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Anaheim Ducks 2013-14 Season Preview

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

While I was away, I wrongly put aside the contributions of others to the season previews. Stepping in for the Ducks preview is our lone contributor to the site, Pierre Canard.

2013 Recap
The Ducks pleasantly surprised their fans last year, while quietly compiling the second best record in the west last year, going 30-12-6. Riding the resurgent Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and an outstanding goaltending duo, Anaheim’s first complete regular season under Coach Bruce Boudreau was a success, with the Ducks winning the Pacific Division.

The Ducks entered the first round of the playoffs to face the Detroit Red Wings. To say there is a history between these two teams in the postseason is an understatement. Recent history(2006-07, 2008-09) had the winners eventually making it to the finals, and to put it bluntly, these teams don’t like each other.

This series was no different, with the series going to 7 games and the Red Wings advancing. Over the summer, the Ducks saw some major changes on the roster, but thankfully for them (and the entire league) Teemu Selanne returned to the team, as per norm, using a hilarious video, for his final season. How will the Ducks do? Let’s take a look.

Forwards
For the better part of the last decade, the Ducks have had one of the best duos in the NHL in Getzlaf and Perry, who both signed long term deals during last season. Longtime line mate Bobby Ryan was finally traded to Ottawa after years of speculation, with the Ducks getting highly touted prospects like Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen in return.

GM Bob Murray didn’t stop there, and brought back Dustin Penner on a 1 year deal, so I guess “Out with the old, in with the new old-er??” . The Ducks youth movement saw great improvement with Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem and Nick Bonino showing they will be big names in the organization sooner than later. Veterans like Dan Winnik, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano, and elder statesman Teemu Selanne round out the offense. Of note, Cogliano had a spectacular season  last year (13g, 10a), including a gutsy performance coming back into a game where he had his teeth knocked out, without missing a shift.

The Ducks seem to have a balanced attack, but it will depend on Dustin Penner finding his old groove with Getzlaf and Perry, a continued (and tangible show of) growth by the younger guys, and consistent contribution from Teemu Selanne and company.

Anaheim did struggle mightily in the face-off circle last year, and had power play issues at times too.  Hopefully the young blood helps with this, otherwise another early playoff exit may be in the cards. Anaheim lacks a gritty enforcer type, a role that Brad Staubitz could not fulfill, and this will be an issue in the rough and tumble West.

Defense
On paper, Anaheim has quite the capable defense. On paper. Last season, Francois Beauchemin had a Norris trophy level season, playing on a bad knee but putting up an outstanding 24 points (6+18) in 48 games, being a +19,  and playing lights out great hockey all season.  Despite having reconstructive surgery on his knee in the offseason, he has played  games this preseason and should be good to start.

As usual, Cam Fowler had a solid season, with Sheldon Souray providing welcome offense early in the season, before struggling defensively in the second half of the season, and Sheldon will miss a big chunk of the season this year, while recovering from an off season wrist injury. Ben Lovejoy, who the Ducks acquired for next to nothing (2014 5th round pick), was a revelation, playing as a solid 2nd pairing defenseman. Lovejoy earned a 3 year extension over the offseason.

Sadly, Luca Sbisa took a step back in his development(and was benched during the season for it) is also injured and doubtful for the seasons start, and Bryan Allan, who was brought in to be a defensive specialist, was at times a liability on the blue line. Dependable vet Toni Lydman chose not to return to the NHL, and at the time of this writing was rumored to be considering retirement. Anaheim rookie Sami Vatanen, small but a fantastic power play quarterback who we saw briefly last year will likely make the team out of camp, and could be joined by rookies Hampus Lindholm, a capable two-defender and absolute giant (6-6, 253lbs) Nolan Yonkman, a 32 year old player who finally seems ready to make the jump to the NHL. Journeyman Mark Fistric was signed when Souray’s injury was announced, and will provide the team a depth defenseman with NHL experience.

Goaltending
If there was ever a way to illustrate “embarrassment of riches”, Anaheim’s incredible depth in net would be the perfect example; Two great NHL #1 capable goalies in Jonas Hiller, and last season’s “rookie” surprise Viktor Fasth, two fantastic goalies in the AHL who are capable of being solid backups in Fredrik Andersen and Igor Bobkov, and American hero John Gibson, who probably makes the AHL team, and has time to develop into the sure fire #1 he will be eventually.

You might see Anaheim moving one of the NHL level goalies at some point this season, likely Hiller, but Anaheim fans would be content to ride out the duo this year.

The Hat Trick

1. Defensive Woes
Anaheim needs to solidify its defensive corps, in a hurry. At the rate things are going, the Ducks will not make it very far unless its defense stays healthy and every member contributes. Last season saw a big drop off between Fowler and Beauchemin, and with injuries compounding the already shaky situation, the gap on the blue line needs to be closed-quickly.

2. Who Scores the Goals?
Losing Bobby Ryan costs Anaheim a 30 goal a year guy. It is not impossible to expect Dustin Penner and Jakob Silfverberg to fill that void, but it isn’t reasonable to expect them to “hit it off” immediately. Further, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are not getting younger seeing their numbers trail off last season, and Andrew Cogliano’s season might have been an over performance and it might be a stretch to get the likes of Etem, Palmieri and Bonino to fill that void. It may be a return to the “score by committee” tactic next year. With Getzlaf and Perry now secure in long term deals,

3. Anniversary!
It’s TWENTY years of the Ducks this season! Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?  There’s the outdoor game versus Los Angeles in Dodgers Stadium,(ICMYI- that is in California… how can that possibly go wrong?). There is the throwback game where the team will pay tribute to the Original 93-94’ Mighty Ducks, and all sorts of celebratory things throughout the season. The Ducks have the opportunity to make a big splash on the national stage with the additional coverage; and hopefully capitalize on it. And, despite the fact that they are no longer the Disney team, who wouldn’t love a fairytale ending or Teemu’s career?

Prediction
Anaheim will be in the mix this year, assuming the defense holds up. Strong goaltending and a potentially lethal offense should offset initial defensive woes. Anaheim benefits from the re-alignment, and should feast on teams like Edmonton and Calgary, despite facing challengers like LA, San Jose and Vancouver. Third in the Pacific.

Must-Follow Ducks Twitter Feeds
I am Pierre Canard, and as usual, I thank the D.A.R.T. Board for the opportunity to post a piece.  Feel free to go at it with me on twitter @SargeTheDuck. Apart from shameless self promotion as “the Ducks fan to follow”, I would suggest you take a look at my buddy Kyle Nicolas  @ACKyleNicolas and the always in-the-know Eric Stephens (Anaheim’s beat writer) @icemancometh.

I’ll add to this. Follow along with the Battle of California’s Jer and former BoC writer Earl Sleek. That is, if you like humor, cartoons and profanity to go with your Ducks talk.

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Previewing the Ducks-Red Wings Series, with a Special Guest Host

In Hockey on April 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Today April 30, 2013 marks a special day in the history of this blog, as we are running our first ever guest piece. We here at The D.A.R.T. Board enjoy visitors, and joining us for a last minute preview of the Anaheim-Detroit series is the one and only Pierre Canard. As the only Ducks’ fan I have ever come in contact with, I had a moment of weakness when I asked Pierre to lend his thoughts to the Ducks’ first round matchup.

So boys and girls, without further ado, here is Pierre’s take on the Ducks-Wings series (which may not be as awesome as mine, which you can read here).

Anaheim started off hot and fast, posting an impressive record that was overshadowed by the Chicago Blackhawks historic streak. While the Ducks streak out of the gate went relatively unnoticed, the team comfortably “flew under the radar”, building up an impressive lead that, with the exception of a bit of a slide towards the end of the season, cemented the teams second Pacific Division title.

Detroit on the other hand, struggled out of the gate, (understandably so) in the Red Wings first season post-Lidstrom. The team saw the obvious lack of defensive depth exploited initially, and had struggled with injuries up front. Detroit closed out the season very strong, on the backs of Jimmy Howard, and the still reliable forward depth.

The teams faced off three times this season, with the road team always winning. Detroit won 2 games (back to back) in Anaheim, where the Ducks were outclassed.

I am obviously biased towards the Ducks, but the depth that Anaheim has had is something any team would desire. With 6 players with 10 or more goals, and even more depth throughout the line up, the Ducks are team that easily rolls 4 lines.Ryan Getzlaf (fresh off an extension) has returned to form, and the other omnipresent threats like Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry (who also re-signed with the Ducks), are complimented with pleasantly surprising performances from Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri. Defensively, this team is built very well, with Francois Beauchemin enjoying a career year, Sheldon Souray enjoying his own resurgence. Cam Fowler has been struggling with injuries this season, with solid depth further in the line up in Luca Sbisa, Toni Lydman and Bryan Allen rounding out the rotation. Ben Lovejoy, a mid season pickup was a revelation, has played his way into the lineup. The Ducks also enjoy a terrific depth in net, with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller posting 15 wins each.

Detroit has seen Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Val Filppula get support from younger blood in Dan Cleary, Justin Abdelkader and Damien Brunner in scoring, but beyond the top 6, this team struggles mightily in scoring depth. (However Jordin Tootoo is a constant threat to Anaheim’s sanity; in his time with the Predators he was a constant thorn in the Ducks side, and always got the Ducks off their game). Defensively, Detroit simply has no real threats beyond Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall. The drop off cannot possibly be expected to compete in a long series. Jimmy Howard looks to carry the load for the Red Wings.

My Take:

Detroit and Anaheim always have great playoff battles- Detroit stormed into the playoffs, while Anaheim did cool off towards the end of the season. Detroit’s hot streak worries me; this is a team that can still do damage despite the depth limitations. Jimmy Howard quietly has had another good year, and is capable of stealing games for his team. Anaheim’s depth is intimidating, and should be able to wear down Detroit over the series. This will make for some great TV, and I have Anaheim winning the series in 6 games.

I would like to thank the owners of this blog for the opportunity to post my incoherent thoughts on this series. Feel free to agree/disagree/stir up some arguments with me on Twitter @SargeTheDuck.

And there you have it! If you like Pierre’s take on the Ducks, follow him on Twitter because there’s plenty more where that came from. If you didn’t like it, tell me and I’ll be sure to let Pierre know on the 7th of Never.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Anaheim Ducks

In Hockey on September 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

Anaheim Ducks

A Look Back at 2010-11
The Ducks were able to jump back into the playoffs last year after a one-year hiatus. Anaheim was powered by the play of their top line of Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, as well as the stellar goaltending of Jonas Hiller. Adding on to that, the Ducks got a performance from Teemu Selanne that was absolutely vintage. The Ducks got off to a slow start, but powered through the West in the second half, and all the way to the four-seed in the first round of the playoffs.

However, they were dealt a major blow down the stretch, when Hiller was diagnosed with vertigo and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. The Ducks did lose their all-star goaltender, but they got a great effort from two goaltenders that had been in exile. Dan Ellis and Ray Emery eached played great down the stretch, but in the playoffs, the two faltered and the Ducks were badly beaten by a Nashville squad that lit up the Ducks’ defense throughout. But at the beginning of the year, I would have called you a fool if you wanted me to believe the Ducks would have grabbed the four-seed. Perhaps Hiller would have been a difference-maker in the playoffs, but we’ll never know. Grade: B+ (My expectations for them were much lower than where they finished.)

A Look Ahead to 2011-12

Corey Perry was a beast in the second half last year to push the Ducks into the playoffs

Forwards
The Ducks’ top line is back once again and expected to terrorize defenses once again this year. Perry, Ryan and Getzlaf are all massive players with great skill, and they compliment each other perfectly. They don’t get the credit as the top line in the NHL (like they should) because they play in Anaheim. With Perry winning the Hart Trophy last year and Ryan scoring the goal of the year last year, everyone has been put on notice. Perry scores, dishes and fights, and helped me win a pair of fantasy titles last year. But besides that, he scares the absolute hell out of me when he’s on the ice, against the Sharks, that is. Getzlaf might be the best playmaker in the league that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Ryan might play third-fiddle to the three, but he’s easily the funniest of the trio based on everything he has to say on Twitter. These guys are a sure thing, and will be once again.

After the top line, the Ducks run into some problems with scoring. I’m glad Selanne announced his return before I wrote this, and we get one more year of one of the most exciting players of all time. He had a great year last year, but at 40 years old and coming off another knee operation, it will be interesting to see how he holds up this year. He’s going to play with either Saku Koivu or newcomer Andrew Cogliano as his center, and most likely Jason Blake on the left side. Aside from Selanne, those other options do not scare me. Cogliano could benefit from a change of scenery, and he’s going to need to produce more than he did in Edmonton for the Ducks. Blake and Koivu are winding down their careers, and the Ducks did a nice job getting some young legs in the fold.

In my opinion, someone on the lower lines is going to need to step up. The list of players includes Dan Sexton, Brandon McMillan, Nick Bonino, Matt Belesky and Kyle Palmieri. Each of these guys are young players, and with the exception of Palmieri, has had a chance to play on the Ducks’ second line in the past. Palmieri is a guy the Ducks have high hopes for, but they’re going to have to pay their dues on the bottom lines for the time being. However, with Blake, Koivu and Selanne known to break down at their age, they need to be ready at all times to step up. George Parros and J-F Jaques will take turns filling the enforcer role on the team.

The biggest issue for the Ducks will be the team’s health, and if one member of that top line goes down, the Ducks could be in big trouble due to their lack of depth. At least for the time being, because I feel that their young players that will play in the bottom six have the talent to be difference makers. It just won’t be an instant process. Grade: B

Lubomir Visnovsky posted career-best numbers for the Ducks last season

Defense
What was expected to be a weak spot for the Ducks last year was actually much better than some (see: myself) anticipated. They’ve easily got one of the league’s best offensice combinations on defense in the league. Lubomir Visnovsky could have easily earned a nomination for the Norris Trophy last year. He was a nice mentor for young defender Cam Fowler, who seamlessly stepped into the Ducks’ lineup as an 18-year old and gave the team a shot of youth, as well as a nice second option to man the Ducks’ point on the power-play.

Toni Lydman might have been the most underrated defender of last season, providing stay-at-home stability while producing his best offensive season to date. Francois Beauchemin was brought back last year, and he can still bring it with the best of them on D. Luca Sbisa could easily take a big step forward this year as the Ducks’ second bright young defenseman. The final spot should be occupied by Kurtis Foster, who came over from Edmonton in a deal for Andy Sutton this offseason. Foster won’t be counted on to provide the offense he was expected to give the Oilers, but having him as a third or fourth option is a nice luxury for the Ducks to have. Sheldon Brookbank, Matt Smaby and Matheiu Carle provide the Ducks depth. For a position that I felt was weak last year, this Ducks’ defense looks mighty tough and could handle an injury or two. Grade: B

Jonas Hiller will look to battle back from a bout with vertigo this season

Goaltending
No person on the Ducks could impact the team’s finish quite like Jonas Hiller. The good news for Ducks fans is that he says he feels great heading into this year. Hiller is the kind of goalie that the Ducks can count on to occasionally steal a game for them. The more rubber Hiller sees, the better he seems to play. And while I feel the Ducks’ defense is good, there will be nights where they give up 35+ shots. If Hiller’s headaches stay away, the Ducks are going to be just fine for the season. Ellis is back to backup Hiller, and he seemed to be rejuvinated by moving to Anaheim. I think that the Ducks should look to ease Hiller back in to the starting role, and Ellis should see quite a bit of time in the early part of the season. Jeff Deslauriers was brought in as insurance. Bottom line is that the Ducks will go as far as Hiller takes them. His health and the way he adjusts to getting back into games determines everything for them Ducks. Grade: B (If Hiller had no injury questions, I would say the Ducks are a dark horse to win the Cup.)

Prediction
They have a strong top line, deep defense and one of the game’s best goalies, when he’s healthy. They’re going to need to get some help from their younger players to take the pressure off of the monsters on the top line. It won’t be automatic, but I feel someone will step up for them. They also play in the league’s better conference and toughest division in the league, but they’ll be playoff bound once again. 3rd in Pacific, 7th in West.