The Below the Ice crew brings you NHL: 31 for 31.
This year as the clock ticks down towards the NHL season, the writers here at BTI will be bringing you our preview of all 31 NHL teams, in 31 days.
We start in the Pacific Division with the Anaheim Ducks.
2nd in Pacific Division, 5th in West, 44-25-13 (101 points) Lost in 1st round (4 games)
Plagued by injury, the Ducks would start the season without their number two center, Ryan Kesler and would lose their top man Ryan Getzlaf for 2 months just 6 games into his season when he took a puck to the face against the Hurricanes in October. At times the Ducks would have Derek Grant (who?) as their top line center.
Ryan Getzlaf would eventually return to the team and lead the league in assists per game at .89% scoring 61 points in only 56 games.
Andrew Cogliano controversially had his ironman-streak snapped at 830 games, 134 behind the record held by Doug Jarvis. Rickard Rakell set career highs across the board in goals (34), assists (35), and points (69). Ondrej Kase a former 7th-round pick would go on to score 20 goals.
John Gibson would be the teams unquestioned MVP and would finish 6th in Vezina trophy voting, dragging the Ducks by their tails into the playoffs. Anaheim’s playoff run would be cut short, being swept by their California state rivals; the San Jose Sharks.
- April 23, Announced the contract of Assistant coach Trent Yawney would not be renewed
- June 29, Traded Nic Kerdiles to the Winnipeg Jets for Chase De Leo
- July 1, Signed Free Agents; Carter Rowney 3-years, 1.13AAV, Brian Gibbons 1-year, 1 million
- July 15, Extended Adam Henrique to a 5-year, $29.25 million, 5.85AAV
- July 23, Signed RFA, Brandon Montour to a 2-year deal worth $3.3875AAV
- August 3, Extended John Gibson to a 8-year $52.2 million, 6.4AAV
- August 14, Signed RFA, Ondrej Kase to a 3-year $7.8 million, 2.6AAV
OFFSEASON GRADE: C-
Not many moves were needed to be made by Anaheim this offseason. Scoring depth is the main problem that needs to be addressed but I believe the best plan for that is moving one of their many young talented defensemen for a scorer during the regular season. Hence the depth signings of Schenn and Sustr.
An easy but unpredictable way for the Ducks to increase scoring is to stay healthy. It’s unclear whether or not Patrick Eaves will pick up where he left off after scoring 30 goals and then missing a year. Add to that Ryan Kesler who’s health is in question thanks to a reoccurring hip injury.
A healthy Ryan Getzlaf for 82 games means more scoring for Rickard Rakell, Corey Perry or anyone else the Ducks decide to throw on his wing.
Anaheim got a little faster with the additions of Rowney and Gibbons but also slower on the back end with the depth signings of Luke Schenn and Andrej Sustr. Overall not a bad off season for the Ducks, just a quiet one with mostly re-signings to get excited about.
69GP: 13G, 18A – 2017-18
Those who are avid hockey fans already know the elite talent of Hampus Lindholm.
What he brings to the table for Anaheim is a player who can play top line shutdown minutes, defence in his own zone, play in all situations (PP, ES, PK) and has one of the highest hockey-IQ’s among NHL defensemen when it comes to angling off attackers and moving the puck up ice.
Lindholm has been quietly budding into one of the stars in the league on defence, he reminds me of a lot of Marc-Edouard Vlasic but with a much higher offensive ceiling.
Even while playing on a team that gives up more goals than it scores most years and always a tonne more shots, through it all, Hampus has managed a positive Corsi in all 5 of his NHL seasons.
I expect Lindholm to step up in production this year and to eclipse the 40-point mark for the first time in his career, to lead Anaheim’s D in scoring.
2018-19 Projection: 15G, 32A
54GP: 33G, 50A – 2017-18 (WHL)
With Ryan Kesler potentially missing a huge chunk of the season, Adam Henrique moves up into the 2nd line center role and Sam Steel will come into camp with a chance to start the season as the teams 3rd line center.
Sam Steel has elite NHL potential and will get a chance to showcase it. The playmaker will have plenty of time to find chemistry and I would like to see him start the season with Kase and Ritchie. The line has the potential to become what the old ducks kid line was in Penner-Getzlaf-Perry.
If Steel can quickly become accustomed to the NHL style and speed of play, expect him to finish the season with his own share of Calder votes.
2018-19 Projection: 18G, 28A
76GP: 10G, 17A – 2017-18
Ducks fans have to wonder if this is the year Nick Ritchie finally gets over the NHL scoring hump. Drafted 10th overall in 2014 Rithcie is yet to crack the 15G plateau in one regular season.
He finished the last two seasons with 28 and 27 points respectively and heading into year 4 this could be the year we finally know what Nick Ritchie is. We know he can bang bodies and isn’t afraid to play in the dirty areas, in-fact he’s got a nose in the corner for pucks. Production just hasn’t been there.
Points don’t come easy in the NHL, but for a player with positive possession stats you would think some of that would translate to on ice success. Given more offensive minded line mates this year, on a team that on paper looks quicker, Ritchie, might reach as far as 20 goals this season.
2018-19 Projection: 20G, 18A
DUE TO REGRESS:
80GP: 7G, 30A – 2017-18
I’d like to preface by saying; I love the way Josh Manson plays hockey … but I do not believe that last years production is what we should come to expect from him year in and year out.
Defensively Manson will continue to be a pest and a wrecking-ball on skates. But with the emergence of Montour and some already established players like Lindholm and Fowler, Manson will not need to carry the bulk of the offensive load. Expect a dip in points this season but not in overall play
2018-19 Projection: 8G, 21A
2nd in the Pacific, 4th in the West, 105 Points
This year the Ducks are poised to make the playoffs for the 7th straight season and get revenge for a first round sweep last season at the hands of San Jose.
Health has been an issue for the Ducks in the past and it may continue to be with Ryan Kesler’s status being unknown heading into the season. Elliotte Friedman noted earlier in the summer that Kesler could potentially be out for the year.
The often injured, John Gibson’s health will also continue to be question mark, but his play will not. Over the last 3 seasons the Ducks net minder has the lowest GAA (2.26) and highest SV% (.924%) among goalies that have played at least 50 games in a season. His 10.8 games per shutout is also ranked 1st among current goaltenders. This could this be the year he earns a Vezina nomination.
To have success the Ducks are going to have to find goal scoring, they ranked 18th last year in total goals, and the power play ranked 23rd at 17.8%. They must also stay out of the box this season, the Ducks were 5th on the PK last season but with the departure of PK coach Trent Yawney to Edmonton you can expect a regression which could be dangerous for a team that took the 5th most PIM’s last season.
Come back tomorrow when we take a look at another Pacific Division team; The Arizona Coyotes.