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On Golden Pond: Retirees Talk Cup Chances

On Golden Pond will be a new series that brings back the original format first used at Anaheim Calling. Enjoy two old bloggers telling you go get off their Pond!!

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Some of you might not remember what the blog was like when it first started. Originally, Arthur and I would formulate questions and write different perspectives on it to give the readers as many viewpoints about Ducks' Hockey as we could muster.  It was a little like reading Pardon the Interruption.  Since Arthur left, the old format has largely been abandoned. I am resurrecting it in order to stir up some old fashioned discussion.  We can't just keep waiting for Kid to bake his next Pizza!!

I am calling the new segment on Golden Pond, because I don't write as many posts as I used to, and because I will be seeking out participation from former contributers. Look out for Arthur in the future! On that note, let's get into the post.

DANIEL: The trade deadline has come and gone and we've all had a few games to see the new acquisitions in action. The Ducks have spent their few seasons under Bruce Boudreau at the top of the standings. BB seems to have gotten the team to lock up its third consecutive Pacific Division title. However, in his two trips to the playoffs, he's only managed one series victory-a tight battle with the Dallas Stars.

Robby, you and I have been pretty vocal critics of Murray, but now that all the pieces are in place, what's your take of the Ducks' chances at making a run to the Cup this Spring?

ROBBY: On the balance, I don’t think even Bob Murray’s most ardent critics (guilty) can deny that the team is better after the deadline than it was a week or ten days before. In some ways, it’s addition by subtraction in that Murray found ways to get rid of earlier season mistakes like Rene Borque and Eric Brewer. But since those are problems he himself created, I’m loathe to give him too much credit. Where he does deserve some credit is the acquisitions of Jiri Sekac and Simon Despres, both of whom appear to have been smart buy-low moves. Sekac has shown more offensive upside than I anticipated when we first acquired him, and Despres has been fun to watch so far. So on that front, Murray absolutely made some good decisions.

Count me a skeptic on the James Wisniewski front. Most of us can remember what life was like when Wiz made his first tour of duty in Anaheim, and it wasn’t exactly spectacular. In fact, I’d contend that the heaping dumpster fire of Ryan Whitney probably distracted many of us from really noticing how perfectly mediocre-to-bad Wisniewski was as a Duck. Sure, his offensive numbers have been fine since he left the Ducks, although it looks increasingly like his 2013-2014 season with Columbus was an aberration, and not the norm. In his first game with the Ducks, we saw the good and bad with Wisniewski. Yes, he did an admirable job of leading the way in terms of Corsi despite being paired with Clayton Stoner, yet another Murray mistake. But he also blew a check against the wall that led to the game-winner on Monday night. In some ways, it feels like Wisniewski was an over-reaction to Sami Vatanen’s injury. And unfortunately, that certainly continues Murray’s trend this year of over-reacting to injuries. Whether Wisniewski ends up significantly helping the Ducks depends on what Bruce does once Sami is healthy. This team certainly needed a defensive upgrade, but I don’t think Wisniewski was the kind we needed.

But back to the question: Do the Ducks have a real shot this year? Perhaps. If the Kings somehow miss the playoffs and the Ducks commit to an all-offense, all-the-time mentality, maybe there’s a chance. After all, Frederik Andersen has shown an uncanny ability to bail this team out on a consistent basis, and the Ducks may be able to survive three goals against a night if they can pot four. While that may not be the ideal path through the playoffs, it seems to be the identity Murray built for this team when he acquired Sekac and Wisniewski. So with a little puck luck and a lot of Freddy, it seems feasible that the Ducks could get bounced in the conference finals this year, as opposed to the conference semis.

DANIEL: I am equally concerned for the strength of some of his acquisitions. The team is definitely better, but how much better, and in comparison to which teams? Wisniewski is a high risk/high reward pick up. His ability to make the inevitable gaff is panic-inducing. It seems to me Wiz is the most likely candidate to pull a Bryan Allen from last postseason.

Despite all this, two things convince me that Anaheim fans can have some hope going into the postseason. The first is that I can't remember the last time the Twins seemed to be so absent from the scoresheet. They haven't actually been absent, just more really good than amazing. Still, I think there could be space for them to be dominant in the playoffs if Bruce can finally get them a winger who can stick with them. I still think Etem has the potential to fill that role very well, if the guy can get more than one or two shifts to prove himself.

The second, and arguably more significant reason, is that the rest of the West seems to be a little pedestrian this year. Last year, the Kings and Blackhawks were the undeniable favorites, with San Jose and St. Louis representing a threatening second tier, but still not as close as the former two. This year, Nashville is slipping into a free fall right before the playoffs. Chicago is missing Patrick Kane until the Western Conference Finals, if they're lucky. The Kings are on fire, but haven't seemed proper ever since the Slava Voynov incident. St. Louis looks good, but they always look good going into the playoffs before inevitably losing to Chicago. PDO darling Calgary, a completely unthreatening Vancouver, and a Minnesota team relying an Devan Dubnyk's unreal hot streak round out the rest of the current playoff field. Winnipeg looks less and less dangerous as their goaltending waves. San Jose could be dangerous if they manage to close the gap, but their tire-fire year has been topped with a set of white walls that is the Thornton-Wilson debacle.

It's not that I think the Ducks are a great team; it's more that I'm not sure there are a lot of great teams in their way. The Ducks might have a very successful postseason, simply because the teams around them haven't kept pace with their own dominance.