Ducks need a few 2017 Resolutions
January 9, 2017 | 1:23pm ET
By Hannah Spraker
ANAHEIM, CA -- Another year is in the books and while 2016 did not pan
out the way the Anaheim Ducks expected, sights are set high for a
profitable 2017. Big changes were made this past year after yet
another playoff loss in Game Seven, and Anaheim is looking to break
Re-hiring Randy Carlyle, a Stanley Cup coach with the Ducks, was the
first step in the right direction for this hockey club to be a
contender for a championship. While his welcoming wasn’t exactly warm
from the Anaheim fanbase, the team and management are happy with the
kind of authoritative coach they have in Randy.
Re-signing free agents Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm was another
huge step for this team to add young talent and depth to the lineup.
Rakell in particular has been instrumental in the success of this
hockey club. Raks had 10 points in his first 10 games back with the
Ducks after re-signing as an RFA on October 14th.
It goes without saying that this hockey club is a win-now team. Many
of Anaheim’s key players are over the age of 30, and their age is
showing. The task of rebuilding is looming its ugly head, and if they
want a Cup under their belt, or another in the case of Ryan Getzlaf
and Corey Perry, then the time is now.
Anaheim has relied heavily on its youth to put this team in the
position they are in now. While they are jousting for the top of the
Pacific Division, it has not been a breeze for this club. The season
has been an absolute roller coaster; winning two in a row, then
getting blitzed for eight-goals against. Line changes are continuous,
recalling players from San Diego is an almost daily task, and Carlyle
is still trying to fine tune his roster while trying to stay
underneath the salary cap.
A win is a win, and in such a competitive league, every team will take
it however they can get it. However, Carlyle is not content with how
they have performed in many of these games, using phrases like
“baptismal by fire” and “focus on the process, not the results”.
Improvements need to be made, and the Ducks have their focus set on a
few resolutions for 2017.
New Year, New Ducks
Acquire a top-six left wing
Can they just snag JVR or Tomar Tatar already? This is the classic
problem they have had for over a year now. Nick Ritchie has been
playing alongside Getzlaf and Perry on that top line, and the top line
has been rather disappointing. Ritchie has seen more success on the
third line with Antoine Vermette and Ondrej Kase, and let’s face it,
the chemistry between Rakell and Perry is phenomenal.
Break up Perry and Getzlaf
Move on already. It’s like a relationship that started great but the
spark has faded, and they still hang on. A catalyst to the Ducks
success last season was the acquisition of David Perron to split up
Getz and Perry. Once Perron left via free agency, the twins reunited once
again, and we all know how that panned out at the beginning of this
season. Getz and Perry have over 20 assists, but they cannot seem to
find that scoring chemistry as a pair anymore, while the chemistry
between Rakell and Perry is undeniable.
Getzlaf is one of the best passers in the league. This is where a
top-6 left wing is crucial. To successfully split up Perry and Getzlaf,
another bonafide goal scorer is required. Perry and Getz can pass,
Rakell can score, but there is still the missing piece. If Carlyle can
roll 3 scoring lines every night, this team can do a lot of damage.
The best teams in the NHL, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions,
have this type of model. Instead of stacking talent on one or two
lines, break it up, know where talent fits, and give all your lines
quality minutes to do the most damage.
NOT finish top of the Pacific for the 5th time in a row
Anaheim has finished first in the Pacific for the past four years
under Bruce Boudreau. With the new (or old?) bench boss, the Ducks are
on pace to do just. Consistency will be key. These win by one lose by
7 games are not going to cut it for very long. BUT winning the Pacific
would mean playing a Central Division team that finished in a wild
card spot. I mean, let’s face it, the Pacific Division is the worst
division in the NHL. If they finish second or third, they potentially
only have to get through the Pacific to get to the Western Conference
Final. For a team who has a reputation for struggling in the post
season, and is a win-now team, this is the best recipe for success.
With the exception of San Jose, the Pacific is mediocre, at best.
Get at least to the Conference Finals in the playoffs
Obviously, the goal is the Stanley Cup, but under a new coaching
staff, this team needs to prove that they can succeed in the playoffs.
Last season was utterly disappointing. The Ducks lost to the Preds in
Game Seven in the first round. There were many contributing factors to
this. For some reason Getzlaf and Perry have a hard time showing up in
the post season. The past two seasons Ryan Kesler and Frederik
Andersen were the only ones who played to every buzzer like they
wanted the Cup. Performances got lazy and unfortunately it cost
Boudreu his job, when it is up to the players to show up and do what
they are paid to do.
With Carlyle the Ducks hope to have a bit of deja vu and win the Cup
under his watch once again. At the end of the day it is up to the
players and captains need to lead by example in the post season. Bob
Murray’s job could be in jeopardy if the Ducks do not succeed in the
playoffs. Furthermore, if Getzlaf falls short in playoffs again -
Kesler will be given the “C”. Calling it now.
Win a Game 7 in the Playoffs
There will be riots in Disneyland if they lose a Game Seven one more
time. Nuff said.
Get rid of Stoner’s contract
Anaheim placed Clayton Stoner on waivers a while back but that does
not save them nearly enough cap space. The blueline is stacked in
Anaheim with exemplary youth waiting in San Diego. If the Ducks could
find a way to trade Stoner, that saves $3.25 million in cap space and
a more permanent spot on the blueline for players like Shea Theodore
or Brandon Montour.
Get Bieksa to waive his NMC
Here’s hoping. This contract is a huge obstacle for the Ducks. Let’s
call a spade a spade; Bieksa is not worth $4 million per year at the
age of 35. He has slowed down significantly and I’m pretty sure he’s
forgotten how to backcheck.
In his prime, Bieksa was a great piece to have, but he is well past
that time and just too slow for the pace of the game. It would not be
that big of an issue if he did not have that nasty no-movement clause.
If he decides to waive it, then the Ducks do not have to protect him
in the expansion draft. Players like Jakob Silfverberg and Cam Fowler
are at risk for being exposed if Bieksa does not waive his NMC. The
priority is to protect key players at the expansion, after that, if
they can trade him then great, if not at least they keep the core in
Accept that Rakell is the new “Scorey Perry”
Rakell was the best signing that the Ducks had this year, by far. He
leads the team in goals and he is Anaheim’s most dynamic forward,
keeping in mind he missed all of training camp and October. He spent
his time as an RFA skating with 14 year olds in Sweden to stay on top
of his game. A 23-year-old top goal scorer at $3.8 million per year
for six-years, is a steal.
Learn how to play 3 on 3 OT
The Ducks are 1-7 in overtime this season. Since the NHL switched to
3-on-3 overtime, the Ducks are 5-14. They have to figure out a way to
win in overtime. Anaheim has seen too many games that go into extra
minutes end in a bad turnover and a breakaway goal.
Establish Gibson as an NHL starting goaltender
This year has been a kind of test run for John Gibson as a bonafide
starting goaltender. While he has shown significant improvement, he
still has not solidified his spot as the #1 starter.
“You don’t win without quality goaltending in the NHL,” Carlyle said
recently. “Gibby and Bernie have both given us NHL quality
goaltending. As I stated earlier, they would be 1A and 1B. You have to
be happy with what they’ve been able to provide for us. Gibby’s been
real strong for us as of late.”
Jonathan Bernier has been proving he is no mediocre backup as well.
Going 14 rounds strong in a shootout was a statement in itself. The
story is that Gibson is going to be the next Price when he “reaches
his prime.” I don’t buy that. While I think he has not yet reached his
peak and we can expect to see him improve. I would not go so far as to
say he will be the next Carey Price or Martin Brodeur. What I do buy
is that he is a quality NHL caliber goaltender who needs to fine tune
some areas of his game and gain a bit more consistency, but he is a
solid net minder for the Ducks organization.
Compile a montage of Kase’s cellies
It’s just good television.
Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.