Welcome to the first edition of the Anaheim Calling Editor’s Mailbag, where I answer your burning questions about the Ducks and occasionally other stuff that may or may not be hockey related.
I’m primarily sourcing questions from Twitter, but I will look in the comments of previous mailbags for questions from those on the site who might have missed the Twitter thread.
This will be a monthly series, so I hope I can inform and/or entertain to your satisfaction as the regular season gets underway.
How successful do you seeing the power play being?— Jeffrey Tan (@htennis98) October 1, 2019
I’ll start off this question by making it clear that sample size is everything. Preseason, quite frankly, means about as much as George R.R. Martin’s promises that he’ll finish A Song of Fire and Ice, and only two games into the season isn’t enough of a sample to draw any meaningful conclusions.
With that being said, I can say with reasonable certainty that the Ducks power play will, at minimum, be significantly better than last season. All of the most successful power plays at the NHL level essentially run slight variations of the same system: establish clean zone entry with numbers, move the puck east to west in an effort to get the goaltender moving laterally and open up shooting lanes, and rip off one-timers when possible.
So far, Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins is running this system, just as he did with the San Diego Gulls. Under the previous regime, the strategy was to cycle the puck around the perimeter in the hopes that the opposing penalty kill would make a mistake. When that failed, take a low-percentage point shot hoping for the best. That system relied on the other team making mistakes in their own, as opposed to moving feet and the puck in an attempt to force open passing and shooting lanes.
We shouldn’t expect the Ducks to be the number one power play unit in the NHL, as they don’t have nearly as many proven offensive trigger-men as teams like Tampa Bay or Washington, but just running a modern style of play should put them back into the middle of the pac—at minimum.
"Kiss, Marry, Kill": What happens to Nick Ritchie by the end of the season?— DaQuackHole (@BlaiseMtn) October 1, 2019
Many regular readers will know that I’m fairly fond of Nick Ritchie. Yes, he takes way too many dumb penalties. But he’s also one of the better play-driving forwards on the team as far as shot metrics go. I also believe that he has been misutilized since he made the jump to the NHL; he has a good shot and is a big body. Why he hasn’t been given the net front position is beyond me (though Eakins had him there in preseason), but then again, I’m not an NHL coach.
I think it’s much too early to tell what will happen with him. What I do think is that this is a make-or-break year for the 23-year-old left winger. With Eakins determined to cut down on penalties, we’ll see if Ritchie responds by finding an element to his game that doesn’t include taking his team down a man at inopportune times.
In any case, Ritchie has one more year on the three-year deal he signed after a contract holdout last season. He’ll be an RFA after next season with arbitration rights. Unless he can prove that he can increase the Ducks scoring, Murray might be shipping him off sooner rather than later.
How much gas is left in Getzy— Scot (@KestrelScott) October 1, 2019
I wrote about this back in August, but I believe Ryan Getzlaf has more left in the tank than many realize. Despite the worst non-lockout shortened season of his career, there were still some signs that Getzlaf could rebound in the right situation.
A new coach instilling new energy in the room. Giving him capable line mates to finish off his ridiculous passes. Managing his workload now that he’s 34 years of age is another point that’s not talked about nearly enough.
Last year, Getzlaf led all Ducks forwards with 19:28 TOI per game. The year before, 21:26. This year, Getzlaf has averaged just 15:22 over the first two games of the season. That represents almost a 25% decrease in ice time from 2017-18. The Ducks clearly know that keeping Getzlaf fresh as he moves toward the tail-end of his career will be one of the best ways to keep him effective for several more years.
Also, it helps to have several new, young skaters who can eat up regular minutes without getting caved in on a nightly basis.
How long does it take a new coach to implement his systems and the lifestyle/cultural changes that he wants his team to uphold?— Alex McKay (@mckalexander) October 1, 2019
The amount of time it takes for the effects of a new coach to translate into on-ice impact varies from situation to situation. There’s really no uniform answer. However, Dallas Eakins has the benefit of two things:
- His familiarity with players like Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones, Isac Lundestrom, Jacob Larsson, and Korbinian Holzer.
- His lessons from the Edmonton Oilers.
Having players who already buy into the type of team Dallas Eakins wants right out of the gate is huge. Having the success with those players at a different level within the organization gets both those players and the veterans on board.
The lessons from the Oilers are more valuable than many might realize, however. Eakins told The Athletic’s Eric Stephens that he went about trying to change the culture of the Oilers locker room in the wrong way:
It certainly appears that Eakins is taking a much different approach this time, specifically with the Ducks veteran players. The early feedback has reportedly been extremely positive.
I think a good rule of thumb for anyone looking to get a relatively accurate judgement about a team, from evaluating the culture to understanding true talent level, is around the 20 game mark. At that point, we have enough of a sample to start drawing some conclusions.
Do the Ducks need a dedicated ECHL team with so many veteran types in the AHL?— Alex Khalifa (@goodguyinsports) October 1, 2019
I think an ECHL team would certainly make the logistics of sending players who might not fit on an AHL roster easier on Bob Murray. But I think it’s more of a “nice to have” than a necessity.
Keep in mind that one of the reasons the San Diego Gulls have a heavy veteran presence is significant roster turnover from last year. Terry, Jones, Steel, and Larsson have all graduated to full-time roles. Isac Lundestrom is already playing games in Anaheim. Max Comtois likely won’t be in the AHL for the entire season.
Remember, as much as fans would like the Gulls to be competitive, it’s important to remember that they are first and foremost, a development team for the Anaheim Ducks. Sometimes you just need bodies to allow the actual prospects to play.
Do you think Sherwood was sent down to work on his offense?— Wade Jensen (@59groover) October 2, 2019
Kiefer Sherwood has done everything asked of him and more. I can’t imagine a world where Bob Murray and Dallas Eakins are unhappy with what he’s accomplished so far, especially after being an undrafted college free-agent signing out of University of Miami - Ohio. He’s everything you could want out of a bottom-six forward: speedy, shoots a lot, relentless on the forecheck, lineup versatility, and causes general havoc for other teams with his energy.
Sherwood played at a 20 point 82 game pace last year during his partial stint in Anaheim. That’s very respectful offensive production for a 4th liner. On a team that has so many forwards challenging for regular playing time in the NHL, he was squeezed out by players who will likely make better offensive contributions over time. I think it’s unrealistic to expect Sherwood to significantly improve his offensive capabilities given his background and skillset.
With that said, I can easily see him being first in line to be called up should the Nicolas Deslauriers trade turn out to be a dud before the new year.
Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly. Stats courtesy of NHL.com.