NHL’s 30 in 30: Anaheim Ducks

For the month of June, Last Word On Sports will be covering each team in our 30 in 30 series. Once a day, we take a look at an NHL team’s past season, what their off-season looks like, and what they could hope to achieve before the start of their 2015-16 season. Everybody wants to get better and improve upon last season’s success or downfall and NHL’s 30 in 30 gives you that analysis and preview you need to get you by during another long and grueling summer season. 30 days in June, 30 teams to cover. Starting on June 1st we start from the bottom and make our way to the very top.

Today’s team: The Anaheim Ducks. Check out our previous 30 in 30 articles here.

NHL’s 30 in 30: Anaheim Ducks

Finishing 3rd overall, the Anaheim Ducks posted a record of 51-24-7 to end up with 109 points, placing them in first in the Pacific division and eight points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. Their home record (26-12-3) accumulated for 55 points. Their away record (25-12-4) was slightly less successful, accumulating 54 points, but they were good all-around. Their home and away records were similar to that of the St. Louis Blues, tying the two teams at 109, however the Ducks finished atop the Western Conference. The Ducks made it all the way to the Western Conference final, but were ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks.

The 2014-15 Regular Season

The last time the Anaheim Ducks held the Stanley Cup was in 2007. In 2015, despite a strong showing in the first two rounds including a sweep against the Winnipeg Jets and the breaking of hearts of the Calgary Flames, the Ducks could not overcome the Blackhawks. Losing in game seven, the Ducks have a few off-season moves and decisions to make. Lucky for them, they have a core of talented players surrounded by a crop of young, fresh talent to compliment them and in a cap world, those young up-and-comers don’t cost much on the cap, allowing some flexibility to improve on some weak points.

The two-man band consisting of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry has been one of the most consistent duos over the last couple of seasons. With Getzlaf raking up points (fourth in the NHL in the last three seasons) and Perry scoring a surplus of goals (third in the NHL in the last five seasons), it’s no wonder why the Ducks are at the top of their game. Ryan Kesler played his first year with the Ducks and averaged 19:31 of ice-time, but it’s his role on the team that made him a commodity. Starting primarily in defensive zone situations and facing the top opposition, Kesler still managed 2.53 shots per game and averaged 0.58 points-per-game.

Rickard Rakell had an up-and-down season last year, starting off real slow in the first third of the season before picking up his game and becoming a contributing forward at both ends of the ice. He scored just once in the playoffs and averaged a little over 11 minutes of ice-time, so he’ll need to add some consistency to his game before he gains the trust of his coach. Patrick Maroon got some playing time with Getzlaf and Perry, and soared when he did. His ice-time went from 14:17 in the regular season to 17:56 in the playoffs, and he contributed seven goals. At the age of 28, Andrew Cogliano has played every single game of his eight-year career. His speed and tenacity has made him a threat during five-on-five play as well as shorthanded, although his total point production was down from 0.51 to 0.35 and his average ice-time of 14:36 was his lowest since the 2011-12 season.

Jakob Silfverberg got off to a relatively slow start in Anaheim but he turned it up to another level in the post-season, recording 18 points in 16 games. He’s good enough defensively and gave a strong showing into what he can do offensively, so the Ducks will hope to get more out of him next season. Another player that came over via trade, Jiri Sekac, settled into the Ducks line-up after losing the trust of Montreal Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. He has the skill and potential to contribute more, but there has been no indication of him doing so after one season. Nate Thompson enjoyed a decent season and became quite the name in the playoffs, recording six points in twelve games, a third of his point total in the regular season.

The Ducks have a crop of talented defensemen, starting with undersized but offensively talented Sami Vatanen. At 24, he averaged over 21 minutes in both the regular season and playoffs, and added 11 points in 18 games during their run for the Cup. Hampus Lindholm provides a steady element to the Ducks top-four, doing all the little things right while not playing the flashiest of games. Cam Fowler has blended into the blue-line, in a good way, and can contribute at both ends of the ice, adding an extra punch on the powerplay. With adding Simon Despres in a lopsided trade that sent Ben Lovejoy to Pittsburgh, and Clayton Stoner playing a bigger role under Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks certainly have the right mix of talent on defense.

Frederik Andersen appeared in 54 regular season games, plus 16 playoff games, earning him the role of starter in the 2014-15 season. In his first year of being a starter, Andersen played well enough to keep his role, although he was able to remain healthy, while John Gibson struggled. The Ducks had two goaltenders with starter written all over them and the potential to reach that, but going forward, it wasn’t realistic to keep both and continue to have them fight for more playing time.

The Off-Season and Free Agents

Heading into the off-season, the Ducks have a total of eight free agents to decide on. Of the eight free agents, three of them are restricted to the team, including forwards Carl Hagelin, Chris Wagner and Jakob Silfverberg. Forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Matt Beleskey, and defensemen Sheldon Souray, Francois Beauchemin and Korbinian Holzer are the upcoming unrestricted free agents. In terms of non-roster players, Murray will have to decide on seven restricted free agents and three unrestricted free agents.

The Ducks have about $47 million committed to nine forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders. After landing Anton Khudobin from the Carolina Hurricanes, it seems like one of Andersen or Gibson will be dealt. Likely to be Gibson, as Andersen played well enough in a starting role and Khudobin is a decent back-up. Gibson’s potential could earn Anaheim a decent return, especially when you consider the big names in Eddie Lack, Robin Lehner and Cam Talbot have already been dealt.

With Stoner signed and James Wisniewski dealt, the Ducks could simply re-sign Beauchemin and keep him around as a solid veteran presence in a considerably young defensive crop. If not, Anaheim still has some prospects in the pipeline that could challenge for a spot next year and on an entry-level deal, they’d come as an inexpensive option too. Shea Theodore could be that name.

With unrestricted free agent Matt Beleskey already turning down a deal from Murray, it’s evident he will be testing the free agent market and likely gone. Carl Hagelin coming in will help the Ducks top-nine out significantly and someone like Nick Ritchie could be playing more next season as well. Murray will have quite a bit of money to deal with on July 1st and if he can’t retain the services of Fleischmann at a reasonable deal, he can always test the market, see what’s out there and pick up a few inexpensive players, possibly a veteran.

The 2015 Draft

Bob Murray was wheeling and dealing at draft weekend, making a few deals and securing his team’s future. First, he selected Jacob Larsson at the 27th spot, a left-handed defenseman playing for Frölunda of the SHL. An effective, all-around defenseman that isn’t the flashiest but possesses strong skating and a high-defensive IQ, Larsson adds to the Ducks defensive crop and will look like a real steal once he makes it to the NHL level and continues Anaheim’s dominance at the blue-line position.

Forward Kyle Palmieri was dealt to New Jersey in exchange for the 41st overall pick and a 2016 3rd-round selection (with the option of choosing either the Panthers or Wild pick). Murray then flipped the pick, packaging that selection with forward Emerson Etem and trading it to New York in exchange for forward Carl Hagelin, the 59th and 179th picks. Murray then picked up Julius Nattinen with their 59th selection, a fast-moving forward that can play both center and left wing. They got Garrett Metcalf with the 179th selection.

With their 80th selection, Murray took forward Brent Gates, and then grabbed Deven Sideroff four picks later. Troy Terry was taken at 148th, and finished off by taking Steven Ruggiero at 178th.

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