November 15, 2017 | 6:27ap ET
BY Hannah Spraker, The Fourth Period
A NEW MURPHY'S LAW?
ANAHEIM, CA -- “Anyone that can get injured, will get injured.” That’s how it goes, right?
The Anaheim Ducks have had almost as many injuries as Taylor Swift has salty songs about ex boyfriends... almost.
As we all know, the Ducks’ locker room has become a revolving door. Right when you think they’re in the clear, another guy heads down the tunnel. From hip surgery to facial surgery, “banged up” is putting it lightly.
I’ve said it before, this is a resilient team and they typically start the season missing a few guys, but with this much talent out with injury, you can’t help but wonder if they can dig themselves out this time.
Among the battered and bruised:
Ryan Kesler - hip surgery back in June. Expected sometime around Christmas.
Cam Fowler - knee injury. Expected back sometime late November to early December.
Ryan Getzlaf - surgery to repair fractured cheekbone. Out two months.
Jared Boll - lower body injury.
Ondrej Kase - upper body injury.
Patrick Eaves - LTIR Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Out indefinitely.
Ryan Miller & John Gibson - taking turns getting hurt about every other game. Like I said, revolving door.
In the past, the Ducks would bend but never break, and thus far that still remains true, but the narrative could be changing this season.
Taking this many hits to the roster, not to mention key players, does not exactly keep you in the best spot for Cup contention. The Ducks are without their top two centers until at least Christmas, and line combinations have been a bit more like musical chairs these past few weeks than anything else.
Take the Good with the Bad
On the bright side, some unexpected heroes have stepped up to pick up the slack. The ones who stand out: Brandon Montour, Ondrej Kase and Derek Grant. While I think everyone expected players like Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and Corey Perry to be the go-to guys while the team tries to get healthy, and they have been, this has been a time in which some underrated guys are showcasing their talent.
Montour is well on his way to becoming one of Anaheim’s top D-men down the line, and perhaps the Vegas Golden Knights are having a bit of buyers remorse when it comes to which young puck moving defenseman they took as a bargaining chip. Montour has been phenomenal thus far, stepping up big time, especially when Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen were coming back up to speed after their injuries that kept them on out as the Ducks rang in the new season.
When Fowler left the game against the Montreal Canadiens on October 20th with his leg injury, the glass was starting looking more half empty than half full. Then comes Montour, once again, to pick up more slack.
Montour began to eat up those big minutes that Cam was used to getting on a nightly basis, and producing. Seeing a good amount of power play time, and leading all Ducks defense in points and goals, Montour’s finesse and puck moving abilities have not gone unnoticed. He has been an incredibly underrated player in the NHL. If he keeps this up, that will soon change.
Kase recently became injured in a game against the Los Angeles Kings with an upper body injury. He was place on injured reserve back in October for an apparent concussion, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that were the case this time as well. Although he has been cursed with injury, when he is on the ice, he is producing.
Kase has been a diamond in the rough for the Anaheim Ducks. Drafted in the 7th round, 205th overall in 2014, the 22 year old Czech has taken huge strides, proving that he can not only play up with the big boys in the NHL, but he belongs there. Last season, in 53 games with the Ducks, Kase scored 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points. It took him a mere 10 games this season to reach 5 goals and if he can stay healthy, we can expect that number to steadily rise.
What stands out about Ondrej Kase is his speed. In a league where speed kills, Kase is a huge asset to a team that typically likes to play a more methodical, physical game. Everything Kase does looks like it’s on the snapchat filter that speeds everything up. From puck handling to skating, the kid is quick and drawing attention. The question is; can he stay healthy?
Grant has been the most unexpected success for the Anaheim Ducks. It took nearly 100 NHL games and multiple teams for Grant to pot his first goal. His first two came in game number 93, and I’ve heard some superstitious Ducks fans speak of this as a good omen since the Ducks became a team in 1993. Superstitious or not, the 27-year-old has been a huge force for this team. Is he a No.1 center? No, although he very well might have to be for the time being.
Before Getzlaf left with his injury, the Ritchie-Grant-Kase line was looking dangerous. When Randy Carlyle has enough pieces to put that line back together, they are going to put up some points. Grant really came out of nowhere for this team, and he’s been creating quality chances left and right. Prior to signing with Anaheim, Grant played in 86 NHL games and had a grand total of 7, yes, 7 NHL points. It took him only 15 games with the Ducks to hit 9 points, including three goals.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve been critical of Gibson, but he has taken huge strides since last season. He looks so much more technically sound compared to prior seasons, having to rely far less on his athleticism and physicality to bail him out. Gibson has always been weak with his glove hand and would too frequently let in a bad fivehole goal, but we’re seeing much less of that and more sound saves. Yes there are still things to fine tune, but for John Gibson, the main concern is staying healthy.
The Ducks instantly got better when they signed Miller, knowing that Gibby is always due for some kind of injury that keeps him out, but now the Ducks are seeing the same problem with Miller now. You’ve gotta wonder if this injury plague is ever going to stop.
Here’s the thing though: the fact the Ducks are treading water with not only the number of injuries, but who is injured, just speaks to this team’s depth and coaching. It’s amazing that they aren’t last in the league right now with the severity of key players injuries.
Depth is the key to success in this league. Look at Tampa right now, the fact that they can let go of a guy like Jonathan Drouin and still be this dominant, rolling four lines that can produce every night, and have those marquee names like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Andrei Vasilevskiy firing on all cylinders -- they’ve put themselves in the best position possible.
On paper, the Ducks have everything they need to be successful in this league, and their depth players have stepped up big time. We’ve seen great things from guys like Chris Wagner who is leading the team in hits at 57, and Andrew Cogliano who is always reliable on the ice, but at what point do you start to explore the market and see what you can get to put this team in a better spot while they wait for their roster to regain health?
Now I Ain’t Sayin’ He’s A Goal Digger
Ok, maybe I am. As American Thanksgiving swiftly approaches, eyes and ears are going to be surrounding Ducks GM Bob Murray once again, and while he typically pulls something by the trade deadline, he almost never goes for the headliner. Again, the narrative has changed this season, and Carlyle can’t be playing musical chairs with the line combinations like he has for much longer, so we might see something out of the norm from Ducks management.
Pierre LeBrun reported on TSN that the Ducks were in on the Matt Duchene situation and Elliotte Friedman reported on his “31 thoughts” on Sportsnet that the Ducks tried to trade for Vadim Shipachyov, so we are already seeing that they are becoming a bit more adventurous than usual when it comes to the trade market.
Obviously, the Ducks need help down the middle. Down their top two centers, they need forward help and they need it now if they want to stay in the discussion for the playoffs. Their head is above water, but that just won’t cut it for much longer. So what can we expect from Murray? Well, I can’t see him trading away any “big” names, he’s loyal to this group and knows they can absolutely succeed when they’re healthy, but in a win-now situation who is going to be available?
For the past few seasons the Ducks have been in the market for a legitimate top-six goal scorer, preferably a left wing, but now it is time to expand their horizons. Looking at what Anaheim has to offer to get that forward help, the first guy that comes to mind is Vatanen.
Vatanen finished last season with a total of 24 points, three of which were goals in 71 games. A bonafide defenseman, especially a right shot, is a hot commodity in the NHL today, not to mention Vat-man has a wicked slapshot. The Ducks have long been praised for the amount of depth that they have on the blue line and within the system, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they trade away some prospects or picks as well to get some scoring help.
Last season, the Ducks were interested in Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk, and that is something that I would imagine they are going to explore again. Montreal is seeking some defensive help, Anaheim needs a legit center, this could be the match made in heaven. I can see both Vatanen and Galchenyuk fitting in very well with these teams, and if Bob is going to go shopping, this would make the most sense.
Another name looked at in the past is James van Reimsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs. When Fowler was sitting at the top of Anaheim’s trade bait, this was a trade I could have seen happening.
Now that Vatanen is likely the trade chip, it seems a little less likely, but still in the realm of possibility. 15 points and 9 goals thus far for JVR, he would be a great addition to the Ducks roster. Another possibility could be Tyler Bozak. The Leafs are looking to upgrade their defense as well as clear up some cap space. Toronto has enough forward depth but is lacking on the blue line, maybe a deal can be swung there.
Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche was another name tossed around last season that could spark interest in the near future. Colorado might be interested in acquiring assets to put themselves in a better position for the future seeing as they are still in rebuild mode. Landeskog is a veteran player and a legit goal scorer that would provide immediate help for the Anaheim Ducks.
The Golden Knights will be attracting a great deal of interest in terms of the trade deadline. While James Neal is certainly the attractive trade there, I would argue for David Perron.
Perron was picked up by Anaheim in the 2015-16 season, and was a huge contributing factor to their success in the latter half of the season and the playoffs. He is a dynamic forward who fits right into the Ducks system and in just 28 games with the Ducks he put up 20 points.
There’s really no reading Murray, and with this many injuries on the roster, there is only so much you can do as a GM. Is it possible that he waits it out? Yes, but I think that with the Ducks window closing it would behoove him to use Sami or some prospects and picks as a trade chip to help get some scoring to put this team in a position to make a run for a playoff spot.
Again, on paper, the Ducks have everything that they need to have success an make a run for the Cup, but with this many injuries, you have to start looking around for some help to fill the gaps. As impressive as Grant and Wagner have been, they are not top two centers. My bet would be Galchenyuk -- that trade works well for both parties -- but we will have to wait and see what Murray has in his back pocket.