New Kids in Town
December 15, 2016 | 5:34pm ET
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
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
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.
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
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.