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December 15, 2016 | 5:34pm ET
New Kids in Town
By Hannah Spraker

ANAHEIM, CA -- You win some, you lose some. Right? Well, for Anaheim, that seems to be more than just a comforting cliche.

Once again the Ducks have struggled up until December and now are starting to gain that momentum they need to win hockey games. While a win is a win, the formula is still not perfected and the team still has some big problem areas to fine tune.

A bit of deja vu for this club; not only do they have their former coach back, they are facing some former problems as well.

Top Line Absence

So now what? New coaching, new guys on the team, same problem.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are going apple picking this season, handing out assists left and right. The problem is they have scored about as often as Brent Burns shaves his beard. Perry had a 19-game scoring drought, from Oct. 26 to Dec. 8.

Head coach Randy Carlyle is confident that this drought will no longer be a problem, referring to Teemu Selanne’s “ketchup theory.”

“He used to say that goal scoring was like pouring ketchup out of a ketchup bottle; once it starts to flow, then it comes readily,” said the coach.

Scoring has not exactly started to flow, but there has been a bit of improvement across all lines. The third line on this team is a secret weapon. Antoine Vermette has been a phenomenal third line center who was leading the league in faceoff wins recently, but for now is in the Top 10. Any center that is that dependable in the dot is going to be monumental in producing scoring chances.

The second line has been dominating in terms of goal production. Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg have been the saving grace of this team, and the hole on the top line is more apparent than ever. Special teams are arguably the reason this team is the top of their division.

The continual problem this club seems to have is filling that gap on the top line. They need an experienced top-six left wing to play with Getzlaf and Perry. We saw this same thing last season, top line scoring drought, and then with trades and the acquisition of David Perron and Brandon Pirri, the Ducks were able to split up the twins and have great success, capturing the Pacific Division once again.

Nick Ritchie and Rickard Rakell have been switching off in that top slot, and while Rakell has been scoring ever since he was resigned as an RFA, the top line is still subpar in goal production.

Young Guns

The New Year is quickly approaching and 2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup under Carlyle. The Ducks have had yet another mediocre start to their season, making changes left and right, and up and down... the 5 freeway that is.

Young players from Anaheim’s AHL team, the San Diego Gulls, are being called up and sent down constantly. Some players even playing back to back games from the AHL to the NHL.

Youth is playing a big factor in Anaheim this year. The kids add a considerable amount of depth to this team as some of the veterans struggle to put pucks in the back of the net, and 31 year old Ryan Garbutt clearing waivers was the stamp of approval for these younger players.

Shea Theodore, Stefan Noesen, Josh Manson and Ondrej Kase are all earning their keep, and saving some serious gas money. Millennials aren’t all that bad, right?

Ducks management likes what they see in their young guns, they just want to make sure that they can hold their own and perform at the level they are expected to. So far, it is safe to say everyone is impressed with these players.

Theodore and Manson are two dark horses on this team. They are both great defensemen who can move the puck and get the job done. My bet is that Manson is the one to leave in the expansion, but that’s just me.

Kase has been a brilliant asset to this team. Watch this guy skate and move with the puck and you’ll see Cogliano. He plays with such speed and determination, a player who is not extremely flashy, or a household name by any means, but he does his job and he does it well, plus his celly’s are awesome.

The League is no longer “changing.” It has changed. The pace is much faster, the young guys are making their dominance known and skill and finesse are proving more noteworthy than physicality and force. Knowing this, Carlyle has adjusted his coaching style and his team to start to fit this new mold that the league calls for.

The kids are bringing that speed and skill that this club needs. You’ll notice this League-wide, and it is truly a testament to these players training growing up with the post-lockout style of hockey. So many young players are becoming key pieces, whether that is a spot on the top line with veteran or on the third and fourth line. This style of hockey is all they know. They are too young to have been in the league pre-lockout and they’ve been trained with this skill driven style of play. Needless to say, I think they are more prepared than many veterans in the NHL to play this new brand of hockey.

New Era of Ducks?

The trade deadline will be here before you know it and rumors will be flying, but what direction will the Ducks be going in?

Ducks GM Bob Murray has said that he wants to give this group “one last shot”, but as we approach the trade deadline we can see the holes in the roster. Will the organization go after more youth? Will they go get a top-six left wing? Will Cam Fowler be shipped out?

If P.K. Subban and Shea Weber can be traded, I think we all agree than pretty much anything can happen, but Anaheim has the constant need for a top-six left wing. That was the problem last season, and that is the problem we see again this season. At some point that void must be filled for this club to be a playoff team... and not lose in Game 7.

Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.




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