Anaheim Ducks

It’s a month until Opening Night, and so as a countdown I’m going to do a short preview of all 30 teams, 1 team per day, in alphabetical order. So, we kick off the countdown with the Ducks…

The Ducks looked lost and fatigued in last year’s playoffs. While Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne‘s returns gave the Ducks a quick boost, they were no where near playoff shape, having missed the majority of the regular season. Their offense took away some pressure off Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who found themselves thrust into a first line scoring role after Selanne’s short absence and Andy McDonald‘s departure. The Ducks won the Cup in 2007 because their scoring went two units deep, on offense and defense. Getzlaf and Perry were an excellent second line to compliment Selanne, and Dustin Penner‘s emergence came at the most opportune time. Now that Selanne and Niedermayer are committed to return for an entire season, don’t expect the Ducks’ offense to rank anywhere close to last season’s rank (28th). The Ducks’ kids will also be counted on to provide some offense, most notably from rookie Bobby Ryan, who has proved that the AHL is no longer the right league for him. The Ducks’ 197 GF were among the league’s worst but they could boast as many as 3 30-goals scorers this season: Getzlaf, Perry, and Selanne.

The Ducks have arguably the best 1-2 punch on defense in the league. Niedermayer is one of the most decorated defenseman of all-time, and Chris Pronger is an annual contender for the Norris. With Niedermayer back it means a potential bounce-back season from Francois Beauchemin (just 2 goals last year), his long-time defensive partner in Anaheim, and allows Pronger to move back to a much-delighted Sean O’Donnell as the shut-down pair. The main intrigue, however, lies on the third pairing. Kent Huskins is the favourite for the fifth spot, but the sixth spot remains up for grabs, and while Steve Montador has more NHL experience, rookies Brendan Mikkelson, Brian Salcido, and Brett Festerling will all figure into the mix. All three are coming off very impressive AHL campaigns, although with the Ducks’ hard-hitting style Mikkelson (6’2″, 205) has the edge.

J-S Giguere has his fair share of doubters, after being pegged as a “big pad” goalie. However, even with the pad restrictions he has backstopped the Ducks to consecutive playoff appearances while posting 3 straight 30+ win seasons. Backup Jonas Hiller is more than capable, and perhaps could find himself as a starting goalie elsewhere, but for now expect him to play anywhere from 25-30 games, giving Giguere some much-needed rest for the playoffs.

Selanne has yet to sign, but reports from Finland says he will. Mathieu Schneider will be moved in order to accomodate him, but that still won’t be enough, which possibly means that the fleet-footed Todd Marchant may be going out the door, along with his $2.65m salary. Marchant’s limited offensive upside despite his good skating have rendered him as a fourth line centre behind Samuel Pahlsson, and at that price tag he’s simply too expensive. The Ducks have at least 3 kids (Petteri Wirtanen, Andrew Ebbett, and Ryan Carter) and Joakim Lindstrom waiting in the wings to take his spot. Logan MacMillan, who signed with the Ducks this summer after 3 seasons with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, is a long-shot to make the squad.

One of the x-factors to Anaheim’s success is Chris Kunitz. Like Penner, Kunitz exploded onto the hockey radar in the playoffs, whose hard-nosed play despite his rather small stature (he stands only 6’0″) was applauded by all. However, after being named alternate captain, Kunitz has developed a propensity to disappear for stretches, especially if he’s not on Getzlaf and Perry’s line. Some of that can be attributed to coach Randy Carlyle‘s line-juggling, but the Ducks need more out of the left winger, whose production slipped from 60 to 50 points. The third defensive pairing must also hold together, even though Pronger and Niedermayer can log over 50 minutes a night combined.

Projected Lineup:
Chris Kunitz – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Miller – Brendan Morrison – Teemu Selanne
Travis Moen – Samuel Pahlsson – Rob Niedermayer
Brian Sutherby – Todd Marchant – Bobby Ryan

Scott Niedermayer – Francois Beauchemin
Sean O’Donnell – Chris Pronger
Kent Huskins – Steve Montador

J-S Giguere – Jonas Hiller

scratches: George Parros, Brad May, Ryan Carter

Head Coach: Randy Carlyle
GM: Brian Burke

Projected finish: 2nd Pacific, 4th West