Hi all, I just joined AC after lurking here for awhile in order to post the two fan posts I wrote with word earlier. This is the second one, so if you haven't read the first one yet, you can read it HERE. It's helpful to read the first one (but not required) before reading this one so that the idea of the Ducks becoming the next "Chicago Blackhawks" and winning the Cup next year doesn't sound so far fetched. You need a full understanding of my view on just how good some of the Ducks young players are, even ones with very little NHL experience like Peter Holland, before you can understand why I think the Ducks can win multiple Cups in the next five years, and that's what I go over in my first fan post. But here is my second one.
When the Ducks won the division last season, it seemed like many Ducks fans were surprised. Most did expect the Ducks to beat the Red Wings, however, and were obviously disappointed when we lost in seven games. Still, I didn't get the sense Ducks fans expected a Cup last season, even after our great regular season showing, and now with Bob Murray trading Bobby Ryan for prospects, it seems the attitude eminating from the organization and into the collective psyche of most Ducks fans is that we're rebuilding a little on the fly, and that we're just going to continue on with our normal routine, just see what happens, remain competitive, and not necessarily really spend to the Cap and put a push on for the Cup any time soon...
But this attitude concerns me. Why? Because I'm not sure most Ducks fans realize, but this team is actually on the verge of becoming a powerhouse. With the right push, of course. Bob Murray's scouting staff has compiled maybe the best stable of prospects of any team in the last decade. Kyle Palmieri, Peter Holland, Emerson Etem, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, Devante Smith-Pelly, Hampuis Lindholm... And most of these prospects were drafted at least two years ago. Now they're not just prospects anymore, many of them are on the verge of, maybe NHL "stardom" is not the right word, but becoming impact, top-six NHL players. And with a team that already has Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and many more great veteran NHL players, that's all they'll need to be for this team to become a powerhouse. And I mean this season. All that's missing is some help on defense and for all the young talent up front to be used properly. But that's how close we are. If managed properly this offseason, we should have the best roster in the NHL next season, and the best chance of anyone in the NHL at winning the Cup.
The problem is, like many Ducks fans, I'm not sure Bob Murray even realizes that he's sitting on a gold mine that's ready to explode into a starry display of fireworks, one that will illuminate the warm, black Anaheim sky next summer, high above the parade roaring down the concrete streets below, in celebration of franchise's second Stanley Cup. All Murray has to do is light to spark. Yes, let it be heard throughout every corner of Orange County as if Paul Revere himself were riding through downtown yelling from the top of his lungs, let it be pontificated from the summit of every building and the bottom of every sewer, reverberating out from the pale, rotten lungs of the sewer-crab-people: this team is ready to win the Cup next year.
Let that sink in for a moment. This team is in an even stronger position that the Chicago Blackhawks were before the off-season of the year they won their first Cup a few seasons ago. We already have our Toews and Kane in Getzlaf and Perry; throw in Teemu, a great 3rd line center in Saku Koivu, a fantastic third line period when you add in possession machine Daniel Winnik... and then you have just a host of young players, Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri, Peter Holland, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, and potentially Devante Smith-Pelly and Stefan Noesen all still on their entry-level deals, and all on the verge of breaking out themselves, as well as Nick Bonino who is a good solid young player. As well as a few decent free agent options. And then you have Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin on defense, with Hampus Lindholm coming up. All that's missing is Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook! I know what you're thinking, "that's all, huh?" But Francois Beauchemin finished fourth I believe in Norris voting last year, Cam Fowler skates exactly like Duncan Keith if only he could figure his game out (this better be Bruce's number one project over the offseason, turning Fowler from a fantastically skilled defenseman into a fantastic defenseman), Hampus Lindholm should be ready to contribute next season, Luca Sbisa is the same boat as Fowler where he has all the tools and just needs to figure it out, plus on top of it all off the Ducks are in a better position than any other team, with all their prospects and two 1st round picks next summer, to trade for a top defenseman.
And the reason for all those great prospects is that the Ducks have done a fantastic job drafting the last few years, the likes of which I've rarely seen in the NHL the last few decades(at least in terms of the quantity of good prospects... still not Pavel Datsyuk unearthed but otherwise), but besides last summer when Bob Murray made some nice moves, Murray has been less successful crafting the team at the NHL level. But now is the moment for the Ducks. They are at that pivotal point in a team's evolution when all their new young faces are becoming impact players in the NHL, but they're still on their entry level contracts so they're cheap, and all the veteran stars are still around and contributing as well, like Getzlaf and Perry but also Teemu and Saku. And that might not be true two seasons from now, so next season is really the time, and the Samueli's need to step up and go for it. I'm just worried the Ducks as an organization have become so focused on what has become their expertise, their prospect pool, that they've forgotten they actually have the potential to win it all at the NHL level if they put some of that focus on filling the major holes left on the NHL roster. And to do that, the Samueli's also have to be willing to spend. I have this sinking feeling that the reason Bobby Ryan was traded for more cheap prospects and a draft pick, instead of a top defenseman like we really need, is not just because Ottawa made the best offer and it just so happened to include futures, but also because the Samueli's wouldn't allow Bob Murray to take back equal salary. And if my suspicions are correct, that is a very concerning problem.
Because remember, the Blackhawks were in a similar position a few seasons ago with tons of young emerging talent, but also some holes on their roster, and their ownership and management realized it, and capitalized on the opportunity their young talent granted them by also ponying up the cash in free agency to fill in their few remaining weak areas. They went out and signed Brian Campbell to solidify their defense, and Marian Hossa to provide another two-way force up front. The Kings, also, were just an average playoff team before they went out and added Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, both on mammoth deals over 10 years in length. But Dean Lombardi traded for them anyway because he knew they'd make the team better. Are the Samueli's willing to make that same choice when the time comes? I'm not so sure because guess what, that time is right now, and I still haven't seen any moves from the Ducks that you could equate to the Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa signings, or the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades. But hopefully they will come before the offseason ends.
And if they do, what is so unbelievable is that the Ducks may be in an even better position now than the Blackhawks were at that time (or the Kings), because we have even more top young players coming up. Just an unbelievable amount. But Bob Murray and the Samueli's have to decide, are they going to win another Cup or not? Are they going to be the Blackhawks, and spend the money required (meaning to the cap) to fill the holes at the NHL level that the draft hasn't fixed? Because even the best drafting teams never draft a full, complete Cup calibre roster all from the draft. There are always pieces you miss that you need to add later through trade or free agency.
So do Bob Murray and the Samueli's have the guts and the ambition and the willingness to invest in wining to do what's necessary and fill the roster holes that remain, which are few in quantity (basically just top defensemen) but significant and expensive, or are the Ducks going to be more like the Oilers than the Blackhawks, loaded with top young talent, but never spending to add any big pieces on top of them, constantly rebuilding.
Naturally, the Ducks are going to be better than the Oilers next season no matter what just because they already have Getzlaf, Perry, and the veteran stars up front to go with their young emerging ones, where the Oilers just have the young ones, but on defense the story is similar. The Oilers have Justin Schultz. The Ducks have Cam Fowler. The Oilers have Andrew Ference now and some other pieces. The Ducks have Beauchemin, Souray, and some other pieces. The Oilers have Smid the Ducks have Sbisa. I like our defense and goaltending better than theirs, but the point is the same. The Oilers need to add a top dman to become a good team. We need to add a top dman if we want to become a great team. And our need, and hurry, is much greater and more immediate because Selanne won't be around forever, Saku won't be around forever, and our kids won't be cheap forever. This is our window, this season. Not that we shouldn't be able to win Cups two and three seasons from now as well, because it's not like Teemu (or Saku) is still our irreplaceable, franchise player. But when he's in shape and not worn down from a long, shortened season (nice paradox eh?), Teemu (and Saku to a lesser degree) is still a very good player, and Bob Murray would do well to go for that Cup while we still have him
So what needs to happen? The Ducks need to be willing to trade prospects and draft picks, which are cheap in salary terms, for a #1 dman, who usually have expensive salaries. They need to be wiling to trade a top prospect (but not one imperative to next year's roster), maybe a Devante Smith-Pelly as much as I hate to say it, a 1st round pick, and maybe Matt Belesky and maybe a 2nd round pick, some sort of package like this, for a top defenseman, and be willing to add on 5 million or so more in salary, unless you can get someone to take Bryan Allen off your hands to mitigate that. This is our year. Bob Murray and the Samueli's just need to go for it with the roster additions. That is step one.
Step two is much simpler, but potentially just as far from happening if Bruce continues on the same path as last year, and Bob Murray encourages him. Bruce needs to play the best players the most even if they're kids. Having six great new forwards is nice, but if you only play each of them 10 minutes a night, that's really like only having three great new forwards (playing 17-18 minutes a night like they should), and that greatly diminishes the improvement you can have as a team by adding all these great young players to your lineup.
For example, next year's lineup should look something like this...
Kyle Palmieri - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Emerson Etem - Peter Holland - Teemu Selanne
Jakob Silfverberg - Saku Koivu - Daniel Winnik
Andrew Cogliano - Nick Bonino - Stefan Noesen
Francois Beauchemin - New #1 defenseman
Hampus Lindholm - Sheldon Souray/Cam Fowler
Bryan Allen (I don't like you, in case you couldn't hear from the floor below the line above you)
A lot of the line combinations are interchangeable, so don't get too hung up on them. What's important is that this a Cup winning roster. Really quality contributors from last year like Andrew Cogliano who would be in most other team's top 9 forwards if not top 6 are on our 4th line because that's how f***ing deep this lineup is.
Our fourth line with Noesen also on the wing besides 2nd line calibre forwards Bonino and Cogliano is fast, aggressive, defensively capable, and has more scoring touch than most 3rd lines.
Our 3rd line has a possession monster on one wing in Winnik, a 20-goal-scoring talent on the way up with a truly elite shot on the other wing, and another center who would be playing in some team's top 6 in Saku Koivu in the middle. And the line will score as well, yet again something you don't say about most 3rd lines.
Our second line has two emerging stars with speed and tons of skill in Etem and Holland, with another 25-30 goal guy in Teemu Selanne on the right wing.
And our top line is one of the best in the NHL with Getzlaf, Perry, and Palmieri. That's two 30 goal talents with the potential for 40 in Perry, and a point per game elite #1 center in Getzlaf.
This is, simply put, if the Ducks roll this way with the kids and playing the skill guys like they deserve, instead of clogging up the works with guys like Beleskey or worse Staubitz, will be the deepest, fastest, most skilled, most explosive four line attack in the NHL. Period. It's not even close. No other team has anywhere near that talent on the 3rd and 4th lines, and most teams can't match that first line either. And the 2nd line with Etem and Selanne is far from a weak spot either. Some might worry about it because they don't know what Holland's about, but I'm telling you he's right there with Etem, maybe even further along at this point, another stud, just never got much of a chance last year under Bruce.
Our goaltending is also good. The only question left when you look at that lineup that's not league-best or near close to it is the defense, and if we make moves like I suggested with this lineup and add a top pairing dman, and hopefully upgrade the bottom pair as well, this will be the best roster on paper in the NHL. A unique, fast, explosive team with speed, skill, and youth everywhere. Don Cherry might not like it because he believes you can't win without a bunch of Colton Orr's, and i'm worried Bob Murray might also believe this, in which case we have a problem... but that's not true at all. A lineup like I just laid out will dice up the rest of the NHL. It would be like watching the St Louis Rams when they had Marshall Faulk, the "greatest show on turf." They would probably name this team in hindsight too if we rolled it out like this. The amount of skill and speed and depth and youth on that lineup I just typed out is not like anything I've seen in the NHL in awhile, really only the Blackhawks come close in the two years they won their Cups recently, and what's amazing is it's completely possible. Besides the defense, I'm not inserting a ton of unrealistic UFAs like you see in dream lineups posted by fans online. No, every single forward in that dream four line attack I posted is already on the roster. And given that Jay Bouwmeester got traded for just a 1st round pick last season, and we have two 1st round picks in next year's draft plus an unbelievable amount of prospects, we all know that adding a top defenseman is possible as well. Not that Bouwmeester is actually that great, but, well, you know.
I have doubts however that Bruce and Bob are going to put the lineup out there like that though, unfortunately, even if Bruce is an attacking coach. It just seems no matter who the coach is, NHL teams can't help themselves. They always fall for grit and locker room leadership and all that very overvalued stuff that leads to Matt Beleskey, god love him, getting as much ice time as Kyle Palmieri. And this lineup is kind of like the Moneyball notion in baseball, where it won't work when you do that. You can't alternate a bunch of batters hitting .200% between every one of your Moneyball on-base-percentage guys and have it work. You need to string them all together, no weak spots. You need to line up all the skill on every line, side by side, and just run teams out of the building. If you roll it like I wrote it down, scoring 5 and 6 goals will be something that happens semi-regularly. But you have to roll it out just like that, with those twelve forwards getting to play (within that you can flip a lot of players around and it will still work) and I guarantee everyone, it will be a sight to see.
Unfortunately, after hearing some terrible news considering a certain former Oilers enforcer midway through writing this fan post (wrote the beginning of it a week ago and then sat down to write the rest yesterday), it doesn't look like Bob Murray sees it the same way. In the Bobby Ryan trade, he just acquired two more top young players who will need ice time in the NHL next season, and even before that, we already had more great young players waiting in the wings than we have roster spots for. Peter Holland, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and potentially all Devante Smith-Pelly are all ready to be important NHL players for the Ducks next year, and yet for the most part none of them had a roster spot last year. Additionally, Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem, two players who had did have spots for most of last season, didn't get near the ice time they deserved or required.
The Ducks need to open up MORE spots and ice time for all these emerging young star forwards, not less. So what does Bob Murray do? He signs Zack Stortini, of course. That's just a total disaster signing. Even if he just gets 4th line minutes, which is all I expect he'll get, that's one line out of four basically ruined. Might not sound like much, just the fourth line, but it matters. Ten minutes a night of Cogliano - Bonino - Noesen is ten minutes of gold. They will skewer other team's fourth lines, and most importantly, they will keep the avalanche of speed and skill rolling through all four lines, never letting up. Unfortunately, Cogliano - Bonino - Stortini will not have the same effect at all. That's a lot closer to a normal NHL 4th line. You may still have Cogliano and Bonino kicking fourth line ass on that line, but Stortini will still sink the whole thing and really handicap what they could do.
But it goes beyond that. What about Matt Beleskey? I love his worth ethic and great, but he has hands of stone, and can't make plays to save his life. If you replace Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, or Jakob Silfverberg with Beleskey in the top 9, you are handicapping another line. Now you're down from four dynamo lines to just two, and the whole identity of the team that was built around four-line depth, speed, and unrelenting skill is gone. Yes, two players can make that much of a difference. And throw in a third grit guy with no skill just because Murray feels like it, and now you're potentially handicapping up to three lines, while also keeping some of these fantastic young talents out of the lineup completely, when they mean everything to the team.
So the Stortini signing really, really concerns me. But I'm going to keep going with what I believe needs to be done to win the Cup with the hope that Stortini never plays a game with the Ducks.
Next step, defense.
You'll see that I penciled in "New top pairing defenseman" in the depth chart, so that plan is pretty self-explanatory. Bob Murray needs to trade for a top defenseman. I'm not an NHL GM so I don't know which ones are available, but surely someone out there is, and Bob Murray needs to find one.
I also know Ducks fans don't like Ryan Whitney, and he did totally suck last season, and he's been injured a lot. But we hated him because he couldn't play the powerplay, and at the time we had no powerplay quarterback. Now he would be much cheaper, and his role would be mostly depth defenseman to play 5 on 5. And if you'll remember, the last time we won a playoff series, he played a big role in our defense against the Sharks and was excellent 5 on 5. He's very talented, blending size and skating. If he's healthy again and available for cheap, he would actually be an upgrade over Bryan Allen. But there are other options as well. Whitney is just an example.
The ultimate point though is that, if lined-up correctly, we already have a Cup worthy forward group. I'm not saying in a perfect world we couldn't use a totally established guy like Ryan Kesler as our second line center to spell Holland one more season, or just an extra veteran top winger to slot in above Etem or Palmieri one more year, but I honestly believe Holland, Etem, and Palmieri have all reached a level where they are going to be as good as anyone we could acquire short of the very top end guys. I'm very excited about them.
But other than a few spots in our top 6 where having Peter Holland as a second line center isn't quite as good as having Evgeni Malkin as a second line center, the forward group is fantastic because the depth more than makes up for any question marks on say the second line, and the top end talent of Getzlaf and Perry does too. As long as you line up the roster correctly, those third and fourth lines are going to shred absolutely everybody.
So the forward group is Cup-quality. So is the goaltending. It's all about the defense now, and we have some good pieces there, too. As I've already touched on, Beauchemin had a great year. Lindholm should be ready. Cam Fowler is super talented but needs to learn how to turn that talent into production and positive impact on the game. Sheldon Souray is slow but hopefully his slap shot can make up for his weaknesses. I know his turnovers and footspeed will drive people crazy over the season, but a lot of those plays don't end up in goals against us. They're not good but he's a unique player because he's giving you 10-15 goals in a season out of nowhere, which isn't normal at all for a depth defenseman. So unless his weaknesses create an extra 10-15 goals against us out of nothing, maybe he's still coming out ahead. He's one of those unique players where his corsi rating or his possession rating maybe doesn't even tell half the story because his slap shot creates goals from thin air whether he's a good possession player or not. And then there's Sbisa who has size and skates really well and has pretty solid hands, and sort of similarly to Fowler, he needs to figure out how to turn his gifts into positive impact on games.
But there are pieces to work with there. If the Ducks can just trade some prospects (not ones who are key to our NHL team's success next year) and draft picks for a top pairing defemseman, and maybe add another depth D to upgrade over Bryan Allen through free agency, then the defense will be Cup quality as well. And if that happens, we are favorites next year, and barring injuries, I believe we should win the Cup.
Next year is our year, baby. Unless the Samueli's keep being cheap and refuse to spend to the cap, or Bruce Boudreau and Bob Murray are stupid and don't play the best players.
On a side note just to depress everyone, the way this team is constructed with the forward group the way I lined them up, having that identity of speed and skill through all four lines, having Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz on defense would compliment that forward group so well. I mean Beauchemin has been great, but man that would be sweet to see a roster like this grow up all together:
Joeffrey Lupul - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Emerson Etem - Peter Holland - Teemu Selanne
Jakob Silfverberg - Saku Koivu - Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano - Nick Bonino - Daniel Winnik
Jake Gardiner - Justin Schultz
Hampus Lindholm - Cam Fowler
Lucas Sbisa - Sheldon Souray
Haven't checked the cap, but we might have even been able to keep Bobby Ryan with that lineup too. Could you imagine, Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Lupul, Selanne, Etem, Holland, Rakell, DSP, Palmieri, Koivu, Jake Gardiner, Justin Schultz, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler? Could you imagine having Schultz, Gardiner, Lindholm, and Fowler as your top 4? More skating ability in a top 4 of anyone in the league, maybe anyone I can ever remember, to go with all those burners up front. The transition game of that team would have been supersonic.
But it's not to be. We can still be just as good, though, if Murray goes and gets a top defenseman some other way, and most importantly, has Bruce Boudreau use the forward group correctly.
Also, that's the end of the fan post that I wrote yesterday, but now more news is coming down today since I wrote it that Dustin Penner might also be close to signing in Anaheim... I don't hate the move or anything, but the way Penner has declined since leaving Anaheim, and especially since leaving Edmonton, even considering the few positive blips on his radar of decline that have happened in the playoffs, at this point in his career, this just seems like another veteran player coming in who will take ice time away from the young players. Of course, if he was better than said young players, that would be a good thing. That would be the definition of upgrading and improving your team. But my point is that Penner isn't better than Etem or Palmieri at this point in his career, if he ever was given how good Etem and Palmieri are getting. I don't think he's even better than Peter Holland or Rickard Rakell, although he's certainly more proven at the NHL level, particularly more than Rakell. I also think Silfverberg is better than him.
So it's hard to hate this move because if they put his big ass with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, that seems like the type of line where the two great players would negate the weaknesses of the one mediocre player to the point where mostly only his strengths would show, and his size would just become too much for defenses to handle when he has two great players on his line to do everything else and actually gain possession and move the puck into situations where he can actually set up the cycle and use that size, that the line becomes excellent as a whole.
But then, you could say that about almost anyone with any talent at all playing with Perry and Getzlaf. Maybe not the size thing, but you could talk about Perry and Getzlaf letting Silfverberg use his great shot more, or helping to make up for some of Palmieri's deficiencies, or Etem's lack of size, or whatever. This applies to everyone but Beleskey who really hurts the top line, and of course guys like Stortini. And there are only so many roster spots, so I'm not sure I like the idea of Penner taking one away from Rakel or Noesen or DSP if he's finally ready. The roster I laid out is not going to work with Stortini, Penner, and Beleskey getting significant ice time while the fast, skilled young players sit on the pine or worse in the press box or the AHL.
But, that's really more to do with Stortini and Beleskey. As long as they don't play (period in Stortini's case, period or barely both work for Beleskey), it can still work with Penner, as long as he's only getting 10 minutes a night and Etem, Palmieri, Holland, and Silfverberg are getting 17 minutes, and not the other way around.