The Ducks had their fair share of ups and downs last campaign and the minor changes the team made in the off-season did little to brighten fans' spirits. Unfortunately the glory days of 2007 are over and the team rebuilding is underway. The good news is one of the best top forward lines in the NHL today remains intact, at least for now.
All-in-all the Ducks are a good hockey team with a lot of depth players and some up-and-coming talent. Fantasy owners will see a lot of opportunity in the Quackers and listed are some viable options for the upcoming season:
Ryan Getzlaf (C): There were lots of rumors -- none proven, of course -- that Getzlaf was a little "high maintenance" last season and that was the reason for his stunning offensive collapse. We don't know and we don't care because we operate on facts. So here's what we do know. Getzlaf is arguably one the best centers in the entire league -- he has the complete package of a true number one center. True, his attitude and approach hasn't been great (that kneeing infraction at the most recent World Championships in Helsinki was flat-out ugly; his Patrick Kane-like antics in that city's nightclubs weren't a whole lot better.) But we're not ready to declare him a declining asset just yet -- he's just 27 and entering his prime as a hockey player. There could be a big rebound coming in his first full year under renowned players' coach Bruce Boudreau. A point-per-game and a top-five assist finish could be looming. It's a contract year, after all -- that's all the motivation he'll need.
Corey Perry (RW): Perry, Perry, quite contrary -- where the heck did your game go? After posting the league's only 50-goal effort and winning the Hart Trophy in 2010-11, Perry's game seemed to evaporate at points last year. He did finish with 37 goals, which was good enough for a tie for sixth in the NHL and he still brought you over 100 PIMs. But his 60 points were a whopping 38 fewer than the previous season. We know he caught lightning in a bottle in 2010-11, but we aren't prepared to give up on him just yet. He's one of the most annoying players in the league when he's on his game and at 27, he's just now entering his prime. He's probably not the near-100 point superstar he was two years ago, but he could have several 40-goal, 70+ point, 100 PIM seasons left in him. Draft him for that -- not his exploits of 2010-11.
Bobby Ryan (LW): So, when will Bobby Ryan be traded? The guy's name has been tossed around for was seems like years, but he has remained with the Quackers. That might change this yea, of course. He can be an absolutely dominant winger, but he won't become a go-to, point-per-game monster in Anaheim. So draft him as a 30+ goal, 65-70 point winger with point-per-game upside. Just don't count on that upside until he slips on a new uniform.
Teemu Selanne (RW): The first-ballot Hall-of-Famer is back for one last season. And the 42-year-old still has value -- lots, in fact -- in fantasy arenas. Consider this -- he has potted at least 26 goals in each of his last four seasons and has averaged almost a point-per-game since the lockout. Yes, he "only" tallied 66 points in 82 games last year, but everyone on the Ducks had a down year. He remains potent on the power-play and even strength, and could score another 26 goals, with 60+ points this year.
HIT AND MISS
Jonas Hiller (G): The good news? Hiller played a full season without vertigo. The bad news? Hiller played almost a full season in net last year -- he started a whopping 73 games for the underachieving Ducks and it affected his stats. The underachieving part is important to note -- his teammates cannot possibly be as bad as they were last season, so expect an uptick in his deliverables. They improve and he improves. And Victor Fasth's arrival from Sweden should give the team an opportunity to give Hiller a bit more rest. Will Hiller deliver top-10 numbers across the board? Probably not. But top-15 is possible and that's good enough to give most fantasy owners a solid foundation for their season.
Sheldon Souray (D): Souray's game is in serious decline, but does that mean he's not worthy of a fantasy job this season? We're not prepared to go that far. He has really struggled since 2008-09 and at 36, his prime is behind him. But the Ducks' blue line is thin and Souray -- if deployed properly -- can continue to contribute. His greatest value lies in leagues that count power-play points. He should start the season on the first unit and will play with the likes of Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Cam Fowler. All he has to do is fire the puck near the net. And he can still do that. He's a huge injury risk, though, so draft him for 60 games and half that many points. Proper expectations are important.
Bryan Allen (D): Allen is a sturdy, stay-at-home defender whose greatest value lies in his ability to keep shooters away from his net. He once delivered 25 points in a season, but that was in 2006-07. If your league counts blocked shots, Allen can shoot you right up the charts -- last season, he clocked 188 pucks and we could see 200 in his future.
Devante Smith-Pelly (C): Smith-Pelly is the proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop and that's exactly what will make him beloved, both on the ice and in the fantasy arena. His ceiling isn't huge, but has the speed, skill and size to be either a second-line power winger or an abrasive, banging third liner. This season, it'll be the latter and there, he could deliver close to 30 points and 150 hits. But in a few years, he could be bringing home 50 points and all those (and more) hits.
Cam Fowler (D): Check Wikipedia for sophomore slump and you'll find a pic of poor Fowler. Yes, he's a talent -- he's poised with the puck, a great skater and brilliant in transition. And he can put up the points. But 2011-12 was largely forgettable for the kid, as he finished with 11 fewer points than in his rookie season and his horrific plus-minus actually got worse (minus-25 to minus-28). That plus-minus saw him dropped in a lot of standard leagues last season since you just can't carry that kind of anchor on your squad. So what does our crystal ball say for 2012-13? His game, no matter how good its potential looks, desperately needs work. Otherwise, he'll be as one dimensional as Flat Stanley and there's only so much value in a purely offensive defender. Don't give up, though; he doesn't turn 21 until December and there's plenty of time for him to grow his own-zone game. If he does, he'll soon be top-20 on the list of keeper defensemen. But draft with caution -- or leave him to someone else -- in single-year formats, particularly if you count plus-minus. He could sink your ship ... and your season.
Luca Sbisa (D): Slow and steady wins the race and that's Sbisa -- his career arc will increase at a slow and gentle pace. He has the right tools -- size, mobility, smarts. But his focus so far has been on his shutdown skills, so don't draft him thinking he'll deliver a 40-point season. That will come, but for now, you should count on 25-30 points and a 200/100 split on hits and blocked shots. He will get second-unit power-play time, so he will have sneaky value this season. But his best contributions -- at least for fantasy -- lie in the future.