So last week, I wanted to open the discussion about envisioning this team's "post-8" future. Though premature, some interesting thoughts came out of the forth and back in the comments. What became obvious after reviewing the post was that regardless of what direction the Ducks embark upon it begins and end with Teemu's version of "The Decision."
On the other hand, the Ducks have seemingly made all the offseason moves that they had planned to make regarding their defense earlier on this offseason; the most notable transaction of course being the swapping of big boys Andy Sutton and Kurtis Foster with the Edmonton Oilers. Aside from that, Bob Murray brought experienced minor leaguers Bryan Rodney, Mathieu Carle and Matt Smaby to help bolster a struggling Syracuse Crunch squad while also continuing the retooling of the organization's defensive depth charts (You might have forgot to say good bye and good luck to former prospects Brett Festerling, Brendan Mikkelson, Mark Mitera, Dany Syvret).
In addition, with many of the rearguards returning, team chemistry looks to bode well in comparison to the previous two seasons, which saw quite a bit of turn over year to year. Plus, the Ducks did boast one of the most effective tandems in the league last season as well as one of the most dynamic young defenseman in the game. Couple that with rising and veteran physical presence and you have a defense that projects to be able to compete at a higher level then has been the case in the previous two seasons (or so we here hope!).
So that leads us again to look at what cards we would be playing with if we were Bob or Randy informally seeing how our deck stacks up against other teams'. This time, of course, with the focus being the formulation of our hypothetical "Plan D," as in D-fense...
The first issue that must be addressed regarding our D this season will be the absence for the second year in a row of Toni Lydman for the start of the season. Hopefully, he will be able to jump right into the fire un-singed as was the case previously, but this obviously will put a little pressure on our depth from the very start of the preseason. Despite this, I anticipate a recovered Lydman sharing the ice with Norris Trophy snub, Lubomir Visnovsky on a returning 1st pairing for the Ducks. After that, it gets a little more tricky as to how you pair these defenders. Here's the full list of our organizational depth:
It is almost certain that we will not see college-standout Justin Schultz or Swedish Elite, Sami Vatanen anytime this season as they are all still a ways off in their journeys to the big club. Same goes for recent drafties Andrew Welinski and Josh Manson barring a phenomenal training camp. That leave the Ducks with a pretty clear picture of who will be up with the big club to start and most likely finish the season.
Anaheim Calling favorites Cam "Boy Phenom" Fowler and Luca "Chump Crusher" Sbisa look to be increasing their prospective roles this upcoming season with both of them surely getting more minutes this season in all situations, possibly even together. This leaves Beauchemin, Foster and Brookbank playing in the last 2 slots. Realistically, that means that fringe players like Smaby, Carle and Rodney would most likely only get a look if necessity called for it. However, I would not be at all surprised if either Mat Clark or California-born Jake Newton can make some strides to join or even push the fringe at some point this season as both seem to have the desirable tool set for NHL Defensemen.
With that in mind, this is how I see the line up starting off minus Lydman:
Beauchemin - Fowler
Visnovsky - Brookbank
Sbisa - Foster
And here is what I envision seeing with the return of Toni Toca:
Lydman - Visnovsky
Beauchemin - Sbisa
Fowler - Foster/Brookbank
In the preseason I would like to see this:
Fowler - Welinski
Sbisa - Schultz
Manson - Vatanen
It should be interesting to see how players like Carle and Rodney do in our system as it favors Defensemen who can carry the puck out of the zone. Players like Smaby and Clark may push veterans such as Brookbank from below for that 7th spot especially with the Ducks seeming lack of physicality on the backend...
For some reason, I thought I could generate more discussion here because the roster on D is set, but it really turned out that there wasn't much wiggle room here to play different combinations. Thoughts?