Stanley Cup or Bust for the Ducks
April 24, 2017 | 9:34pm ET
By Hannah Spraker
ANAHEIM, CA -- I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess the Ducks
are not the Cup Champs in your playoff bracket this year? If they are,
I'd venture to say that you're a Ducks fan.
Whether you have the Ducks getting to the Western Conference Final or
booted out in the first round, they are not typically the favorite to
win the Cup, but they are always a competitor.
Isn't that the problem, though? We've all heard the saying "always a
bridesmaid, never a bride," right? Are the Ducks always a competitor,
never a Cup Champ? Well, it is possible that that might be the case
for this roster.
It has been a decade since the Ducks won the Stanley Cup, with a group
of guys that were arguably one of the best teams, top to bottom, to
ever call themselves Stanley Cup Champions. The amount of leadership
on that roster alone was ridiculous -- between the Niedermayers, Chris
Pronger, Teemu Selanne, J-S Giguere and so many other legendary names
-- how could they not be successful?
Live In the Now
Fast forward 10 years: same Corey Perry -- little less goals. Same
Ryan Getzlaf -- a lot less hair. The Ducks who hoisted Lord Stanley in
2007 now face to face with the ticking clock of their window to once
again win the Cup. This time, not as rookies, but as captains.
The Ducks have claimed the Pacific Division for the past five years
now, our under Bruce Boudreau, and now this one under their Stanley
Cup coach Randy Carlyle. Now, we all know that Boudreau got the boot
after yet another Game 7 loss. He had proven to be a stellar regular
season coach (as he has proved this year in Minnesota, as well), but
his team got caught with that Game 7 curse, year after year, which
resulted in him losing his job.
Anyone else curious to see if that curse followed him to Minnesota or
stays in Anaheim?
All jokes aside, are those Game 7 losses on the coaches shoulders? No.
It is up to the guys on the ice to show up, night in and night out,
which has not always been the case for this team.
Rumors are buzzing about the captaincy in Anaheim. Perry and Getzlaf
made less than an impact in the postseason the past years, and looked
absent in those Game 7 losses.
Is this their last chance to redeem themselves before getting stripped
of the captaincy? I think so. Is this their last year to make that
push for the Cup? No, but the window is most definitely closing.
They have one more year of overpaying Clayton Stoner and Kevin Bieksa,
and then those contracts free up a significant amount of space to work
with. After that, then it is crap or get off the pot. If they don't
have a cup in the next 3-4 years then it’s done for this roster.
"Old" Guys Rule
First of all, let's call a spade a spade; no one is getting any
younger here. Not everyone is Jaromir Jagr or Joe Thornton. This Ducks
roster has eight players who are 30 or older. Most of which are
Bieksa- 35 (sigh)
Age is most definitely a factor in this closing window, but what keeps
the window open is whether that age is showing or not.
Ryan Kesler is 32 and a front runner for the Selke this year. An
impact player, and shutdown forward who still puts up the points night
after night. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down and is most
definitely thirsty for the Cup.
Antoine Vermette is 34, and still a very serviceable third line
center. He is still producing third line points at his age, and taking
a decent amount of pressure off of Kesler when it comes to faceoffs.
Bieksa has quickly become the most controversial player in the Ducks
lineup. If you want to see some salty fans, send a tweet out about
anything he does in a game. At 35 years old, his age shows like it is
tattooed on his face, and that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for
his $4 million/ year contract with a no-move clause. Don't start
telling me that they will buy him out. BUDGET TEAM.
Getzlaf and Perry
We've seen the first crack in the dam this season with Perry. For the
past two seasons, he has had the same amount of shots on goal (215),
and while last year he put up 34 goals, this season it was a mere 19.
You can call it a bad season if you want, but let's face it, we are
never going to see the same Corey Perry that won the Hart in 2011.
Getzlaf, on the other hand, has had a great season with 15 G, 58A and
73PTS, proving he is still one of the best passers in the League. So
what is the problem here? Many would say that he is too slow for the
way the league is now. Although, that is not necessarily because of
age. He has always played a slow, very methodical game and that is not
going to change. That is how he has always played and he still has
success in this league.
So, I would argue that when it comes to Getzlaf, he is not slowing
down per-se. The problem is Perry and Getzlaf as a pair. That
relationship needs to end permanently, as the "twins" the "dynamic
duo," are officially ineffective.
When does Getzlaf play his best? When he has a winger that is gritty,
that drives towards the net, and can take a beating. Last season, that
winger that worked with Getzlaf was David Perron, this season it has
been Patrick Eaves.
This season has been a bit of a transition year for Perry. He is no
longer that rink rat down low by the net. He has changed his style of
game to rely more on his shot than on a rebound. Perry is an
underrated sniper, who still has a very high caliber shot. You give
him time and space and he will beat you clean.
At 31, Perry has shown that he is no longer going to take a beating
down by the net night after night. If they want longevity out of that
$8 million contract, he has to be separated from Getzlaf and on that
third line where he can do more damage than take damage. We already
know Perry is that token A-hole that everyone beats on anyway. The guy
who you love if you're a Ducks fan, but despise as a player or fan of
any other franchise.
So, is age really the problem? Yes, that is why the window is closing,
you can't expect your top guys over 30 to continue to produce 70+
points as they get older and the game gets faster. How you keep that
window open for the next couple years is the real question.
How do you win a Cup in today's NHL? Depth. Depth. Depth. You MUST
roll four lines -- every.single.night.
If that doesn't happen in 2017, Bob Murray has to put his foot down on
some decisions here. Time to build a team from top to bottom in the
summer, not at the trade deadline. For the past few years, the Ducks
do well enough up until the trade deadline, relying on one or two
lines, and then miraculously the team comes together with an
acquisition like Eaves or Perron.
As dominant as the Cogs-Kesler-Silfverberg line is, that is not enough
to win a cup. That might ride you through Christmas, but one line does
not a Cup make. Look at Chicago -- there is a reason Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane do not play on the same line. And, um, how many cups
have they had in the past decade? Oh yeah, three. Time to bite the
bullet and make some big decisions if the vision of the Cup is on the
So what does that look like? Who does that look like?
My choice: Gabriel Landeskog. Acquire him up in the summer. Play him
alongside Getzlaf. A proven goal scorer, playing next to a passer like
he's never seen before, and ensuring that Perry and Getzlaf are split
Assuming Murray works his magic to pull off keeping Silfverberg, keep
that second line in tact and continue to go with that chemistry into
the following seasons.
I know, I know, "but Silfverberg is going to be exposed in the
expansion." Hush. Murray needs to keep Silfverberg, and even if he
can't get Bieksa to waive his no move in order to protect him, he can
always cut a deal with the Golden Knights, giving something in return
for not selecting him. Don't forget, Josh Manson is also an attractive
pick for Vegas.
Re-signing Vermette is also important. Yes, he's 34, but, he is an
extremely underrated player. Watch his game. He plays with great
finesse, he is a great passer who can handle the puck and is great in
the dot. Keep him on the third line with Perry and Ritchie, and that
is a solid third line.
Let go of the idea of an enforcer. Anaheim is a big, gritty team, and
they don't need a Jared Boll. That is an idea that Carlyle needs to
just let go. Build a fourth line that can do some damage AND score,
not just a line to go out there and hit. Ondrej Kase is your guy here.
Don't get me wrong, Chris Wagner is a good fourth line guy, but to
make this team the most effective that it can be, Kase needs to be on
that fourth line.
Kase is strong on the puck and is extremely fast. Having that extra
scoring depth on the fourth line would behoove this team's chances at
a Cup. Furthermore, Thompson is a UFA at the end of the season so
there's no telling if he will be back. Perfect opportunity to bring up
guys like Max Jones or Sam Steele. (Perfect example: Tom Wilson gets
the GWG in Washington's first playoff game this year)
Oh, and re-sign Cam Fowler... Obviously.
It's time for the pipeline to become the blueline. Odds are a
defenseman will be shipped out in the summer. Whether that is Manson
or Sami Vatanen or a prospect, someone is bound to leave, so this will
most likely be necessary. The top-three defensive prospects in the
Ducks system have had an adequate sample of the big leagues. Time to
sink or swim. Time for Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour or Jacob Larsson
to step up, maybe not on a top pair, but as vital cogs in the machine
that is the Ducks blueline.
Jonathan Bernier has proven himself this year, big time. He is going
to go and chase a contract that Anaheim will likely not be able to
afford. As a result, if Bernier leaves, Murray needs to go after a
backup that could play 30+ games if need be.
John Gibson has had a great season, but like I've said a million times
over, he is injury prone and you never know when he is going to be out
and how long that will be. A bonafide backup is going to be necessary.
Could that be Jhonas Enroth? Perhaps. That is a season by season
concern, in this league you need a backup -- that can be a legit
starter if needed.
This team has talent. This team has leadership. This team is a
competitor for the Cup, but that only lasts so long. In order to win a
Cup in this short window, Murray has to all-in.
A big criticism that has always been on the Ducks shoulders, is that
they always bring in a "supportive role." What they need is a
Beyond that, it is all about what happens on the ice, especially with
the leadership. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler need to prove that they can
guide a team to a Cup. Kesler has proved this -- playing buzzer to
buzzer, every game, every year -- that is why there is debate that he
should have the Captaincy. Getzlaf and Perry have to show that they
can get this done instead of riding on the coat tails of the 07 team.
That is how the Ducks go from competitor to champion. If it is a bust,
then it would be smart of Murray to start stock piling some talent to
rebuild that forward core.
Murray is that bridesmaid that has caught the bouquet at every
wedding. Everyone nudging that "you'll be next," only to be met with
disappointment. Time to join Hockey Tinder, Bob. Get out there. Get
the Cup. No one is getting any younger.
But first, bring on the Edmonton Oilers.
Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.