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Anaheim Ducks 2014-15 Defense Preview

Liz examines arguably the biggest sore spot in the Anaheim Ducks lineup: the blue line corps that was highly suspect last season and has done little to improve going into this year.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Since opening the preseason with back-to-back victories for the first time in franchise history, the Anaheim Ducks have been on a downward spiral. Soon enough, we may even use the phrase "out-of-control," which is something no one, and I mean NO ONE, likes using.

So it's time, now, to be brutally, honestly, bluntly forward about the guys who are supposed to be helping keep the pucks away from our goaltender and out of our net: the defensemen.

Overall, since the likes of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer left Anaheim, there has been a seemingly gaping hole that no blue liner could fill. What group will skate out and represent the Ducks in their regular season? Here are the names and a brief personal opinion on each defender who is likely to see some time in a Ducks sweater this season.

#3 Clayton Stoner: Starting off with a bit of a question mark mainly because the only time I have seen Clayton Stoner in person, he was selling merchandise out of the Ducks team store. He did appear in all three of Anaheim's away preseason contests, however the biggest plush he made was against the Sharks when he tallied 11 penalty minutes. I definitely have my doubts on his role on the defense, especially when there are other players who can be a liability. I would love to be wrong and have Stoner flourish as a strong stay at home style defensemen but I'm not convinced this was the solution Anaheim was looking for during the off season.

#4 Cam Fowler: I have often referred to Fowler as the second coming of Scotty Nieds, especially when he was paired with Niedermayer's long-time defensive partner, Francois Beauchemin. However, Fowler seems to have leveled off a bit in what was previous a consistent improvement in his a game. Once Cam was taken away from Beauchemin he seemed to stumble a bit, but that could also be because he is a more offensively minded defensemen who feels he needs to find a way to play more of a shutdown style. In any case, I want Fowler to play his style of defense, but still we can't risk him becoming a defensive liability.

#5 Bryan Allen: I could probably do a full post simply explaining why Bryan Allen should not be in a Ducks jersey, however since he dropped from #55 to #5, it looks like we are stuck with him. I'll try to keep this short. I strongly dislike Allen. Short enough? I will never wish an injury on anyone, however I would appreciate if he would simply not play in Anaheim. I don't care if this lackluster giant plays in the minors, I don't care if he takes his mediocre-at-best skill set and retires, I don't care if he cries and pisses and moans and pouts on his way out, I just want him out. Clear enough? He has been the root of several problems, full of negative contributions, and an all around atrocity every time he's hit the ice through this preseason, and long before that. I dare you to go back and tally how many times Allen was directly at fault for a goal against the Ducks. Don't worry, I'll wait...

#6 Ben Lovejoy: Anaheim's Ben Lovejoy has always felt a little out of place to me. He meshes somewhat with Cam Fowler, but if you partner him with almost anyone else then he struggles. Not exactly an asset for a blue liner, however after that Bryan Allen rant, I feel like Lovejoy is a total breath of fresh air. He's not great, he's nothing that insanely special, but he's not a mess. He has experience and size to his advantage, and a young defense partner that can help bail him out of unfortunate situations, however Lovejoy is far from a top defender. He has made too many poor decisions and horrible turnovers to overlook, however can find small ways to contribute. He's not stellar or reliable, but he is mediocre when with Fowler.

#23 Francois Beauchemin: Finally something positive to talk about. Frankie is once again sporting the "A" on his jersey, proving that he is here to stay and he will fight to do so. Beauchemin has had a rough career and of course he's had ups and downs, but his ups seem to always outweigh the downs. At 34-years-old, he carries with him plenty of lessons learned, and is clearly willing to teach even the greenest of the youngsters. Beau has been paired with Hampus Lindholm of late, which gives the young Swede some extra freedom, simply because how reliable Beauchemin is. I am happy to keep Francois as long as he keeps playing with his strong hockey sense, levelheadedness, and all around passion for the game.

#28 Mark Fistric: When Anaheim put Fistric in a Ducks sweater, everyone knew we weren't getting a Pronger. Hell, we knew we weren't getting even a Kent Huskins, but we all knew that he would help keep the other players safe. As a notorious fighter, Fistric has an impressive 6'3, 231-pound frame to help him keep the other teams in check, and when need be, he is willing to drop the gloves and fight to reinvigorate his team with some energy. Is he a defenseman I would trust on a nightly basis? Absolutely not, but if physicality is what Anaheim is lacking, which I doubt it will be, there's a definite safety net.

#45 Sami Vatanen: Believe it or not I have to apologize and take back some harsh things I have said about Vatanen in the past. Previously, I jumped to blame him for mistakes, however oftentimes the poor choices were in fact traced back to the unfortunate defense partner Sami has been stuck with, who is Bryan Allen. If Boudreau would give Vatanen a chance with someone who wasn't a total disaster then I genuinely believe that he would blow everyone away with his talent. However considering he is younger and hasn't made a huge impact so far, I regret to predict that Vatanen will be passed over for other goons when the opening night defense roster is announced. One day he will get a chance, and until then I am happy to eat the negative remarks I said about him earlier. [Ed. note: He was our strongest defenseman for sure and arguably our best player on the ice at all in the game against LA tonight, and yet it sickens me that he probably won't make the opening night roster barring some sort of personnel shakeup. - Kyle]

#47 Hampus Lindholm: The youngest defender on this list is Hampus Lindholm, who is just 20-years-old. Lindholm has found a solid spot next to Francois Beauchemin, and has settled into Anaheim nicely, and started his growth at a pretty steady pace. Lindholm is not shell-shocked like he was in the past and has really started to find what role he can comfortably and consistently fill for the Ducks. I like Hampus overall, maybe it's his speed, maybe it's the hockey sense that he's fine-tuning while working alongside Beauchemin, but whatever it is, I want more of it.

Honorable Mention: Sheldon Souray: Anyone else remember this guy? Sheldon Souray is still under contract for one more season, however he may be forced into retirement by the potentially career-ending wrist injury. Let's put it this way: I miss my Sheldon. I remember when we were desperate and needed a shutdown pairing, Boudreau would throw Souray and Beauchemin out onto the ice together and sometimes their skill, strength, and dedication would give me chills. I want that back. I want his veteran experience and strong defensive mindset to help influence the younger players who are working their way through the Anaheim system, hoping for a shot at the NHL level. Needless to say, if he healed up during this season I would gladly give him a spot on the roster, hopefully the spot that previously belonged to Bryan Allen.

In general, I don't see much to look forward to in terms of the Ducks defense lineup. There are major problematic players, like Bryan Allen, who can cost us both goals and momentum in crucial games. Even with the more dependable players like Beauchemin, or the youngster with so much potential, Lindholm, I think the bad outweighs the good. When you have two goalies who are both in their sophomore seasons, you need a hard-working defense to try and help them out. Not a goon squad lineup that allows defense-zone turnovers and can't clear the puck on a penalty kill.

If Anaheim seriously wants to be contenders for a playoff run, they need to make some serious adjustments on their defensive roster.