The Kesler trade adds another dynamic to the team beyond what is immediately obvious to many people. Kesler is very good, consistently so, at taking and winning faceoffs. While that may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it makes quite a bit of difference against select opponents in, say, a seven-game series.
Specific to this thought is offensive zone faceoffs. Boudreau has always instructed his wingers to forecheck against the breakout if the faceoff is lost in the OZ. The inside winger usually goes straight behind the net, while the board-side winger stays with the outlet man along the wall. The aim of this is the intercept the usual routes the puck takes to exit the zone here.
Against both the Dallas Stars and the Los Angeles Kings, the Ducks had to work around those teams playing into this. If either team won their draw in their defensive zone, they would avoid working it back and be more aggressive in pushing it up quickly. They were going "through the middle" instead of "along the wall."
What I mean by it is this: instead of pushing the puck back to the pivot defender (usually behind the net), to either push along or reverse back to the support winger along the wall, the centerman or player (usually the pinching corner defender) recovering the puck would outlet immediately to the inside winger in the slot. This is dangerous but, against an aggressive forecheck off the draw, usually the easiest way to prevent being bottled up.
The Kings did it so well, they minimized the Ducks counter to being a relatively weaker faceoff team (excepting Saku Koivu). Kesler is similar to Koivu in this area in that he wins more than he loses. But he also has slightly more offensive upside, assuming he doesn't also break down like the Finn eventually did, which makes him more of a threat in the OZ.
Imagine back to the Ducks-Kings playoff series, and envision an OZ faceoff scenario in game six or seven. The way those games were going, let's assume Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry just took a shift to get the puck there, so they're tired. Boudreau tended to go with Koivu on the ensuing faceoff, which scares exactly nobody, because the Kings had taken away Nick Bonino or Mathieu Perreault as options by breaking out through the middle. (If you were wondering whyJonathan Quick, who normally plays pucks as much as possible, was covering up to create more faceoffs, that's why.)
The typical lack of zone time would happen even if Koivu won the draw, because Cogliano is better off of transition (and not holding the zone) and Silfverberg was being closed down quickly because he was the line's triggerman. It may have looked to fans like Boudreau was therefore taking a defensive tact even in the OZ. Short of double-shifting Getzlaf, he really had no other option because Bonino and Perreault were gambles to win the FO.
Kesler gives him another option. How so? Kesler is more of a pure offensive threat in his own regard, which means extending Getzlaf and Perry an extra 20 seconds can reasonably work. It is easier for a coach to double-shift his stars on the likelier bet that his team will win the draw and control the game situation a bit longer.
I imagine we'll see this often: Getzlaf and Perry will line up as wingers and Kesler will take the draw. Now an opposing team used to the Ducks aggressive lost draw forecheck can't gameplan the same way, because a faceoff win with those three on the ice is an immediate threat so close to goal. And should Kesler lose his faceoff? Opposing teams will think twice about going through the middle if one of Getzlaf or Perry are hovering near the slot.
Sometimes it's the little things that can swing entire outcomes.
The 10th Pick
There's a mixed sentiment with this pick, but I don't think it is too bad. Drafting 10th overall in this year's draft sounds a lot better than it really is; the supposed drop-off after the top four or five isn't as steep, but picks six through like 20 are all reportedly in the same muddle.
That being said, and this is purely speculation on my part based on what I've seen and heard throughout the league, I don't think the Ducks wanted Nicholas Ritchie at 10. I think Anaheim had legitimate interest in William Nylander. It seems like there was a genuine conversation between Murray and Nonis about swapping picks, with Toronto Maple Leafs getting their second-rounder back (from the Peter Holland trade) and the Ducks moving up to eighth.
I know a conversation about it happened, but I couldn't speculate why it left off. Anaheim has had very good picks come from Sweden of late, so I think there's a fair assumption to be made that Nylander was on the radar.
Here's my 100% guess based off what I know of the Toronto management and scouting team. I think the Leafs sniffed out who the Ducks wanted and, along with whatever information they had amassed about Nylander, decided to take the player instead after asking for a little more than just their own second-rounder and not getting a bite. Nothing about Nylander makes sense with what the Toronto management team sh**s out in interviews, but hey, good on them for it. Somehow, the Leafs will screw him up.
Dreger on TSN Radio "yeah it was a surprise the Leafs took Nylander over Ritchie"— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) June 30, 2014
Apparently, the Leafs wanted Nikolaj Ehlers, not Nylander. But Brendan Shanahan wanted Nylander because of his relationship with his father Michael, who played with Shanny in 2007 with the Rangers, and there we go.
The Ducks have enjoyed recent drafting successes from Sweden as well as players in the OHL and from the U.S. college system. That Ritchie had some success in the OHL most recently still tells me the scouting staff here knew enough about him to be comfortable with him, even if he wasn't the desired target.
I watched a little bit of film on him after the pick and can see why there's some valid concern about his size. He's used to pushing people off the puck with his size, which mostly shows up in his puck battles in 50-50 scenarios and when forechecking along the boards. At the same time, there are some big, big human beings playing hockey in the OHL, and he wasn't exactly a giant amongst boys in the clips I saw.
What does encourage me is this: none of his goals came from his size. He wasn't powering through defenders en route to crashing the net and just smashing pucks home. He wasn't blowing guys up and having pucks bounce off his frame. A lot of his goals came from his booming shot and his positional awareness. His size made him an easy target for his teammates, but he was still positioned smart enough. Furthermore, he didn't lack any confidence in his shot and had no problem unloading it quickly through moving screens and traffic.
Do I think he'll be a pure scorer in the NHL? No, certainly not a top three. This wasn't the draft to land a top three, elite player (unless there's significant luck involved) for any team, really. But I could see him topping out on the second line if he progresses well enough. In essence, the Ducks drafted Dustin Penner in Ritchie, but hopefully with a better room presence and work ethic.
The key to readjusting his game to play against other men and not just boys is learning how to stop and start. Wingers have a tendency to keep moving, both because they've been coached to "move their feet" and because that's how they get into scoring positions. The problem with that is they also move out of scoring position very quickly, and as a fanbase who watched Teemu Selanne only succeed with quick playmakers who could find him when he was perfectly positioned in time, you can perhaps see the problem.
Guys with bigger bodies, even if playing on the wing, need to stop more. Get into a position, like the front of the net, and camp out. If a player makes it hard for defenders to get inside and push them out of place, it doesn't take the best hands to finish or at least cause havoc in close.
Other than that, his skating is average to good. He had an explosive start and ran down most of the bigger guys put out against him, although that's not exactly equal footing in today's NHL. There will be smarter, smaller, and quicker defensemen taking his space away, and no player loses out on continually working on his stride.
I'm ok with this pick overall, considering the depth of this draft. Size can't be taught, which is a sad truth for smaller people out there.
When Kesler was on the market at the trade deadline, his two preferred teams were the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim. I have no idea what the Penguins offered for him, but considering they had zero depth beyond like five forwards and a real iffy defense core, I doubt it was stunning stuff. The Ducks offered a first and a second and a player, but I don't know who. As the deadline neared, the Ducks went with four picks and no players.
The Vancouver Canucks obviously should have taken either one of the previous two deals, but this worked out better for Anaheim. Giving up Bonino and Luca Sbisa (plus the pick) isn't nearly as much cost to obtain Kesler as many, including myself, feared. At the same time, Kesler controlled the market entirely, only giving the Canucks the opportunity to talk to the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim. So in that vein, I give Vancouver some credit for getting anything at all.
Bonino had his best season as a pro last year, and the way he achieved it suggests it will remain his best until he's done. He is unlikely to improve upon his production considering it came more on high percentage shooting (a recent staple of the Ducks game) and less on strong possession metrics. That shouldn't take anything away from his skills, work ethic, or usefulness as a player; it just means it is impossible to accurately project what he'll do in the future considering his luckiness last season. (Granted, if he learns how to positively affect possession in his time in Vancouver and onward, his stock rises.)
I was never as down on Sbisa as many were but always disliked his contract. He's a young defensemen who still has some development time needed, but he can still be a strong second pairing guy. His injuries and the defense here in Anaheim last year hindered his development, and moving on from that contract was a big win for the organization.
I think the Canucks got two good players but not two great players. Considering Kesler controlled the market here, it is hard to say purely that Anaheim won the deal (they did) so much as whoever obtained the American-born center was always going to win. It was always what Vancouver could get back. Bonino is extraordinarily useful but is not a second line center on any true contender. Sbisa is a developing defender who was pushed out here and still needs some refinement.
I liked both players here, and I hope both see continued success in the future. Just not against the Ducks, of course.
I didn't see this trade coming, but late Sunday night the Tampa Bay Lightning dealt centerman Thompson to the Ducks for two late round picks (a 4th and a 7th). I have a few thoughts on it but have never seen Thompson play, so I can't comment too much. But I have impressions anyway because of course I do.
My first thought is that the Bolts are clearly dumping money to make a big splash. Teams that help out in that situation tend to be remembered favorably in the future. The next time Yzerman and Murray have a discussion, there's going to be some trust and appreciation there. That is always beneficial.
My second thought was of course to go look at Thompson's statistics, and in every capacity except production, he seems like a cheap and simple Bonino replacement in terms of roles. Thompson is a fourth-line center who posts ok possession metrics and can kill penalties. He won't see power play time, but Anaheim doesn't have a need for any more man-up specialists.
My third thought is that having another depth centerman on the roster gives the Ducks a bit more leverage in negotiating another contract with Perreault. Eric Stephens floated the idea that Perreault may be the "odd man out" here, and that's also a possibility, considering Rakell is coming to destroy the league with his supreme and elite talent and awesomeness. But I'd be pretty surprised if it isn't just that Anaheim wants to have like 15 centermen on the roster at any given time.
Keep in mind, Anaheim lost two centermen in letting Koivu and Daniel Winnik seek free agency. If Thompson replaces Bonino in terms of usage but can play on the wing like Winnik did while Perreault and Rakell pivot behind Kesler, there's a sudden well of center depth here that Murray stated he wanted.
ANA not qualifying Mathieu Perreault. Ducks have, however, given him contract offer they deem to be substantial. He's UFA unless he accepts.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 30, 2014
I don't know CBA stuff like I could, but I look at this and wonder if there's a term disagreement. I would guess the Ducks want something shorter, but Perreault wants something longer. It is only natural that Anaheim is offering low money and Perreault wants high money, but that's every contract negotiation. Perhaps by not qualifying him but offering him a deal in free agency, they are avoiding a future arbitration scenario should the sides not agree. I like Perreault, but I think Rakell is more important to this org long-term.