Ducks gear up for busy
May 28, 2017 | 11:53pm ET
By Hannah Spraker
ANAHEIM, CA -- Another year, another post-season heartbreak for the
Anaheim Ducks. Doesn't that seem to be the theme now?
Top seed in the Pacific Division five years running, and nothing to
show for it. You might argue with me on that, but call a spade a
spade. Now the Ducks have some big question marks to take care of this
summer, and it's now or never to figure it out.
Everyone thought Anaheim had their Western Conference Final series in
the bag after Nashville lost their top two centers, but the injury
epidemic seemed to spread. Anaheim lost two very important wingers in
Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves, and lost John Gibson at the tail end
of the series, and Pittsburgh has been injury stricken all throughout
playoffs. Players are dropping left and right and this entire
postseason has seemed like one giant game of Mortal Kombat. “Finish
Injury being the name of the game, the role falls on the depth players
to stand up and make a difference, and that was the deciding factor in
this series, because that is exactly what Nashville did. We all know
the blame game is alive and well on Twitter. Blame Bernier, blame
Kesler, blame the fans attendance, blame whomever you please, but this
series was a team loss. Again.
If there is one thing that the Ducks have made known, it is that you
cannot count them out when talking about Cup contention, but as
history keeps repeating itself, the reality of that fades, and
So here’s the rundown, the good, the bad, the ugly; the Sprake-Notes
of the Western Conference Final:
• Both teams entered the WCF amped and ready to go. Anaheim had
finally won a Game 7 at home to advance, and Nashville had reached the
Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. These two
teams were seemingly even when stacked up against each other, the
series could have gone either way. Everyone knew this would be a
battle to the finish, and it was, with Nashville coming out on top.
• So what made Nashville so successful, and led to the Ducks defeat?
Well for one, goaltending. In the battle of the net minders, Pekka
Rinne won hands down. Not only did Gibson exit game 5 with *surprise*
a lower-body injury, but Rinne played absolutely lights out for
Nashville. This series Rinne posted a .925 sv%, 172 saves on 186
shots, and completely stood on his head when Nashville was getting
atrociously outshot in Game 6. When Anaheim’s injury prone goaltender
inevitably went down, Jonathan Bernier took his spot between the pipes
for two periods in Game 5, and all of Game 6. Bernier has been a
stellar backup for John Gibson all season long, so his capabilities
were not a huge concern, that is until Anaheim gave up 4 goals on 16
• Nashville’s Blueline. The Preds have the best blueline in the NHL.
Fight me on that, I don’t care. Their top two defensive pairings were
phenomenal in this series and completely dominated in Game 5
specifically. The work they put in, especially in the neutral zone,
completely limited what Anaheim was able to do. Forced to play that
dump and chase hockey that is arguably “classic Carlyle”, the Ducks
could not seem to get any momentum going.
• Scoring depth across the board. Nashville had it, Anaheim did not.
• Filip Goalsberg had a point in every single game this series.
Finishing with 5 goals and 2 assists, this guy could not have given
the Preds more ammunition. A polarizing player, Forsberg was able to
get underneath Anaheim’s skin and draw penalties, where Nashville
would surely capitalize.
• Auston Watson had a goal in Games 1, 5, and two in Game 6. A fourth
line guy, with 5 goals in 77 games this season, put up four goals.
Talk about an unexpected hero. Viktor Arvidsson racked up five
assists, and Colton Sissons and Pontus Aberg became stars in a matter
of two games.
• Pontus who? Aberg. This 23-year-old Swede had only seen 9 NHL games
before this series. Now with four NHL career points, three of them
against Anaheim, and all three in Games 5 and 6. Sissons had the large
task of filling Ryan Johansen’s shoes once he was done due to injury,
not only did he fill them, they overflowed. Four points and a hat
trick in Game 6, no one expected that. Plot twist after plot twist.
• So here’s the kicker: Nashville’s depth players stood tall because
they had to. Anaheim’s stood tall because leadership fell through.
• Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie and Chris Wagner combined racked up six
goals in six games. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler -- only
two, both coming from Perry. When all three captains are healthy, they
are expected to carry the team, instead the young guns picked up their
• Brandon Montour has really come into his own as a defenseman on this
team and a great 200 ft hockey player. He was challenged with the task
to sink or swim, and passed with flying colors. If I’m Bob Murray, I’m
keeping him around if he can, the kid will easily be one of Anaheim’s
best two-way players in a couple years.
• Game 5 was an embarrassment for Anaheim’s veterans in particular.
This was a game the Ducks were favored to win, Johansen and Fisher
were out, and this was a Game that should have been 5-1, changing the
momentum of the series. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler fell silent. The
Ducks knew what they had to do to win this Game and just could not
execute, especially in the third period. Quality shots were seldom and
it just looked like they were trying to pass the puck into the net,
glove side, when they should have been abusing Rinne’s weaker blocker
• The Might Comeback Kids could still be alive and well, seeing as
this whole post-season was full of drama and fighting a goal deficit,
but their problem was holding a lead. For a team whose third period
performance has always been their strongest, the tables turned. When
games were theirs for the taking, they blew the lead, took bad
penalties, and gave Nashville that push that they needed to comeback
and win. In 4 of the 6 games, they fell flat in the final 20 minutes.
Nashville played buzzer to buzzer, a full 60 minutes of hockey. That’s
the biggest difference maker.
• Will the real Scorey Perry please stand up? Perry had two goals in
this series, his only two points in six games. Both Perry and Getzlaf
played great in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Getzlaf in
particular, but as soon as they hit the Western Conference Final they
began to flatline and they could not be revived. I get it, Perry came
in clutch with the OT goal in Game 4, but you need more than overtime
hockey out of your top goal scorer getting paid top dollar.
• Let’s talk about the man that everyone hates. Ryan Kesler. If you’re
a Ducks fan, you love him, but Kesler is one of the most hated players
in the NHL, and twitter proved that 10-fold after the Game 6 loss.
Love him, or hate him, he’s a talented guy. He would not be a Selke
candidate, and previous Selke winner if he wasn’t. So what was his
problem in this series? What happened to “Kessboss”? He was no where
to be found, and only put up one assist in 6 games. At the end of the
day, there are no excuses for this. Yes, he is the shut down guy. Yes,
that was his job in the Edmonton series to prevent Connor McDavid from
running away with it, but especially once Johansen was out, he should
have been putting up points, big time. He’s only found the back of the
net 5 times since the All-Star break in January. Typically a big
player to step up in playoffs and lead by example, Kesler was silent
(at least in terms of point production) this series.
• Powerplay continued to fall flat, as it did in the series prior. In
six games, the Ducks had 16 powerplay opportunities and scored on only
2 of them.
• This series was incredibly chippy, as seen by Johansen’s postgame
comments about Kesler after Game 2. Johansen told Sportsnet: “He just
blows my mind, I don’t know what’s going through his head out there.
His family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer
for a guy like that. “It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the
game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks
when you have to pull a stick out of your groin after every shift.”
• That being said, the Ducks lost discipline. That’s not the type of
game you want to play in a Western Conference Final. Nick Ritchie got
a game misconduct for the legendary “R” hit on Arvidsson, a lot of
crashing the net, a lot of potential goaltender interference, and more
and more injuries. They needed to play the type of Game they had in
Game 7 vs. Edmonton to beat this Nashville team, and Nashville took it
and shoved it in their faces.
• Yes, the Ducks made it to the Western Conference Final. Yes, they
are Division Champs for the fifth time, but try asking the players if
they’re satisfied with that. Getzlaf told ESPN: "This is the worst
feeling in hockey. Your season is over, and you're not holding the
Cup. It doesn't matter what round it is. It still hurts." It would be
one thing if they went into the Western Conference Final and
consistently played 60 minutes of good hockey, but thats not the
Now that the Ducks are out and the 2017 Cup run is a bust, what’s
next? What can we expect from Anaheim? Ducks GM Bob Murray is going to
have to work his magic this summer to battle the cap to fix the gaps
in his roster.
TRADE BAIT & EXPANSION PRIORITIES
Murray is notorious for making moves at the last minute possible, but
now is not the time to have that mindset. Now is the time to make that
blockbuster trade to get that top six winger Anaheim has desperately
needed for years now. It is time to go out there before the expansion
draft and trade one of the plethoras of defensemen to get the Jonathan
Drouin or a Gabriel Landeskog caliber player.
Trading away a defenseman before the expansion leaves room to protect
Jakob Silfverberg, which is now a must. My guess assuming Bieksa
waives his NMC: Ducks go with a 7-3-1.
Forwards: 15-10-17-7-67-33-(acquired forward in a trade with D-man)
Defense: 4-47-(either 45 or 42--can’t protect both)
THE BIG 3
“Oh Captain my Captain.” Getzlaf shut down those rumors of losing the
captaincy real quick. Leading by example, he had a great season, and
on the whole, had a great playoff performance with 19 points in 17
games. In the discussion for the Con Smythe, he proved that he is the
captain that Anaheim needs and he is not going anywhere.
Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are all over 30 years of age, and makeup a
good chunk of the Ducks forward core. The window is absolutely,
unequivocally closing for the core of this group. Not this year, maybe
not even the next, but with each Division title, with each playoff
disappointment, that window gets a little smaller and a little
So how long do they have to win a Cup with this core? All over 30,
getting top dollar contracts with no movements for at least four more
years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is Cup or Bust.
Time is running out and a big reason the window is closing is because
of the inevitable cap catastrophe. Keep in mind, Montour, Shea
Theodore, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie will all be coming off of their
ELCs next season. Josh Manson, Cam Fowler and Andrew Cogliano will all
be free agents as well starting July 1, 2018. Past that, Ducks will
have to consider re-signing Gibson and Sifverberg, and there is no way
Murray can keep this core under the cap for much longer.
Calm down on the Perry trade talk. While I’m sure that can seem
attractive based off of this season, don’t toss him in the trash just
yet. Perhaps this was just an off-season for Perry, perhaps not, but
no one is going to want to take that contract. $8.625 million through
2021 with an NMC. Yeah, he isn’t going anywhere. He is getting paid
almost nine million dollars a year to play hockey in Southern
If Murray has excelled in any area, it is building a solid blue line
on the roster and in the system.
So here lie the golden questions:
Do the Ducks give Cam Fowler an extension?
- Unless the return is something like William Nylander, yes, extend
his contract and use other young D-men as trade bait. Fowler has
pretty much played himself into a safe bubble.
Do the Ducks Buyout Kevin Bieksa?
- It could happen, but not likely. Ducks are still a budget team and
since Bieksa signed a 35+ contract, the Ducks will receive no cap
relief from the buyout and his current contract expires after next
season anyway, and management likes his gritty style of play.
Do the Ducks explore signing Eaves?
- I'm sure they'd like to, but the cap says otherwise. Eaves had a
career year and will most likely price himself right out of Anaheim
during free agency.
What about the goaltending?
- This is a big issue for the Ducks. Gibson is a good goaltender, and
proved he is their starter this regular season, but the guy has
trouble staying healthy. He has a history of groin injury, back injury
and he left Game 5 in the Nashville series with a reported hamstring
injury. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent come July 1 and
if this playoff run proved anything it is that Anaheim needs a great
backup when Gibson is out with injury. Whoever worked with Sergei
Bobrovsky last summer, should take a look at Gibson. An injury prone
goaltender can make or break a team, look at Montreal when Carey Price
was out. Anaheim will need to find a bona fide backup this summer.
Does Carlyle get an extension?
- Head Coach Randy Carlyle has one-year left on his two-year deal, do
the Ducks explore extending his contract? I think the argument could
go either way. Carlyle made some brilliant on-the-fly moves during the
post season to give his team the best opportunity for success, but
they fell in another Western Conference Final. That’s going to fall on
management’s faith in him. I think this contract was a “prove it”
deal. Perhaps this two year deal is Murray’s idea of the window?
Needless to say, Bob Murray is going to have his hands full this
Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.