"Corey Perry believes the Anaheim Ducks have the flock for another Stanley Cup run"
So reads the headline of an NHL.com story published on Saturday. If you read the article, you eventually discovered that this is an overstatement. Perry wants another Cup, but he never says that it'll come this year. And barring a miracle from the Hockey Gods, it probably won't. But that doesn't mean that this team is incapable of success.
Last season was composed of many impressive feats of individual accomplishment. Teemu Selanne scored his 1300th point and solidified his future position in the Hall of Fame, Pears scored 50 goals, won the Rocket Richard and the Hart Trophies, and Lubomir Visnovsky scored a career-high 68 points. Cam Fowler began the season on a tentative ten-day tryout, and eventually blossomed into a crucial part of the Ducks defensive corps.
Yet, the 2010-2011 season was marred by disconcerting events - when Jonas Hiller's vertigo reared its ugly head, we realized that our goaltending depth was nonexistent. (Remember Curtis McElhinney?) We brought in Ray Emery, and though the Ellis-Emery tandem carried us through the playoffs, everyone knew that we would only be successful with a healthy Hiller. The 2011-2012 season still hinges on Hiller's health, but we still have Ellis, (though I wish we could've found a way to keep Emery) and Jeff Deslauriers provides goaltending depth as well. I wish we had a Tim Thomas-Tuukka Rask caliber tandem, but either Igor Bobkov or John Gibson could be our go-to man sometime in the future (in 5-10 years, really, but a girl can hope).
Our defense struggled out of the gate last season, and was completely gassed by the time that we faced Nashville in the WCQF. The mid-season acquisition of Francois Beauchemin was somewhat helpful, but our blueline remains a patchwork of old and young, puck-moving and shut-down. And other than our Big 2, Lubo and Toni Lydman, many of our defensive pairings lack chemistry (even though Beauchemin-Sbisa was effective last season). If Kurtis Foster can stay healthy, I predict that he will surprise us all and develop into an effective shutdown defenseman.
Finally, we must discuss the forwards. I predict that the RPG line will continue to be the most effective three man unit in the NHL (even if Perry doesn't have another career season). The Old Finn line will do some damage, but I believe that Ducks fans will be pleasantly surprised by our bottom six forwards. Cogs has shown that he can win a faceoff (despite an abundance of data that suggested that he couldn't), and DSP and Andrew Gordon have shown flashes of brilliance. But most impressively, the Bacon McMuffin-Macenauer-Parros line has dominated the preseason (are you reading this, Ryan Getzlaf?).
And remember, everyone, depth wins championships.
My prediction: We finish 5th in the West, and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals (*throws salt over shoulder to reverse the magumbo*)