FanPost

The Gamble – Getting Bigger, Getting Stronger

The Ducks had just finished first in the Western Conference and took the Stanley Cup winners to game seven in the second round of the playoffs. They had improved from two seasons ago, despite losing one of its top scorers in sniper Bobby Ryan. GM Bob Murray may have a master plan, but will this plan work?

Many times the team would be behind and come back to win. That speaks volumes to our players and coach Bruce Boudreau to have a never die attitude. The Ducks had a 3 – 2 series lead on the eventual Cup champions, but in the end they were simply outworked. GM Murray had denoted that the team needed to improve, to not give up the lead, and maintain that lead.

Often in post game interviews when asked why is this working now, coach Boudreau would respond in a happy flummox of, "I don’t know. We do all the same things and things are working out now." It sounds a bit comically, but after hearing it a few more times it makes one wonder if Boudreau cannot identify what went wrong and how to improve it. Is coach pushing to correct buttons or are our players’ talent masking the improvements made for the season? Is having a team that can load talent to roll four lines hide some deficiencies that can only be seen in the playoffs?

Coach Boudreau deserves credit for system because it has worked for the Ducks in the regular season two seasons in a row. Is this team built for the playoffs?

Anahiem Ducks Snapshot Stats

Regular season and Playoffs

Year

Reg/Playoff

GF/G

GA/G

5v5 F/A

Cup Winner

5 v 5 F/A

2013

Reg

2.79

2.40

1.28

Playoffs

3.00

2.57

1.09

1.29 – Kings (1st in ranking)

2014

Reg

3.21

2.48

1.39

Playoffs

2.69

2.85

0.80

1.39 – Hawks (1st in ranking)

These stats can be found at NHL.com

The chart above is a small sample. I could not break down 2012 season because of the fact coach Boudreau only coached for 58 games; not the whole 82 games. That stat is not easily derived. Between the two years, the team’s goal scoring increased while the defense stayed close to being the same. On 5 v 5, the team continued to improve! Yet, if we compare the playoff stats, then we notice the team is regressing.

Building a franchise is a long term project that should never end. How does one make it never end? GM Bob Murray believes a good portion of it is through the draft. Another portion is tinkering to find the right players for the system within the given year. And finally, Bob wants to get bigger because going small before did not work out so well many years ago.

The Hockey News’ Future Watch has ranked the Ducks’ system for the past three consecutive years in the top 3, finishing first, second and third. The Ducks’ prospect system ranked first overall this past Future Watch. In the playoff run, the Ducks had five rookies on the ice. They had two defensemen, two goalies, and a center: D Lindholm, D Vatanen, G Andersen, G Gibson, and C Rakell. Other young prospects making headway in the same playoffs are Silfverberg, Smith-Pelly, and Etem. Lindholm and Andersen broke through the NHL due to injuries at the NHL club during the regular season. Vatanen and Rakell pushed their way into the lineup late into the season. Gibson was simply boss as he backstopped the AHL Admirals to the playoffs and then the Ducks in the playoffs due to Andersen going down to injury.

Tinkering has helped GM Bob to find gems. D Rev Lovejoy has provided to be a great compliment to D Cam Fowler on the top line. LW Winnik provided great chemistry with Cogliano and Koivu to be a very good shutdown line. D Fistric helped the team so much when injuries plagued the blue line this past season. G Fasth was a great free agent find. Trading for Perraultt provided great offense this past season. Not every tinkering move will work out, so do not expect perfection. So Bob got two players who fell out of favor with other organizations with D Blacker and C LeBlanc. These are lower level acquisitions, but, again, tinkering moves.

Getting bigger and meaner is what Bob envisions for the Ducks. Bob actually went small for a small period. It did not pan out what he thought it would be like when we got Blake. So Bob recalls how the Ducks won their championship, which is to get big and mean and getting a true second line center. In recent years, the Ducks have acquired the services of LW Penner 6’4", D Souray (6’4"), D Allen (6’5"), RW Jackman (6’4"), D Fistric (6’3"), and LW Winnik (6’2"). They also got D Robidas to add that grit since Souray went down with injury. Rookie Lindholm is 6’3" and late bloomer power forward Maroon is 6’3". Silfverberg (6’2") and Noesen (6’1") were acquired in the Ryan trade. Also in on the Ryan trade is newly drafted Ritchie who stands at 6’2" and 226 lbs. Waiting to break into the NHL is winger Nic Kerdiles who is 6’2" and 200 lbs.

The Ducks will no longer have the services of the following three centers: Bonino (6’1"), Koivu (5’10") and Perraultt (5’10"). In their stead we have Kesler (6’2" and 202 lbs), Rakell (6’1" and 190 lbs), and Thompson (6’ and 210 lbs). The last two signees are D Stoner (6’4") and Heatley (6’4").

This does not mean that Bob does not like small players, but those players better be tenacious like RW Cogliano, LW Beleskey, and D Vatanen.

Bob has found a coach that brings an offensive flair to southern California in Boudreau. It can roll four lines and it can score at will during the regular season. But come playoff time, to offense and defense seem to fade. This offseason Bob traded for both C Kesler and C Thompson. They are very good defensive centers, but Kesler brings a lot of scoring to the table as he was Vancouver’s top goal scorer last year. Recently, Heatley was signed, but does this not reminisce of signing Penner? If Heatley pans out, then a great signing for the Ducks. If not, then Heatley may serve as a stop gap for one of the many players vying to play wing for the Twins like a Smith-Pelly or possibly Kerdiles. For the past two seasons, Bob has tried to acquire a mean defenseman. Two seasons ago it was Souray. Last season it was Robidas. This season it is Stoner. Bob wants that second mean defenseman out there. Mind you, Fistric may yet still develop as well.

Coach Boudreau knows offense. Bob is going to add defensive players to Boudreau’s system in the likes of centers Kesler and Thompson. Then Bob is inserting defensive minded coach Trent Yawney to serve under Boudreau. Bob knows we can roll four lines. He has accumulated enough talent to do so. Bob also knows some of our pitfalls as a team and coaching. If Boudreau does not know why something does not work and then does, then Bob will have a man in the trenches to ensure we can at least defend better as a team in Yawney. Boudreau’s offensive mind has the Ducks as regular season conference champions. Bob Murray is tinkering to make sure that once we get to the playoff that we win in the playoffs. Scoring is fun, but defense wins championships. Namely, playing good 5-on-5 defense and offense has shown in the recent two Cup winners the keys to success. Actually, when the Kings won their first cup, they too had the best 5v5 F/A stat rating. So that makes it three years in a row.

If this team can continue to play good offense and improve its team defense, then expect this year’s Ducks to run roughshod not only on the NHL, but in the NHL playoffs to win its second Cup. That’s the gamble that Murray is taking, giving a defensive bite to an offensive minded system. Are Kelser, Thompson, Stoner, and Heatley the right pieces to push the Ducks into winning playoff team as opposed to simply winning the Western Conference? Welp, Bob did not want that Western Conference Division winner banner. He has raised his standards and is backing it up with the continual moves he makes. Go Big or go home! It is no longer just a saying, but Bob Murray’s theme to acquiring the Ducks’ organization its second Cup.



This article is user-generated. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Anaheim Calling. Please do not link this article as representative of Anaheim Calling content or viewpoints . . . unless it's <em>really</em> really good.

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