Two Entry Drafts ago, Cam Fowler was predicted to go top-5, easily. A franchise defenseman, they said; a smooth-skating, cerebral guy that could put up points like no other in his age group. Inexplicably, he fell to the 12th pick, and became a Duck. (Perhaps the hockey gods love a good pun: after all, doesn't Fowl-er just fit with the Ducks?). Two years later, Fowler has become a tantalizing prospect- defensively unreliable and prone to offensive slumps, yet displaying his developing talents on a nightly basis. There is no doubt that he still has the potential to become the defenseman he was predicted to be, but the question needs to be asked: are the Ducks managing his potential in the way that they should be?
In the Ducks 2007 Cup-Winning Season, our captain was perhaps the best cerebral, smooth-skating defenseman in history- Scott Niedermayer. While Fowler will likely never be as great as #27, he has the same style, and certainly can be the centerpiece of a team. However, Niedermayer had one thing that Fowler has not been given: a defense partner that lets him maximize his game. Fowler can skate, but he is not physically aggressive, and will never be a shut-down defenseman. He doesn't have an overpowering shot, but he can pass. What Fowler and the Ducks needs to reach the next level of play is a Chris Pronger: A big, nasty son-of-a-gun that will hit, shoot, and clear space for Fowler to work his magic. Francois Beauchemin has that style, but is older and simply lacks the same level of talent. Instead of a gritty, older veteran, doesn't it make sense that Fowler mature with another talented prospect, letting them build chemistry as they enter their prime?
This is what Bob Murray needs to realize. While his core is solid, it is not complete. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan provide the scoring talent, perhaps more talent than the '07 team. Fowler can learn to feed them better than most, and Jonas Hiller is a more than serviceable goaltender, the first half of this season aside. A defensive monster could push this team over the top; along with a solid checking line, he could see the Cup could return to Anaheim in a few years. So the question remains, where do we go? Do we make an effort to sign Shea Weber? Do we make sure we get a high enough pick this year to grab a top-line defenseman of that style, perhaps Ryan Murray? While both are viable options, the best choice may lay elsewhere.
Getzlaf and Perry are in their prime, as is Jonas Hiller, and Bobby Ryan is rapidly approaching his. Therefore, picking someone in this year's draft may mean that we have to wait too long. Shea Weber, on the other hand, may simply cost too much money to keep the core together, and is out of Fowler's age range. There isn't an easy answer to this question, but my preliminary answer would be to obtain the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman. He is an elite prospect in the mold of Pronger or the Bruin's Zdeno Chara, and in between the age of Fowler and the rest of our core. Fowler-Hedman has the potential to become the next Niedermayer-Pronger, and while it may cost one of the Big Three to obtain him, giving one of them up would mean that we could grab not only Hedman, but depth that was the hallmark of a Cup team that won it all with two first-line stars and Chris Kunitz.
As this is my first-ever blog post, I'd love some feedback: Is breaking up the Big Three sacrilege? Can Fowler do it on his own? Is Hedman not the guy we should be after? All are tough questions, and we can only hope that Bob Murray holds all the right answers.