Since the 2007 Stanley Cup title and the following departures of Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger, one name has become synonomous when you bring up the Anaheim Ducks defense: Francois Beauchemin. Beauchemin is the franchise leader in games played in a Ducks uniform amongst defensemen, passing Neidermayer earlier this season, and has been the solid, go-to guy for coach Bruce Boudreau ever since he was brought back.
Beauchemin's career began in 1998 when he was taken in the third round by the Montreal Canadiens, no doubt a dream come true for the young lad from Sorel, Quebec. He didn't break into the league until the 2002-03 season, however, when he played just one game with the Habs. He was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005 and played 11 games in Ohio before being traded to the Ducks in exchange for Sergei Fedorov.
In 2009, the Ducks allowed Beauchemin to walk away and he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, however he never really found his stride with the club, and was traded back in 2011 for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner.
Season in Review
Francois Beauchemin had by all accounts a pretty successful season. At the age of 34 (now 35) he led Anaheim in ice time averaging 22:44/game, being given the most minutes of all Ducks defensemen due to his reputation with Boudreau as a reliable, capable guy. Those minutes also included significant penalty killing and power play time.
Beauchemin also set a new career high in goals, finding the back of the net 11 times, second only to Sami Vatanen on the blueline. Add 12 assists to that and you get a point total of 23 which was fourth among Ducks defensemen. This boost in offense was a welcome one as many of his goals came in clutch situations.
In archaic stats, Beauchemin also blocked 107 shots and finished a +17 rating. In the advanced metrics, Beauchemin posted shots-attempted numbers above 50%, meaning he generated more shots than he gave up so generally he helped the team push offense. He also did so facing a negative zone-start ratio, so he was relied upon to turn defensive situations into offense.
So all signs point to a generally pretty excellent year, yes?
Well then there's the whole "watch the games test." Despite the uptick in his numbers in these categories, Beauchemin was visibly and noticeably slower this season than he has been in the past. On multiple occasions younger forwards were able to cut in tight to him and turn the corner, leaving him completely in the dust. This resulted in several goals against and simply can't happen when you're relied upon so heavily to be an anchor in the back end.
Likewise many of his numbers could also be attributed to the pure talents of his defensive partner for the season, Hampus Lindholm, who in many cases bailed Beauchemin out of sticky situations he got himself into by being much quicker and unbelievably smart.
A lot of these situations also developed because Beauchemin regrettably turned into somewhat of a turnover magnet. They say that experienced defensemen are the ones who make good decisions with the puck, but Beauchemin on many occasions threw the puck away to his opponents in the defensive zone because either A) he assumed he knew where his partner was and blindly sent a pass without looking... right to nobody, or B) he simply wanted to move the puck under pressure and didn't look for a safe lane in which to put it that wouldn't immediately surrender possession to the opposition. In total, NHL.com credits Beauchemin with 40 giveaways last season.
Likewise, Beauchemin's career with the Ducks may be marred with the stench of an awful final two games. In game six against the Blackhawks Beauchemin and Lindholm were victimized, as Beauchemin went -3 on the night. In game seven Beauchemin's lack of speed saw him lose track of Jonathan Toews and leave him wide open to bury the Hawks second goal. It was a small sample of what was arguably a pretty stellar season, however with his contract expiring and his age climbing, it's really no wonder that his contract demands were a little too far out of Bob Murray's budget.
Within minutes of free agency opening on July 1st, it was announced that the Colorado Avalanche had agreed to a three-year deal with Beauchemin, effectively ending his second tenure with the Ducks.
Beauchemin will be an excellent addition to the Colorado blueline, which is filled with young and developing talent and has lacked a solid leader for several seasons now. Beauchemin will be able to eat the minutes and provide excellent mentorship, but there are appropriately a good number of questions surrounding the three-year term the Avalanche gave the now-former Duck.
Francois Beauchemin leaves the Ducks as the club's second-highest scoring defenseman in goals, assists, and points, all behind Scott Neidermayer. While there's no doubt the impact he has made over his career with the team, the decision to let him walk was the right one, as he was slowing down considerably. While the team will miss his experience and leadership on the blue line (especially with so many core pieces still being so young), Murray sent a clear message with the acquisition of Kevin Bieksa that this team is in win-now-or-bust mode, and there isn't room for guys who are going to clog up the salary cap while slowing down in their play.
Here are Beauchemin's stats for the year: