based on his previous play with Kitchener, Norfolk and even a little time in San Diego, Gibson’s breakout 2015-16 campaign hardly qualifies as a surprise. Anaheim had been expecting this for awhile now, and the Pittsburgh native delivered on his potential in a big way.
The 23-year-old netminder started 38 games, notching 21 wins, while posting an impressive 2.07 goals against average and 0.920 save percentage. He even earned a trip to the All-Star Game as a reward for his efforts.
Now he’s the main guy in town.
Frederik Andersen routinely formed the second half of a pretty reliable goalie tandem with Gibson, but he’s off in Toronto. Meanwhile, Jonathan Bernier is suddenly in the mix, as a competent backup. But this is clearly Gibson’s crease now, meaning he’ll have to repeat what he just did over 38 starts — except he’ll probably need to do it for about 60 or so now.
NOTABLE SUMMER LOSS
Frederik Andersen (to TOR)
For all the reasons laid out above. The Ducks needed to restock the prospect pool, so getting a first and second rounder filled a notable need. And, in theory, they traded from a position of strength. Gibson sure looks like the sort of guy who will do just fine with the added responsibility, but nothing is guaranteed until he actually goes out and does it.
Nick Ritchie (drafted: No. 10 overall in 2014)
If you were casting for a hockey movie and looking for a power forward, Ritchie would fit the bill pretty well. Standing 6’2″ and weighing in at 232-pounds, he can throw his weight around in the corners or in front of the goalie, while still possessing enough skill and skating ability to get the puck into the net.
Anaheim has a history of finding success with big forwards who can grind out some good offensive numbers. And Ritchie seems poised to be the next one in line.
BIGGEST CAP HIT
Corey Perry ($8.625 million)
Here’s the list of NHL players that have scored more goals than Perry since the start of the 2010-11 season: Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos.
That’s it. At 31 years of age and coming off a 34-goal campaign, he’s well worth the money. For now, at least.
FREE AGENT TO KEEP AN EYE ON
This one’s a little more pressing than someone who could potentially become a free agent next summer — Lindholm is an unsigned RFA right now.
There isn’t exactly an overabundance of 22-year-old, well-rounded defensemen who can impact the game on both ends of the ice around the NHL right now. And Lindholm is loved by the pro-analytics crowd, only driving his value up that much further if he were to ever hit the open market. The Ducks obviously don’t want that to become an issue at any point, if they can avoid it.
After getting bought out by an Arizona team that has a wealth of young center prospects coming up through the system, Vermette landed about 350 miles west. And the 34-year old still has something to offer.
Yes, he started slowly last season — partially because he was dealing with an injury that ultimately snapped his iron man streak at an unreal 482 consecutive games played. He picked it up in the second half of the year though, particularly when he was skating alongside Alex Tanguay.
Obviously, Tanguay isn’t in Orange County. But Anaheim is barely paying Vermette anything, so the counting stats will almost be a bonus. What the Ducks are banking on is a good locker room guy who can still score in key situations (see: the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals) and just happens to be one of the best faceoff guys in all of hockey.