Before the season began, Bob Murray said this:
"I want to get to the 20-25 game mark, where we've played enough home and road games and we've had hopefully, healthy people, and I can evaluate where this hockey team is at." (NHL.com)
As of this writing, the Ducks have played 20 games. They haven't exactly been healthy, so perhaps that is going to be a reason for Murray to extend his evaluation deadline. But here at AC, we aren't so forgiving. Let's get to it.
Frederik Andersen was the Ducks' best player for most of the early going. Following his bout of leg tightness, he's lost some games and let in some bad goals. I'm not worried about it. His rolling save percentage was bound to come down from where it was earlier, and it's bound to come back up from where it's been lately.
After a rough start, John Gibson found his form, and then got hurt. That's a shame. Once he's healthy, I think Murray will wait to see him play some more games before making any moves. I'm willing to be patient as well. Right now, goaltending is not this team's biggest concern.
The long-term outlook for the Ducks' blue line is very exciting. I can't think of another NHL team that, as of right now, looks like it will have a better D corps in three years. The tough part is putting the pieces together before Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry leave their primes. This season, Murray's job is to assemble the best blue line he can to try to win a Stanley Cup now without sacrificing the future of the team. I think almost everyone who reads this will agree that, based on what we've seen, Josh Manson is a top six defender on this team even when everyone is healthy. If the Ducks were rebuilding, then sure, send Manson back to Norfolk when the other guys get healthy to save a year on his entry-level contract. But they're not rebuilding. And how good does this look?
Fowler — Lovejoy
Lindholm — Manson
Beauchemin — Vatanen
Or, even more radical, swap Vatanen and Lovejoy. Either way, that is a good D corps in 2015, not to mention what it could look like in 2018. If Bruce Boudreau is willing to sit guys like Bryan Allen and Clayton Stoner, I don't think Murray needs to trade for an upgrade on the back end. But that's a big if.
This is where I think Murray needs to get busy. For the first time since before I can remember, the Duck's biggest hole might be on the wing. I really like Andrew Cogliano, Patrick Maroon, Jakob Silfverberg, Devante Smith-Pelly and Matt Beleskey. I just don't think any of them should be the fourth-highest scorer on a Stanley Cup caliber team. When healthy, this team has an overabundance of guys that most teams would kill to slot in their bottom six. The onus is on Bob Murray to package one of these guys with a prospect and a draft pick (or some similar combination) and pick up another guy who can score.
If I'm Bob Murray
- I'm standing pat on the goaltending for now.
- I'm not reassigning Manson to the AHL.
- I'm looking for a way to trade Allen for whatever anyone will give me. (Not Stoner, because I'm trying to keep this realistic, and trading him now would be admitting the signing was a mistake.)
- I'm narrowing down a list of wingers that can make a difference, and beginning a conversation with their GMs.