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The Anaheim Ducks First Line Left Wing Question: A Historical Perspective

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Who, or what type of player skill set has paired best with the Ducks first line twins Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry over the years?

Getlzaf and Perry have been a dynamic duo since 2005-06, with a multitude of third players.
Getlzaf and Perry have been a dynamic duo since 2005-06, with a multitude of third players.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It seems every offseason in Anaheim the call goes out from sections of the Ducks fan base for the franchise to make a move to bring in a high level left wing to put on the top line with franchise players Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Since forcing their way into the lineup in 2005-06 the Twins have been a near inseparable force, first as complementary parts of a Stanley Cup champion and now as the driving force behind an upper echelon Stanley Cup contender. First it was Dustin Penner, then Bobby Ryan, and now Patrick Maroon who appears the heir to the left wing slot beside Getzlaf and Perry, but all along the way Anaheim has continued to test to find an even better fit.

When debating whether the Ducks can do better, it helps to take a look back and see how previous years and portions of careers in Anaheim have gone amongst the top line wingers. By getting an idea of how all the forerunners have performed it'll give not only a fair baseline on which expectations can be built, but also potentially lend insight in to the types of players that have been most successful in that spot. From there we can also figure who on the current roster could be the best fit.

To do so we'll use Puckalytics' WOWY (with or without you) numbers to see how the players have done when on ice with both Getzlaf and Perry, as well as in certain circumstances look at their performance away from the Twins. The data presented will be rate-based (IE goals/60 min) to help lessen the impact of ice time, as well as percentage-based to give the impression of what portion of the action was controlled by the Ducks.

Season By Season

To begin, lets look at how the players who received the most ice time with Getzlaf and Perry every season since 07-08 (as far back as Puckalytics has numbers available) performed, arranged alphabetically by year. Season bests are italicized, category highs are bolded:

Players >60min TOI 5-on-5 with Getzlaf + Perry 07-08 to 14-15
Player Year TOI G/60 GA/60 GF% SAT% NZFO% DZFO% OZFO%
Matt Beleskey 14-15 139:04 4.75 1.73 73.3 54.7 34.8 26.7 38.5
Matt Beleskey 13-14 93:20 5.79 0.64 90.0 40.6 37.4 30.8 31.9
Matt Beleskey 12-13 124:42 3.85 1.92 66.7 47.9 36.6 35.1 28.2
Matt Beleskey 11-12 89:19 4.03 2.69 60.0 54.4 35.3 36.8 27.9
Matt Beleskey 10-11 85:47 2.8 1.4 66.7 44.5 40.9 33.3 25.8
Matt Beleskey 09-10 219:14 2.46 3.56 40.9 48.3 42.8 29.4 27.8
Todd Bertuzzi 07-08 297:03 3.64 1.62 69.2 54.1 41.8 22.1 36.1
Kyle Calder 09-10 79:23 0.76 3.02 20.0 48.1 31.9 23.6 44.4
Niklas Hagman 11-12 218:04 1.65 2.19 42.4 51.7 42.5 26.0 31.5
Chris Kunitz 08-09 544:22 2.65 1.65 61.5 60.0 42.6 24.1 33.3
Chris Kunitz 07-08 349:44 2.74 1.72 61.5 60.8 43.6 23.7 32.7
Joffrey Lupul 09-10 99:25 5.43 2.41 69.2 54.3 45.9 29.6 24.5
Patrick Maroon 14-15 263:22 3.42 2.51 57.7 54.4 41.5 27.2 31.3
Patrick Maroon 13-14 133:59 4.03 2.24 64.3 60.6 37.1 25 37.9
Kyle Palmieri 14-15 69:58 1.72 1.72 50.0 47.1 42.3 32.1 25.6
Kyle Palmieri 13-14 88:15 5.44 2.72 66.7 58.0 41.0 31.0 28.0
Dustin Penner 13-14 453:13 4.24 1.59 72.7 51.5 37.5 31.9 30.7
Bobby Ryan 12-13 183:52 3.59 1.96 64.7 53.4 31.9 31.4 36.8
Bobby Ryan 11-12 502:04 1.62 2.19 42.4 51.6 37.1 32.7 30.2
Bobby Ryan 10-11 784:23 3.29 1.99 62.3 50.0 44.7 25.5 29.8
Bobby Ryan 09-10 482:55 3.85 1.86 67.4 53.2 44.0 25.9 30.1
Bobby Ryan 08-09 268:16 3.58 2.24 61.5 55.0 42.9 26.7 30.4
Teemu Selanne 13-14 70:36 5.1 2.55 66.7 47.7 42.5 21.3 36.6
Devante Smith-Pelly 14-15 70:29 3.41 4.26 44.4 49.0 26.5 25.3 48.2

For as much as people make of Ryan's time in Anaheim, he was only rate-wise the best scorer with Getzlaf and Perry two seasons, while he was the top minute earner with the duo four times. Perhaps the biggest surprise in all of this is the degree to which Beleskey produced in his limited appearances with the top line, however that's tempered by four of his six seasons having the line get out-attempted and twice by greater than five percent. It's worth noting that though Beleskey posted the highest G/60 rate, that season the trio was out-attempted at nearly a 40:60 ratio, highly unsustainable with shooting percentage the likely reason. Another point that bears mentioning is Maroon out produced all five of Ryan's years rate-wise in his first season of significant minutes with the top duo, while his second was better than two by Ryan.

Going based strictly on single season results, the highest production rates come from when paired with players that are more known as shooters. Palmieri, Lupul, and Selanne aren't grind and cycle type forwards, rather they get to areas where they can shoot from. However, in each case the season where they put up greater than 5 G/60 rates they spent less than 100 minutes with Getzlaf and Perry. In Selanne's case one can point to the heavy offensive zone starts, and Palmeri's 14-15 suggests that the trio was unsustainably lucky the previous season despite doing very well at controlling shot attempts. Lupul likely would've earned more time and probably in turn seen his scoring rate with the Twins drop as well had he remained healthy, as injury issues have been one of the stories of his career.

Career Numbers

Having examined season by season performance, lets widen the scope at look at career performance numbers with Getzlaf and Perry. Players are arranged alphabetically, with the numbers for the Twins on ice together with any other wing at the bottom as a baseline. Category highs are bolded.

Players >200min career TOI 5-on-5 with Getzlaf + Perry 07-08 to 14-15
Player Year2 TOI G/60 GA/60 GF% SH% SAT% NZFO% DZFO% OZFO%
Matt Beleskey 09-10/14-15 751:26 3.75 2.24 62.7 13.82 48.7 38.4 31.2 30.4
Chris Kunitz 07-08/08-09 849:06 2.68 1.68 61.5 7.71 60.3 43.0 24.0 33.0
Patrick Maroon 11-12/14-15 419:52 3.43 2.29 60.0 11.01 55.9 40.3 26.4 33.3
Kyle Palmieri 11-12/14-15 292:08 3.49 2.26 60.7 10.83 53.4 41.2 31.6 27.2
Dustin Penner 13-14 453:13 4.24 1.59 72.7 13.01 51.5 37.5 31.9 30.7
Bobby Ryan 07-08/12-13 2241:52 3.08 2.03 60.2 10.34 52.0 41.4 28.0 30.7
Getzlaf + Perry 07-08/14-15 7141:42 3.05 2.19 54.7 10.17 52.9 39.1 29.7 31.2

For some this table may serve to finally dispel the idea that Ryan was a monster producer rate-wise with Getzlaf and Perry. Considering he was responsible for slightly more than 31% of five-on-five TOI with Getzlaf and Perry over this sample, and that production rose only 0.98% above the Twins baseline give ammo to make the argument (as well as his play in Ottawa) that he was made by his line mates as much as he made them better. A counter would be that Ryan representing such a significant percentage of the baseline means he was largely responsible for setting it. For argument's sake, while with the Ducks and not skating with either Getzlaf or Perry, Ryan posted a best of the group 2.94 G/60 with second best 55.7 GF% and 9.51 SH%, while getting the highest percentage of OZFO at 33.9%.

It's a shame that numbers aren't available from before 07-08, because it would be very interesting to see the first two seasons of Getzlaf and Perry with Penner. The one season with numbers available show how dominating they were when in trio, it's a shame that Penner didn't give the kind of night-in, night-out effort that the coaching staff demanded as born out by his 1.81 G/60 and 47.5 SAT% when not with the Twins. As posited in the season-by-season section Beleskey benefitted from a ludicrously high shooting percentage, despite conceding the majority of shot attempts; when Beleskey wasn't skating with Getzlaf and Perry the SH% was 7.14. While being the most protected zone start-wise, Maroon's production rates are middle of the pack with the lowest GF%, but also the second highest SAT%. Kunitz was similarly protected, and while amongst the best at suppressing goals was the worst rate-wise scorer despite being the best possession-wise.

Conclusions

Based on the season-by-season data, when paired with a shooting type player Getzlaf and Perry can pop some very high scoring rates, but often at the cost of possession. The scoring rates may not be as high, but when paired with a big body, power forward type the possession numbers are higher for the majority of the time. The career numbers seem to track with these as well.

Perhaps then the ideal wing for the Twins is a physical presence that can play a cycling game and also possesses a heavy shot. One of Beleskey's calling cards in his time with the Ducks was his slap shot, which might be part of the explanation for his high shooting percentage while with the top line. However he wasn't as good along the boards as Maroon or even Penner, which could explain why the possession numbers weren't as good.

Maroon and Penner are reasonably comparable in what they bring to the top line, however it's clear that Maroon is a Penner-lite in terms of production. Penner proved his ability to score at the NHL level with his 29 goals in 06-07, as well as breaking the 20-goal plateau three times and 30-goals once with the Oilers. Maroon has yet even approach that, but has the physical, grinding style and enough finish that he has been able to produce above the Getzlaf+Perry baseline while being one of the better possession players to slot in the role. To Maroon's credit, when away from the Twins he has the third highest career G/60 (2.45), tied for second best with Ryan SAT% (50.1), and second best on ice SH% (8.66), so he remains valuable even if not on the top line.

This brings us to the current squad heading in to the 15-16 season. With this template in mind of a physical presence that can work the boards with a heavy shot, free agent signee Chris Stewart seems to fit that bill awfully well. He does have similar concerns that were attached to Penner; consistency, play in his own end, and his build (according to Hockey's Future one of the scouts' knocks his draft year was body fat percentage). A look at his career at even strength and always finishing on the negative side of the shot attempt ledger tells that story, but when figuring in all circumstances he's been a positive SAT% player five of seven seasons. Yet Stewart has bested 20 goals twice, doing so skating with the likes of Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski in Colorado, and Patrik Berglund, David Perron and Alexander Steen in St. Louis. Getzlaf and Perry are a significant step up from each of those, and if Stewart can adjust to playing left wing instead of his traditional right, history would seem to suggest he can be very successful.

In Sum

The talents and abilities of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are such that they've been able to find success with a wide variety of players. However, the most sustainable success combining scoring and possession has come more often than not with big, physical players. As Jonathan Quick said their style is 'heavy minutes with every second of zone time feeling threatening', and it makes sense that when they produce at the highest rates it's generally with a player that fits that style.

Elite scoring wings are hardly a readily available commodity on the market, and even at that there's the matter of fit as much as finish. Eight years of data has given statistical backbone to the idea of what is the best fit for Getzlaf and Perry. Now it's up to their winger this year, whoever it ends up being, to finish.