While the Anaheim Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames at Honda Center last night left fans going home happy and entertained thanks to a plethora of pugilism, a very sobering reality remains — Cam Fowler may be hurt, and hurt for a while.
In fact, Fowler’s injury was what caused all the mayhem — his teammates looking to avenge a knee-on-knee contact initiated by Mark Giordano which forced him to leave the game.
Giordano was accounted for, as Josh Manson pummeled him to the ice. A small victory, compared to what an extended absence from Fowler could mean.
Fowler averages 24:55 of ice time a night, the most he’s logged in his career by far. Whether it’s even strength, penalty kill, or power play, the 25-year old racks up the most minutes of any Ducks’ defenseman.
That’s a lot of minutes to redistribute, especially if he misses an extended period of time.
Much has been made of the Ducks’ vaunted depth on defense this season. Time to put theory into practice.
Life Without Fowler
So we’ve established that Fowler plays a ton of minutes. But what does Anaheim get out of those minutes?
Perhaps not as much as one might think.
The Ducks handily lose the shot attempt battle when he’s out there, to the tune of a lackluster 48.33 Corsi For percentage at even strength. Of Anaheim’s most common defense pairings, him and Sami Vatanen allow the most opposing shot attempts.
Because they’ve spent so much time together, it’s hard to know who’s dragging down who. From a basic stylistic standpoint, they’re a bit of an odd match — neither exactly known for his defensive prowess.
Regardless of potential flaws with Fowler’s actual output, head coach Randy Carlyle has to find a way to fill that ice-time somehow.
The most likely solution — at least in the short term — is that Carlyle hands those heavy minutes to Manson and Hampus Lindholm, who have perennially been Anaheim’s second pairing throughout the season.
More minutes for that pairing can only mean good things for the Ducks. They’ve been Anaheim’s best pairing by far at even strength, thriving in a purely shutdown role.
That’s the obvious move. Carlyle has to decide what to do with Vatanen, who’s demonstrated that he needs a stronger defensive partner next to him to get by.
After that, there’s the verdant rookies, Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore. It feels unlikely that Carlyle would send out two rookie defensemen on a nightly basis during the playoffs.
That leaves the possibility of having both Korbinian Holzer and Kevin Bieksa out there together to start the playoffs, who have easily been Anaheim’s worst pairing by far this season.
Although the extent of Fowler’s contributions can be disputed, his sheer presence in the lineup seems to inadvertently maintain a sort of harmonious balance. For that reason alone, Ducks fans should hope he returns sooner rather than later.