Since the 2002-03 season, the Anaheim Ducks have been known for their punishing style of hockey that also combines skilled forwards, young talent, a veteran defense corps, and a top-flight goaltender. This combination has propelled the team to the playoffs year after year, including a Stanley Cup championship win in 2007. Now, many teams are modeling hockey franchises in the Ducks’ image.
Last season, due to injuries by key players and dormant teams coming alive within Pacific Division, the Ducks found themselves on the outside looking in for the first time in years. Free-agent acquisition Saku Koivu had a rough start, which characterized much of the hockey club as they could not claw their way back and catch other contending teams. However, when injuries hit key players such as Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf, Koivu proved he could play with anyone. Unfortunately, his effort was not enough.
The Ducks have plenty of forwards in their stable to cobble together a winning team for 2010-11, but the departure of Scott Neidermayer leaves some large holes to fill on the blue line. In addition, Joffrey Lupul has had complications with a back injury that will not heal in time for the regular season. Getzlaf is still day-to-day with his ankle injury, though he should be ready for training camp.
What the Ducks have, though, is a proven goaltender in Jonas Hiller, and Corey Perry, a proven iron man. Whether those two will be enough to build the team around remains to be seen; Bobby Ryan must continue to progress and Getzlaf needs to prove healthy, as the division seemingly gets tougher each and every year.
THE BIG GUNS
Teemu Selanne (RW): When one describes Ducks’ hockey, Teemu Selanne should be the guy to come to mind. Just because Selanne is 40 years old, it does not mean that he should retire to the Old Folk’s home. Despite injury issues last season, the Finnish Flash still has skills that are solid enough for the franchise to bring him back for another go-around.
Jonas Hiller (G): There is no longer any doubt that Hiller will be the No. 1 goalie in Anaheim. After the last three seasons, he recorded save percentages of .927, .919 and .918, respectively. The Ducks will need that type of performance this year as there are still question marks within the team defense that last year forced him to face 33.4 shots per night.
Ryan Getzlaf (C): When Getzlaf entered the league, he increased his point totals in each of his first four years. Last season was a different story. Because of injury or team dynamics, Getzlaf was well off his pace in 2009-10, and never dominated his position in the same way that he had in previous years. Still, a healthy Getzlaf is well within grasp of a 100-point season.
ON THE RISE
Corey Perry (RW): Perry was an absolute monster on an Anaheim team that underperformed last season. He led his team in points scored with 76, and earned a gold medal with Team Canada in the Olympics. He has broadened his game from being a pest to someone that can be counted on every night.
Bobby Ryan (RW): It’s clear that the Ducks would like to build their franchise around their core group of young talent, and that includes Ryan. Last season, his first with the Ducks Ryan spent time in the minors and slowly solidified his presence by playing 81 games. He took advantage of the opportunity and ran up 64 points (35 G, 29 A), which ranked third on the team in points scored. If the restricted free agent can resolve his contract issues with the franchise, he could put up similar numbers in 2010-11.
TWO TO AVOID
Dan Sexton (RW): Sexton began his NHL career in 2009-10 and only appeared in 41 games with the Ducks. His point totals were not spectacular and it seemed that he might need more time to develop. However, that would entail staying up with the Ducks, not going down to the minors. With the competition he Ducks have at the forward position, he will have to work extremely hard to capture the remaining roster spot.
Todd Marchant (C): Marchant is a versatile player who notched 60 points (20 G, 40 A) with the Edmonton Oilers in 2002-03, a career high. Now, with the Ducks, he figures to be a center on a checking line and can fill in at other places in case of injury. He will get the job done for the Ducks, but he shouldn’t be expected to score more than 20 points in 2010-11.