The 2007/08 season was one of unfulfilled expectations for the Anaheim Ducks. Seeing as how the Ducks were the defending Stanley Cup champions coming into last season, a first round loss to the Dallas Stars ended what was a frustrating season for Ducks players and fans alike. The 2007/08 Ducks’ roster did not see high turnover, in fact, the team basically lost Andy McDonald and added Mathieu Schneider, Todd Bertuzzi and Doug Weight to the fold. Unfortunately, the questions about the possible returns of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne probably did more to distract the team than it may have initially anticipated. Overall, 2007/08 is a season the organization wants to put in the rear-view mirror and we can expect the Ducks to look more like their old selves in 2008/09.
With Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry locked up long-term, the Ducks have the core of their offense locked up for the next half-decade. Getzlaf increased his point totals from 52 pts in the Cup winning year to an impressive 82 pts last season. He is big, strong, and fast and has great hands. Along with Perry (career high 29 goals last season), who no longer has the contract issue hanging over his head, and Chris Kunitz (23 goal average the past two seasons) this team is set on the first line.
Where the team will look different this season is on the second line. Up the middle, Anaheim has signed former Vancouver Canuck Brendan Morrison to center the second line. Morrison saw his point totals drop in each of his last three seasons in Vancouver and was hit with the injury bug in 2007/08. That is somewhat of a concern because prior to last season Morrison was the NHL’s iron-man having played 82 games in a whopping six straight seasons. If Morrison proves to be healthy (which he hasn’t been at training camp) the team should see more offense from its second line. Alongside Morrison the Ducks are expected to line up Teemu Selanne, who looked terrific in the small sample size of play from late last season and youngster Bobby Ryan. This line has loads of potential and could be dynamite but it also could struggle if Morrison can’t regain old form and Ryan does not prove ready for NHL action. In fact, this line may be the key to Ducks’ season.
After the questions and potential of the second line, the Ducks trot out arguably the best third line in the NHL. The trio of Rob Niedermayer—Samuel Pahlsson—Travis Moen gives other teams fits with its size and physical ability of all three players. Make no mistake; this line will be matched against the other team’s top scoring line every night. However, the key to the line’s effectiveness is certainly Pahlsson and he only played 56 games last season so it is imperative for the Ducks that he remain healthy.
With the likes of George Parros, Ryan Carter, Brad May, Joakim Lindstrom , Drew Miller and Todd Marchant, the team does not lack for depth up front.
The Ducks are deep on the back-end, so much so that they can afford to deal Mathieu Schneider without any real worry of a substantial drop-off on defense. This unit is led by all-stars Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. Both players can log 25+ minutes a game and excel in all areas of play. They quarterback the power play, play tons of minutes at even strength and kill penalties. With Niedermayer and Pronger on defense, the Ducks have a good chance of winning every night they take the ice.
Along with the aforementioned all-stars, the Ducks have Francois Beauchemin who is a terrific skater and has a cannon of a slap shot from the point. Joining Beauchemin in a supporting role is the physical, stay-at-home Sean O’Donnell and the smooth skating Kent Huskins. As well, this off-season the Ducks signed the gritty Steve Montador as the team’s seventh defenseman but he will probably see action on a fairly consistent basis with the team’s expected trade of Mathieu Schneider.
The Ducks are strong in net as former Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the number one netminder. Giguere is strong positionally and usually steps up when the game matters most. He won’t see the kind of action Martin Brodeur will in the regular season but will have his number called when the playoffs begin.
Giguere is backed up by southpaw Jonas Hiller who was terrific last season. Hiller will put the necessary pressure on Giguere to maintain the number one goalie spot and is going to try improving on his impressive 2.06 G.A.A. and .920 save percentage.
Ceiling: 4th in Western Conference
Floor: 7th in Western Conference
With the veteran presence, young talent and big-time players Anaheim has on its roster, there is no reason the Ducks can’t compete with the Sharks and Stars for the Pacific Division. However, at the end of the day, I don’t believe they have what it takes to win the division.