Season Preview: Anaheim
By Dennis Bernstein, TheFourthPeriod.com
fans won't be robbed of Teemu Selanne's ride into the sunset, but if they don't
start fast, it may be a highlight of another forgotten season. Long time Ducks
Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf enter the final season of their contracts and with
a slow start, the Ducks may be in full rebuild mode by the spring.
The Ducks' top four forwards, adding Bobby Ryan to the aforementioned trio, are
as good as any in the Western Conference. From there, it's a significant drop
off as Anaheim enters the season without a legitimate No. 2 center. Saku Koivu
is a solid citizen, but has slowed significant and Nick Bonnino is a bit away
from competing every night behind Getzlaf.
They'll add size with Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen; they'll lose skill with
the trade of Lubomir Visnovsky. Francois Beauchmin will be a horse (over 25
minutes per game last season), but the fate of this group rests with the
youngsters Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler. Sbisa doubled his production while cutting
his minus rating in half, an indication that he is ready to emerge as a fixture
on the blueline. Fowler, though possessing all the skills to be an All-Star,
must mature in his third full season after a rough sophomore campaign that
showed little development.
A return to full health for Jonas Hiller was one of the few bright spots last
season. With little help in front of him, he kept the Ducks in the game most
nights and logged the most minutes of any goaltender in the NHL. With more beef
on the blueline, Hiller hopes he can be average some nights and still get a win.
Tough times for a once model franchise that played most nights to a half filled
arena last season. Anaheim needs a fast start more than any NHL franchise with
Perry and Getzlaf in walk-away unrestricted free agent status this summer. If
they fall behind quickly, it likely is the start of a full rebuild with Getzlaf
being the more likely trade assets given his disastrous 2011-12 season.
3 Players to Watch
The guy you love to hate if you're not a fan of the Ducks. While a repeat
performance of his 50 goal Hart season was a huge ask, Perry will admit he
needs to produce more than the 60 points he tallied last season. While a
near 40 per cent drop in production is normally alarming, his 14 powerplay
markers combined with six game winners shows he's still one of the most
dangerous wingers in the NHL.
A cleat cut, first ballot Hall of Famer who's worth the price of admission,
his final season in the NHL may stand to be the only bright spot of the
2012-13 campaign. A class act, he was the Ducks leading scorer at 41 years
old and is a true ambassador of the game who will be missed both on ice and
in the room.
The biggest mistake GM Bob Murray could make would be to trade Ryan when the
inevitable rebuild starts. He scored 31 goals without the benefit of being
on the first unit powerplay as Ryan was seventh in the league in even
strength markers. At 25 years old, he's fashioned four consecutive 30 goals.