What can I say that hasn't already been said?
We need consistent 3rd line scoring. The big line (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry) needs to click quickly, as does the of the team. We need to stop taking so many stupid penalties. There has to be stability in the defense. Jonas Hiller will have to steal a few games, as long as he's healthy. The power play needs to continue to stay dominant.
Instead of reiterating the same points over and over, I'm going to look ahead to some not-so-obvious storylines that could play out this season.
1) Will Getzlaf finally get it? When I started writing for this site, I was an ardent Getzlaf apologist. He was, by far, my favorite Duck, and I would make excuses for his crappy play (he's hurt, he's 20-something, etc.). Over the last year, my patience has begun to grow thin. The hustle in his game has been declining since he injured his ankle before the Olympics. When he was named Captain, I thought it was too soon for the then 25 year old (a new husband and soon-to-be father). From there, things just seemed to get worse. He has increasingly grown lackadaisical on the ice, relying more on Bobby and Corey to do the hardwork as he drifts around waiting for a passing lane. Yes, he averaged a point-a-game (in 67 games), but how many no-look passes and lost face-offs did it take to get there? A better question might be, have we seen the best we're going to see from Getzlaf? (More on that in a couple days.)
2) Players playing for a new contract. Notable players that have UFA deals expiring after this season:
- Jason Blake - 90% of people that read this site want to get rid of the $4M cap-hit in Jason Blake. As much as we all want Bob Murray to shop him, no sane GM is going to take him with that contract. He's also not going to get that kind of money ever again, or any additional money from the Ducks. He's gone after the season.
Francois Beauchemin - Bob Murray finds himself at a familiar place with Beauchemin. It was just a couple yeas ago that Frankie was angling for a new deal and Murray let him walk. Beauch's game has declined, and shouldn't be commanding the same salary he requested when he left. I'm really not sure on this one. If he is re-signed, it's for less than his current $3.8M cap hit and for one year.
Dan Ellis - Current cap hit is $1.5M for a guy that is NOT Curtis McElhinney, not bad. He had a strong pre-season and is a good, sometimes shaky, backup. Ray Emery ended up stealing the starting job from him last season. After seeing what Jeff Deslauriers can do during the pre-season, and if he ends up just as strong in Syracuse, I could see the Ducks shipping Ellis off in favor of the cheaper Deslauriers to back up Jonas Hiller. Of course all of this could be for naught, should Hiller's health become an issue again.
- George Parros - it goes without saying, George is one of the most popular players on the team. He knows his role and serves it well. He is rarely an offensive threat, but always plays hard in the minimal minutes he receives. Currently a $875K cap hit, he is certainly owed a raise, albeit a slight one, to about $1M. Hopefully his captaincy of the Kids Club means that he's going to stick around for a while.
Sheldon Brookbank - oh Sheldon. One of my favorite stories about him happened during the "Bobby Ryan contract situation" off-season. The Ducks tweeted something along the lines of "Big signing announcement coming soon". Naturally everyone started freaking out thinking it was Bobby. NOPE! It was Sheldon's 2 year, $750K cap hit deal. Oy! This is another one I'm not sure on because he must be doing something right to be kept around for all these years. When talking to Kent French during the first period intermission on Friday, he said the number one thing he needed to improve his game is to play was "confidence". Here's to a hell of a lot of confidence, and to seeing what Carlyle & Murray see in him.
Kurtis Foster - well, he's not Andy Sutton...We haven't seen him play yet due to injury. If he doesn't make an impact, he will walk at the end of the season.
3) It's Teemu's "Farewell Tour", but is it Saku's too?
While no one can ever be certain, this is more than likely to be Teemu Selanne's final season. We all know that he is going to leave a gaping hole on the second line. But what about Saku Koivu? He's 36 years old, turning 37 on November 23. This is the second year of his two-year deal. He will play an even more important role with the Ducks this season because he will be the one taking the important face-offs in place of Todd Marchant. I'm sure Ducks would love to keep him around at his (in my opinion) bargain cap hit of $2.5M, but does he want to still play? If Teemu is gone, does that give him incentive to go elsewhere, maybe to a team that has an almost certain chance to win a Stanley Cup? The Cup is the one trophy Saku doesn't have, as he already has my heart. I would die a little on the inside if he left.
Stories aside, I'm excited for the season (duh). While we're not an outright Cup contender, we definitely have the ability scare the pants off our opponents when we're playing well. The team will make the playoffs, but I can't see a seed as high as fourth. I have a feeling we'll end up sliding in around 6th or 7th. My only concern, as it is every season, is the slow start. This year it is compounded by the start in Europe. Luckily, the NHL has learned that starting overseas means the team needs an extended preparation period before taking back to the ice at home (something the Ducks didn't have when opening the 2007-08 season in London). As long as that re-acclimation period doesn't kill any chemistry developed in Europe, and the Ducks are able to come out strong against the Sharks at the home opener, it will be the boost the team needs to play well. Without the strong start, the Ducks are going to be worried about getting out of the hole they dug themselves, and that's not how we want Teemu's last season to go.