Anaheim Ducks: Will Bruce Boudreau Keep the RPG Line Together?

There’s a growing assumption that the Bobby Ryan fallout with the Anaheim Ducks has, at least for the meantime, been alleviated.

If this is true, then Ducks fans can breathe a sigh of relief and start to look forward to the upcoming 2012-2013 NHL season, where they will see all Anaheim’s star players in familiar colors. What they might not see, are Anaheim’s star players on familiar lines.

Bruce Boudreau has never been shy about moving his top scorers to other lines, especially in regards to Ryan, who spent time last year on all four lines. The concept is that as a coach you divide up your talented players more evenly between the top three lines, then designate your fourth line as the “checking” or “energy” line. For lack of a better term you could say he’s, “spreading the wealth around”.

The effectiveness of this method is still up for debate, and in Anaheim’s case, things haven’t looked too good. Offensive output for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry went down significantly last season, and though Ryan maintained his usual 30-ish goals and 60-ish points, the Ducks as a whole struggled offensively, both 5 on 5 and on the powerplay.

The Ducks powerplay took an incredible nose dive last season, plunging from being tied for second in 2010-2011, to 21st in 2011-2012. Could it be that breaking up the RPG line isn’t good for the Ducks offense as a whole? Traditionally on the power play, Ryan would play on a line with both Perry and Getzlaf (and sometimes Teemu Selanne) who were his most typical linemates. However last season we saw Ryan on the second power play unit with a mix of Andrew Cogliano, Niklas Hagman, Saku Koivu and some randon youngsters. Is it possible that the mixing up the lines so much could have caused problems with chemistry on the power play as well?

You can’t argue with results, and last year, the Ducks’ results weren’t so great, especially considering their powerful offensive talent.

So what will Boudreau do this year? He has largely the same group of players that he started with, minus a few depth guys in the departed Hagman and Jason Blake. Those guys will likely be replaced with the up and coming Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem. Even if the output from these guys is higher than expected, not a whole lot will have changed on Anaheim’s depth chart in terms of scoring threats. Since this will be the first full season with Boudreau behind the Ducks bench, why would we expect him to change his strategy before being allowed a full season to implement it? We shouldn’t and as much as it might be painful to watch the beloved RPG line dismantled after a couple losses, it shouldn’t be surprising.

The theory that spreading out your offensive talent results in more offense over each line, only makes sense if you view your players in terms of isolated success. That’s not to say that Boudreau doesn’t have a healthy understanding of what it takes to develop chemistry between line mates, but he did have Alexander Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom in Washington. It’s just a matter of style really. With the speed game of the Capitals, Ovechkin and Backstrom just had a way of making the players around them better. That’s not the style in Anaheim. The RPG line was built up as unit. They’ve always functioned that way, and they’re just not the same players when they’re going solo. Again, that’s not a knock on their ability, or a knock on the Caps style. It’s just the way things were setup.

Regardless of what Boudreau decides, one thing is for sure: He’ll change the landscape of the Ducks offense. He’s a speed guy, and not nearly as defensive minded as Randy Carlyle was. Whether Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan can accomplish that better on one line, or separately is yet to be seen, and odds are, Boudreau will try both methods. I wouldn’t be surprised though if he has far more patience for the three scoring line approach. Only time will tell.

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  • Sam D.

    First off, the only time Bobby Ryan played on the #1 PP unit was when Getzlaf was playing the point and the Ducks were employing only one D man, usually Fowler, on the PP. In the normal #1 PP it was Selanne, Getzlaf, Perry, Fowler, and Beauchmin.

    I don’t believe Bobby Ryan will be traded. If it was going to happen I think it would have happened by now. The Ducks did not have any constraints on them like Columbus had with Rick Nash. The Ducks have all twenty nine teams to deal with and yet Ryan is still a Duck. I don’t think the Ducks were actively shopping Ryan, just politely listening to other teams, as they probably do with all players whom other teams think the Ducks might be interested in trading (Getzlaf). I also don’t believe that Ryan really wants to be traded, as evidenced in this Twitter exchange between Ryan and a Ducks fan…

    Ibzan Terrazas ‏@ibby_09
    @b_ryan9 yo bobby. Just stay so u can win a cup
    2 Jul

    Bobby Ryan @b_ryan9
    @ibby_09 I would love to! And that’s the goal!

    8:10 AM – 2 Jul 12 via Twitter for iPhone · Details

    The Ducks fan had a LA Lakers logo next to his name, so he is a local fan that is asking Bobby to stay in Anaheim and Ryan’s response is ” I would love to! And that’s the goal!” That doesn’t sound like someone who is demanding a trade, does it? Note the date, July 2. That is at least 10 days after Ryan’s outburst and remember Bob Murray said he would talk to Bobby when he returned to Anaheim after the draft. I think they had that conversation and they both came to the conclusion that neither side wants to make a trade, thus Ryan is still in Anaheim where he belongs. The Ducks would be stupid to trade a talent with the potential to be a 40, maybe even a 50 goal scorer. He has a contract that is cap friendly for 3 more years, he is only 25 years old, he is a fan favorite who has the charisma to become the face of the franchise when Selanne retires. Why would you trade him? You could never get what he is worth, on and off the ice. If I am correct in the assessment, please make an announcement as such. Your fan base will greatly appreciate the news.

    Size, Speed, and Youth

    The Ducks need to get bigger, faster, and younger and to that end, I would like to see these 4 players get long looks in training camp and maybe into the season.

    Patrick Maroon

    LW 6’4″ 230 Led Syracuse with 32 goals and 42 assists and +17. He reminds me of a more skilled and more motivated version of Dustin Penner. He can play in front of the net or grind in the corners. His +17 indicates that he also plays a good defensive game. He is 24 years old.

    Peter Holland

    C 6’3″ 200 Had a 4 game call up to the Ducks and scored a goal on a pretty wrist shot against Roberto Luongo. He finished his first season in the AHL at Syracuse with 23 goals, 37 assists and a +8. If the Ducks do not make a trade for a legitimate #2 center (like Peter Stastny) then I have no problem giving the job to Holland and telling him it is his to lose. At this stage, Saku Koivu will be a terrific #3 center but he is just an average #2 at best and Daniel Winnik is not the answer either. Holland is 21 years old. Maroon and Holland add size and youth to the lineup.

    Kyle Palmieri

    RW 5’11″ 195 Played 18 games in Anaheim last year with 4 goals, 3 assists, and a +3. In Syracuse he posted 33 goals, 25 assists, and a +10. Coach Boudreau liked what he saw of Palmieri last season and the only reason he was sent back down, was to help the Crunch in their playoff push after the Ducks were eliminated from the playoffs. It is Palmieri’s time to start to shine in Anaheim. He is 21 and is quicker and faster than he appears.

    Emerson Etem

    RW 6’0″ 190 Led the CHL in goal scoring last season with 61 goals. He added 46 assists, for 107 point season. In the WHL playoffs he scored scored 7 goals with 6 assists for Medicine Hat before their playoff run ended. He then joined Syracuse for their playoff push and added 1 goal in 2 regular season games and 2 more goals in 4 AHL playoff games for the Crunch. All together Etem played in 78 games with 71 goals and 52 assists for 123 points. He is a scoring machine who is only 20 years old and skates like the wind. He needs a long look.

    These 4 players will add size to the lineup as well as some speed and some much needed secondary scoring punch, and of course an injection of youth to go along with Devante Smith-Pelly (20), Cam Fowler (20), and Luca Sbisa (22).

    These are the line combos I would like to see get long looks by the coaching staff in camp and pre-season games…

    Maroon – Getzlaf – Perry
    Ryan – Holland – Palmieri
    Selanne – Koivu – Etem
    Cogliano – Winnik/Bonino – Smith-Pelly

    I think this is a good combination of youth and vets, size and speed, scoring and checking. Boudreau likes to roll 4 lines and with this group of forwards he will be able to. There is more depth with this group also, assuming no trades, we have a 5th line of Matt Belesky, Winnik or Bonino, and Brad Staubitz.

  • Bobby Kittleberger

    Dude, thanks so much for the well thought out feedback and commentary. I complete agree with you that Ryan is staying put, and I also actually really like your line combos at the end. I wonder if Boudreau will stack that much youth on the second line. We’ll see.