They’re just never as bad as you or I want them to be. And they’ll be worse this year, but not bad enough.
While Bob Murray certainly had a hand in torching the Hawks on the ice in the late-90s, his work for the most part in Anaheim has been all right. Their depth has eroded, which happens to most teams, but they seem to keep producing youngsters who can at least step in and not have their brain drip out their ear. Corey Perry is now dead to match his stink, and Ryan Getzlaf will probably be an even bigger passenger than he was before if that’s even possible. Ryan Kesler may not even play, and that may not even be a bad thing.
And most of all, they play in a division that’s a car crash after the Sharks and maybe the Knights (let’s not just put their name in ink just yet until we see if Marc-Andre Fleury tosses up a .907 first). In any other division in hockey they’d struggle to make the playoffs. In this one, simply through Josh Gibson and their defense they probably don’t even have to worry about a wildcard spot, unless the Flames or Oilers get a wild hair on their ass. Let’s run it.
20187-2018: 44-25-13 101 points 235 GF 216 GA 48.6 CF% 48.4 xGF% 8.1 SH% .933 SV%
Goalies: Not only did the Ducks get John Gibson‘s best season, they got one of the better backup seasons in the league from Ryan “They Keep Calling Me” Miller. Gibson threw a .926 at the league and Miller supported that with a .928, which came in handy in 28 appearances. The Ducks get to run that back again this season.
That marked the third-straight season that Gibson was over .920 and second-straight over .927 at evens. As he’s only 25 and entering what you would think his peak would be, this is probably the norm and any team that can sport a .925 goalie every night is going to find it hard to be bad. Which is annoying because everyone, including everyone in Anaheim who would clearly like to be doing anything else but can’t because it’s fucking Orange County, would be happier if the Ducks were irrelevant.
If there’s one thing Gibson is going to have to overcome is an incomplete-at-best playoff resume, as he was silly putty against the Sharks last year and not much better against the Predators or Oilers the year before that. But the Ducks were so overmatched and outplayed by the Sharks I don’t think it matters anyway.
At 38, Miller has found a home as a backup, and the Ducks are one of the few teams that could survive an injury to their starter. You wouldn’t want Miller playing 50 games, but anything short of that is a boon.
Defense: On paper, this has a chance to be a pretty young, dynamic blue line. And yet…
You look at Hampus! Hampus!, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, and Brandon Montour and you think, “Wow, that’s a lot of mobile, skilled d-men there.” And yet you watch the Ducks and you struggle to find a shit to give. Maybe it’s Randy Carlyle‘s system, but none of these guys pushed the play at a positive rate last year. Cam Fowler has mastered the “So What?” method his entire career. Really, only Manson and Hampus! Hampus! were weapons last season, and they don’t play as much as Fowler and Montour for reasons. If Manson and Hampus! Hampus! take the top pairing minutes and Fowler and Montour do a little more bum-slaying, it will be good. If Carlyle’s mush-brain gets in the way…
The third-pairing looks to be rookie Marcus Pettersson and glorified ent Andrej Sustr, who’s never done anything for anyone. Korbinian Holzer could return in March or so, if that’s something you want to wait for and believe me you don’t.
Forwards: If the Ducks were smart, or smarter, they’d have been trying to move Ryan Getzlaf and his inability to find a fuck to give anywhere down to the #2 center role at least two years ago. But they haven’t, counting on the gremlins and duct tape that Ryan Kesler was made out of to do all the hard work. Well, now thats not an option, and the Ducks will be rolling with essentially an older, balder, dumber, less-determined Jonathan Toews as their #1 center. Getzlaf managed 61 points in just 56 games last year, which would make you think he rediscovered his give-a-shit, but don’t you believe it. He got run over in the playoffs, which is his finisher, and you can count on him to do so again this year. And without Kesler around, he may have to take on harder assignments which he’ll have about as much interest in as your dog does of learning geometry.
Corey Perry died, and good riddance. Rickard Rakell is going to have to do a lot of the scoring to make the top line go, which makes his 34 goals last year pretty handy. Without Kesler, Adam Henrique will be the #2 center with Fifth Feather fave Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg, which is a pretty nifty second-line except thanks to Perry’s rotting corpse and Getzlaf’s rotting want-to it’s probably the first line.
The depth after that falls off a cliff though, with really only Ondrej Kase having any level of NHL-success on the bottom six. If the top line misfires, there’s not going to be anyone to pick up the slack, and that’s even if Carlyle could be convinced to trust young kids. Troy Terry and Sam Steel come in with serious junior/college pedigree, and the four Ducks fans who actually know what’s going on will be livid when The Toast Maker is trying to cram Patrick Eaves in ahead of one of them.
Outlook: If Steel and Terry stick, this is a pretty young Ducks team below the top line. The goalies are good, and with the right coach the defense could be as well. But Perry is done, and Getzlaf has to pile up the points that end up not mattering if this team is going to score enough. Still, there is no softer landing than the Pacific., They’re not the Sharks, they’re probably not the Knights. But they’re better than whatever else is stuck to the pipes out west. Another playoff appearance awaits. Just don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
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