Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Ducks 26-31-8   Hawks 29-28-8

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

MUSKETEERS? ON GUARD?: Anaheim Calling

Whenever the Hawks were mapping out a road back to the playoffs–be it before the season, or in the depths of the fall, or when they looked barely competent around the new year and trying to place a final charge–they must have looked at March and thought this was where it would happen. Because looking at this month’s slate, even in their current state the Hawks could pile up some points here.

It starts tonight with the Ducks, who blow. The Wings are on Friday, and they blow. The Sharks and Sentators at home next week. They blow chunks, too. Minnesota in a home-and-home and then Buffalo, and both of those teams blow a fair amount as well. The Kings and Canadiens at the end of the month, and yep, there’s some definite blowage there as well. That’s nine games that you’d expect the Hawks to win, no matter their makeup. Which means if  the Hawks were to goof a couple of results out of the Oilers, Blues, Caps, Penguins, or Stars…they could have 86 or 88 points, or even more at denouement of the season.

Except that probably only worsens their draft position. And makes you wonder what if. And that’s if you think the Hawks will take all 18 points from the games they should. Which they won’t. There’ll be no shelter here.

Either way, it kicks off tonight with the visit of the Ducks, who have backed up all season themselves after backing up all last season and have never really recovered since a playoff loss to the Predators in 2017. Boy, that sounds familiar. The Ducks might still be in Step 1 of turning from the Getzlaf-Perry generation to the next that will be led by…well, they don’t really know who yet and that’s the problem.

Getzlaf is still here of course, but his can’t-be-bothered, I’ll-float-out-here style has now aged into a I-can’t-get-there-if-I-wanted-to-but-still-don’t morass. Getz is headed for his lowest point-total since 2012 or worse, and he’s still the #1 center around these parts. What kids he’s turning the torch over to, I can’t tell you. The Ducks seemed to have missed a generation, just like the Hawks have. Rickard Rakell is 27 soon. Jakob Silfverberg is 29. Adam Henrique is 30. Cam Fowler is 28. Josh Manson too. That’s not really anyone in their prime or approaching it who’s ready to be the centerpiece of this team. When your important players are either over 30 or under 24, you get this.

The younger ducklings (so clever) like Sam Steel or Max Jones or Max Comtois (Larry Horse say Ducks too Max-y) or Jacob Larsson haven’t seized the greater opportunities. There’s still time of course, but Ducks observers would probably like to see a little more flash and less talk. The Ducks have taken on a couple projects in the hopes of finding plutonium by accident like Danton Heinen or Sonny Milano or Christian Djoos. Something’s got to work soon, right?

There’s still a few kids who haven’t even gotten a full go yet, and that’s where the hope lies. But this being a Bob Murray team, they’re going to struggle to find room for them thanks to contracts like Ryan Kesler’s if he doesn’t want to retire, or Erik Gudbranson’s, or David Backes’s for one more year. It’s a project in Anaheim, that’s for sure. The hockey team matches the area around it. There’s a lot of trash just lying around with nothing to stand out from the background.

To the Hawks, it’s basically the same again as it was in Florida. Corey Crawford will start, and the rest of the lineup will remain the same. And really, why would you change anything at this point? How would you? It kind of picks itself.

Toews, Keith, Kane, and Crow have been sounding the bell about making a serious run this month, and they’ll probably be doing the same in the room. They have to. Players want to win, and there are wins here to be had. And hey, maybe it’ll be fun. Who knows what it would tell the front office though. Look, we’ve got to come up with some reason to electively watch the Hawks play teams like this, right?

Everything Else

CJ is the editor of AnaheimCalling.com. Follow him @CJWoodling. 

Now that the Ducks have decided to start over, is Bob Murray really the guy you want leading this rebuild?

The Ducks have decided to do more of a retool rather than a full-blown rebuild, more out of necessity than anything else. With more than 30% of the Ducks cap space tied up in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler, all with full NMCs for the next 3-4 seasons, they really can’t completely blow it all up.
That said, they have some good prospects on the verge of making an impact, some of while we’ll see tonight in Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Brendan Guhle, to name a few. With John Gibson still just 25 and locked up for 7 more years and younger pieces like Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Ondrej Kase, they could be competitive again very soon.

Bob Murray has never had to do a retool like this, however. He inherited a team in 2009 with a recent cup win and transitioned it to a consistent competitor without rebuilding. Most of us are willing to see what he can do with this team given the pieces he currently has.

Why was Jakob Silfverberg someone the Ducks decided they have to have?

Bob Murray has a history of handing out extensions like candy to anyone who has performed halfway decently in recent seasons. Jakob Silfverberg has been a good two-way player and a good playoff performer over the years. Murray loves his safe, low-risk, two-way players, so it’s not surprising he wanted to hang onto him. The fan base, however, is fairly divided over the extension.
There’s a ton of bad paper on the Ducks. Is anyone getting bought out in the summer?
There are three candidates for buyout on the Ducks in Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler. Murray has only every bought out one player in his tenure, so it’s unlikely he does it again, especially for one of these expensive players.
Getzlaf is still a borderline-elite player, so he’s off the board. Corey Perry has looked fantastic since coming back from knee surgery, so he’s probably off the table as well. That leaves us with Ryan Kesler, who has less than 10 points on the season and who’s hip is on the verge of exploding at any moment. Buying out Kesler would save the Ducks more than $4 million, but put more than $2 million on the books for six more seasons. Not sure if ownership is willing to swallow that.

Might the Ducks have to lose someone who is young and productive just to accommodate all the bad paper they have and get picks/prospects?

We kind of saw that with the trade of Brandon Montour, trading a 24-year-old good, offensive blueliner for a 1st round pick. However, getting Brendan Guhle back, a 21-year-old with elite skating ability, might mitigate what was lost there. With several kids on the verge of making an impact on the Ducks, I don’t foresee the Ducks losing another young and productive player unless next season unexpectedly goes down the tube again.

 

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