State of the Defense: Part 2

I was going to make a comment to armkay’s fanpost but was afraid it would be too long. I don’t comment much here because I’m not a big fan of advanced stats (which is where the discussion usually goes) and only occasionally can I get into the sarcasm (though I will admit that Thyme can be clever from thyme to thyme). But armkay made me think more clearly about an issue I’ve had with the Ducks for several years, and I wanted to maybe spark some more discussion. I will greatly welcome you guys’ take on this, especially Mercad and kid ish.

Like armkay, I too believe that BM has a plan, but it goes way beyond faceoffs. I think he’s seeking to address an issue that I’ve had with the Ducks for four or five years now, that being: how well our forwards play defense.

It’s been my perception for several years now that the Ducks’ defenders don’t get anywhere near the support defensemen from other good teams get. In my view, this is manifest in two ways: 1) the frequency and the amount of time spent being hemmed in our own zone, frantically chasing the puck, and 2) the lack of a consistent and effective breakout play.

In the RC days, the breakout play was a stretch pass to someone in the neutral zone followed by a dump-in. More often than not, this would lead to a change in possession. Since BB took over, this has changed quite a bit; but even last season, it seemed like nearly half the time the Ducks would revert to the stretch pass and dump-in. And we still got bottled up pretty often.

Guys like Fowler and Lindholm can skate the puck out of the zone, but they’re not Bobby Orr. When we carry it out, we need to have good support for the puck carrier, and we don’t often have that. I watch every Ducks game and I watch every Bruins game (OK, I grew up in beantown and I’ve been a fan since 1967; please don’t hold that against me). The difference is more than palatable; the Bruins get hemmed in a lot less than we do, and they have all five guys working the d-zone. When they break out, they do it with numbers and speed. You see something similar with the Blackhawks and the Kings. We don’t.

In observing the NHL game over the last several years, it’s been my perception that a Selke-type player is critical to going all the way. Each of the last five Cup-winning teams have had a Selke winner or candidate on the roster; how many Hart candidates have there been? Only Crosby in 2009 I believe. How much does Bergeron contribute to Boston? Or Toews to Chicago, or Kopitar to LA? What has Thornton done for San Jose? We didn’t have a Selke-calibre player until now, with Kesler.

I believe that BM is trying to address this situation. Both Kesler and Thompson are defensively-oriented forwards. I think BM expects these guys to show the kids, by instruction or example, how to play defense. I also believe that is why Trent Yawney (from what I’ve read, a very defensive-minded coach) was brought up. Heatley was a low-risk, high return crapshoot. And Stoner? I haven’t seen him play, so I want to reserve judgment; but with forwards in position to take short (10-ft) passes or retrieve loose pucks, big guys who can win 50/50’s like Stoner and Allen won’t ice the puck so much.

In the end, I expect to see a much better breakout play. We may lose some in offense from last year, but we will more than make up for it in shot suppression. I’m hoping to see us whip LA before we get to the conference final!

I know this is largely conjecture, but it’s the way I see things. Feel free to pummel me with your slings and arrows, but I have considerable optimism for next season. I may be entirely off base, but I’d like to hear your views.

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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