Even in the midst of the NHL cancelling its first batch of games, we all know that at some point, whether it be this year or next, we will get to see hockey again in the United States. With every team on hold as far as roster moves are concerned, we can look at our teams roster and speculate as to what kind of shape they will be in when the lockout is lifted.
The Anaheim Ducks are an interesting case on several fronts. However, one glaring aspect of their roster has been relatively ignored during the last offseason: Their second line.
At this point, if you compare the Ducks second line from last year with what coach Bruce Boudreau has said he wants to do this year, that line is completely empty. Boudreau has stated that he wants to move Saku Koivu (and I’m assuming by default Teemu Selanne) to the third line. Add to that the fact that the Ducks won’t be re-signing Jason Blake or Niklas Hagman, and the Ducks have no one on their roster who is an obvious replacement for any of those three second line spots.
I suppose that they could leave Selanne at the right wing position on the second line, however Boudreau has expressed on numerous occasions that he wants to roll three scoring lines. If Koivu is going to be centering that third line, and Selanne has been playing on a line with him ever since he came to Anaheim, then it stands to reason that Selanne should be moving to third string.
Additionally, at this point in his career Selanne is just not a second line guy, and in order to get the younger players involved and hopefully find some form of a replacement, guys like him and Koivu simply must act in a reduced role.
So it’s safe to say that the Ducks have almost an entire line gone from their roster. Let’s say that the league agrees on a CBA and the NHL plays a shortened season. What would Anaheim do to fill that void? Looking up and down their roster you just don’t see anyone who fits into that role, and it really makes you wonder why general manager Bob Murray didn’t address this during the offseason.
However the Ducks do have some options. If they decide to move Bobby Ryan back to the center or wing position on the second line, they could add Andrew Cogliano (who is typically a third or fourth line guy) and either Emerson Etem or Kyle Palmieri. Both Etem and Palmieri are both talented youngsters who are thought to be NHL-ready.
If the Ducks don’t decide to break up their big three by shifting Ryan, Cogliano is still the only viable option they have at center. They would have to build around him, and would have to count on a heavy dose of young talent, choosing from Etem, Palmieri, Devant Smith-Pelly, and Nick Bonino.
None of these player aside from Smith-Pelly have had a significant amount of playing experience at the NHL level. While it’s possible (and even probably) that one or more of them could blossom into a more consistent trustworthy offensive player, it would be risky for the Ducks to bank their second line on that happening.
It’s also possible that Anaheim could go out and sign a free agent once the lockout is lifted, though at this point, it seems a little late in the game to be addressing the situation in that fashion.
Regardless of how the Ducks handle this, we’re almost certain to see some new young faces in their line up when the puck does drop. It will be interesting to see whether or not those players can do enough to back up Anaheim’s big first line and keep the Ducks from becoming a one-dimensional hockey club.