The Anaheim Ducks were the lowest scoring team in the NHL last year, being the only team out of the league’s 31 that finished below 200 goals total on the season. It was talked about consistently throughout the year and has been mentioned early this season as well, as the offense has shown inconsistencies finding the back of the net.
The Ducks power play ranks 30th in the league at just 9.5% through the first seventeen games of this season. Many are starting to panic and call for some kind of change regarding the man advantage, be it player personnel or the coaching staff that oversees it, but my suggestion is to stand pat and let the growing pains run their course.
This was always intended to be a season for growth and development.
So many fans have been given high hopes and aspirations for the playoffs after the Ducks have stormed out of the gate, finding themselves 3rd in the Pacific with a 9-6-0 record as we enter November. It would be incredible, not only for the fans, but the young players on the Ducks as well, if they could find themselves in a playoff spot come spring.
This should not mean, however, that the Ducks abandon their course of re-tooling and focusing on development to re-enter “win now” mode. Our very own CJ Woodling wrote about what it will mean for Ducks fans to define success for the team as they go through the re-tooling process and work to open a new championship window. It’s never easy to watch your favorite team compete and not see them push for a championship, but the harsh reality is that teams must go through the ebbs and flows of being competitive, and the Anaheim Ducks are not quite ready for that yet.
We as fans entered this season hoping to see any form of improvement over the Ducks of last year that got steamrolled more often than not under Randy Carlyle’s archaic system of “big boy hockey”, and the early returns of having a new coach with a new system have shown some promise. The power play seems to be a lone exception to the improvement based on the numbers we see on paper, but it will get better, and from the way that I see things, it has the potential to become one of the more formidable power play units across the league.
The kids will grow.
This points seems obvious, but it’s true for every aspect of their game. They will gain confidence, they will gain speed, they will gain strength, and they will gain scoring ability. Ryan Getzlaf will not be the one to push the Ducks power play around the corner into a new era. Neither will Cam Fowler or Adam Henrique.
The answer will come from the kids, and we have to be patient with their development. Not every up-and-coming NHL prospect bursts onto the scene like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. Most will need a season or more before they finally have the breakthrough that gets the ketchup bottle flowing, to use a familiar metaphor from our old friend Teemu Selanne.
Troy Terry, Max Jones, Sam Steel, Max Comtois, and perhaps even Josh Mahura, Jacob Larsson, or Brendan Guhle could be the key to getting the power play out of the cellar of the league. Once the kids are established goal-scorers at hockey’s highest level, the power play will be top-10 in the league. Mark my words.
While the Ducks haven’t scored very often on the power play (they only currently have four power play goals on 42 opportunities with the man advantage), many fans have already seen encouraging signs with the power play through the simple eye test.
The puck movement looks much better, the puck recoveries have improved drastically, and the structure looks to be sound. The shot totals aren’t quite there yet to consider the power play truly dangerous or unlucky, but the kids are growing and the goals will come.
Veteran goal-scorers on the power play will also benefit from the kids finding confidence offensively, as they may begin to find more open ice in critical areas when penalty kills are required to respect that Troy Terry can score from anywhere or that Max Jones can block out the sun in front of opposing goaltenders. Sam Steel is also capable of passing pucks around with precision, but we haven’t seen that yet from him this season. But that could prove to be deadly to opposing penalty kills if it develops as expected.
We’ve seen what guys like Ondrej Kase and Rickard Rakell are capable of with the puck on their stick, and they will find a groove as well. The Ducks seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place with the kids looking to find some consistency and confidence while the veterans try to find consistent linemates to build chemistry with and get into their own rhythms. Each game brings the Ducks closer to finding permanent landing spots within the lineup for each pivotal piece, and the results will follow the process.
At the end of the day, the power play will be fine. It’s in development, just like the rest of the team. If it takes a season to figure it out and get it firing on all cylinders, so be it. Let’s just hold off on calling for players or coaches to not be given the opportunities to experiment with it through the learning process.
Patience is a virtue.