Recapping the 2012 Season
Record: 30 – 12 – 6 (66 pts)/ (113 pts adjusted for an 82 game season)
Division Rank: 1st in Pacific
Conference Rank: 2nd in Western Conference
Playoffs Appearance: Yes, lost in first round to Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
New coach, new defensemen and a lack of a second line center in a shortened season was no problem for the Ducks’ organization as they finished second overall in the Western conference and 3rd overall in the NHL. The 2012 Ducks were an enigma because they often won contrary to how teams usually win games and that is winning without winning the puck possession game. What seemed unsustainable was sustainable during the regular season. The post season came to an abrupt halt for the Anaheim organization as they lost the Wings in seven games; where three games were lost in overtime.
Coach Boudreau made sure the Ducks did not start out slow. New editions to the blue line in the form of Souray and Allen helped to carry the burden from young Cam Fowler. Reclamation project Sheldon Souray turned in a wonderful season as he finished with a plus/minus rating of +19, but his body wore down as the compacted season wore on. The compacted season with stuffing in as many games as possible had a huge impact on the Ducks’ other elder statesmen in RW Teemu Selanne and D Toni Lydman. Lydman was given days off from games as newly acquired defenseman Ben Lovejoy was incorporated into the fold. Teemu’s plus/minus rating took a dive with a – 10, the only negative rating player in the Ducks’ top 10 scorers from last season.
Young forwards took a step towards being a consistent factor at the NHL level. Kyle Palmieri, Matt Beleskey, and Nick Bonino scored goals of 10, 8 and 5 respectively. Bobby Ryan had a good, but not his usual good outing as he only potted 11 goals. These tidbits of information may have paved the way for Ryan and the Ducks to part in separate ways.
What happened in the 2012 off-season.
In the 2013 draft, the Ducks selected pure offensive defenseman Shea Theodore with the 26th pick overall. Standing at 6’2" and 178 pounds, the Ducks have enough talent in their system to let Theodore develop skill-wise and physically. What some pundits see as a reach for the Ducks, the Ducks’ scout think they stole yet another talent. (The Ducks’ recent rash of great scouting includes D Cam Fowler, RW Emerson Etem, RW Kyle Palmieri, D Sami Vatanen, LW Nic Kerdiles, G John Gibson, G Frederik Andersen, D Hampus Lindholm, C Rikard Rakell, C William Karlsson, LW Kevin Roy, and D Andy Welinski.) The knock on Theodore was that he lacked defense, which happens to be an important part of being a defenseman. His plus/minus rating was terrible. Yet, peel the skin of the onion some more and one now sees his junior team, as a whole, were all in negative ratings. Playing defense requires team participation and if a team is all in negatives, then it may not be one player who should burden the lack of playing defense. Thus, why I believe the Ducks’ scouts stole yet another prospect.
Defenseman Lydman retired and Souray has surgery which means openings available for Sami Vatanen or Hampus Lindholm. But just in case there’s a need for a pinch defenseman, Mark Fistric was signed. Steckel was not brought back. Youngings Bonino, Beleskey, Palmieri and power forward Patrick Maroon are on one-way contracts that are very friendly. Captain center Ryan Getzlaf and his twin right winger, Corey Perry, signed an 8 year extension to remain and possibly retire as a Duck. Talk about retiring, Teemu Selanne is not. Neither is big power forward (but soft to us Duck fans who remember his play) Dustin Penner as he signed a very friendly one year contract.
The Trade. Dazzling sniper Bobby "Ottawa, I’m coming in hot" Ryan was traded away to the Senators as he only had two more years left on his current contract of about $5 per year. Bobby would probably require a similar contract to the Twins at the end of his tenure, which was about $8.25 million for 8 years. With so many ducklings picking up the scoring this past season, this off-season was a good time to unload Bobby Ryan.
The Return. LW Jakob Silfverberg, LW Stefan Noesen, and 2014 first round pick. Silf was a league and tourney MVP across the pond two seasons ago and this past year he put up 10 goals and 9 assists for the Ottawa Senators. Noesen was the player the Ducks wanted long ago, but the Senators picked him ahead of the Ducks’ pick. Thus, prompted the Ducks to trade down which equated to center Rakell and super phenom in net Gibson. So you can say the Senators really helped us out tremendously back then and today as we pick up the player they always coveted. What is not being reported anywhere is that Rakell has centered Noesen for the past three and a half years for their Plymouth junior team. They are re-united and could possibly be a pairing that may not be separated like the Ducks’ own Twins of Getzlaf-Perry. The icing on the cake was GM Bob Murray holding out for a first round pick when Sens GM Bryan Murray was offering a second round pick.
Offense: The team is still trying to find the right player to fit with the Twins on the first line. Penner and Silf are probably in contention for that spot. The loser would be relegated to the second line. The third line is a puck possession loving line of Daniel Winnik-Saku Koivu- Andrew Cogliano, or as I refer to them as the Conehead line. (In the movie Miracle, the Conehead line had great chemistry and responded with "pass, shoot, score".) The unknowns are still the same from last season: the second and fourth line. Teemu returns, Holland will by vying for a spot, and Etem will make it difficult for the parent club to send him back down to the AHL program.
Breakout player: C Peter Holland. For the past two AHL seasons, Holland has put up 99 points in 116 games. That equates to 0.85 points per game. In rookie camp for the summer, he showed up as a man among boys. I do not know why he has struggled at the NHL level, but he has only had 25 games on NHL ice. So I am expecting great things from Holland because it is now or never for him.
Bounce back player #1: RW Corey Perry. He has lead the Western conference in goals scoring in 2010-11 and 2011-12. In 2009-10, Perry was in the top 20 in goal scoring. Last year was not the Corey Perry we are not used to seeing in the previous two seasons where he lead the conference in goal scoring. There was an article in Faceoff’s 2013 yearbook that stated Perry’s status of being a free agent really plagued Perry’s game and emotions. Now that Perry knows where he will be for the next eight years, I expect Perry to regain his confidence and lead the Western conference again in goal scoring.
Bounce back player#2: RW Teemu Selanne. He is a scoring machine, but for those of us who watch Teemu carefully cringed often as he has not played the defense he has played seasons before, not saying that Teemu plays great defense, but Teemu left a lot to be desired last season in his all around game. Maybe a normal NHL schedule may help Teemu and his aging body.
Defense: There was not much change here. Souray’s off-season surgery forced the Ducks to sign Fistric, but I think he will be utilized as a seventh defenseman and have Vatanen or Lindholm be part of the NHL crew. Hopefully both Allen and Luca Sbisa improve their games this season, otherwise it will be a long season for the Ducks’ netminders.
Breakout player: Sami Vatanen. Is it pure coincidence or destiny that Souray will be out of the line up to give those NHL minutes available for Vatanen to get some consistent burn. Sami needs to hone on ways to not get overpowered on the defensive end. With that said, what can Scotty Niedermayer do to help Vatanen’s growth?
Bounce back player: Cam Fowler. Fowler looked great before the concussion. After the concussion, he took some time to regain that confidence, but remained snake bitten. He is only 21 years old, two years younger than Luca Sbisa. There is so much talent in Fowler and to think he is nowhere near his prime, but is already considered an NHL veteran whereas Sbisa is still learning the ropes.
Goalie: The Ducks’ cup runneth over. The Ducks possess two very good NHL netminders in Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth. Then their 2012 third round pick, Frederik Andersen, proved he can stand on his head at the AHL level. Finally, young phenom John Gibson is making his way to the AHL this season. Hiller’s contract ends this season. Fasth is signed through the 2014-15 season. Andersen’s entry level contract (ELC) will end after this season, but Gibson’s three year ELC starts this year. The Ducks have lots of options here as well as the option to trade. The way things are now and if Gibson rises up to the occasion, then next season he could be backing up Fasth and finally take over the starting spot in 2015-16 season, his last year of his ELC. But that is just looking too far away and so many stars must align as well.
There is no breakout player because we have high expectations for all of our netminders. The only bounce back participant will be Igor Bobkov as the Ducks will have to loan him to their ECHL team to make room for Gibson at the AHL level.
Worst Case Scenario: Sophomore slump hits Silfverberg, Palmieri, Etem, and Fasth. Hiller has another slow start. Sbisa replays 2012 and Allen returns even slower than 2012. Holland nor Bonino is a fit for the second line center position. Even if they are this bad, they will still creep into the playoffs because of their quality depth at goalie.
Best Case Scenario: Holland surpasses Bonino, Silfverberg excels as he is more accustomed to the NA style of play and ice, Penner actually earned his spot on the top line, Vatanen makes us all in awe while Souray returns in shape for the playoffs, Perry regains his scoring touch to finish first overall in goal scoring in the Western Conference, and Teemu breaks 700 goals.
I predict the Ducks to finish 2nd in the Western conference as well as win the Pacific division once again. Consistency and young players continue to develop should power the Ducks to the Western Conference Finals.