Rant Sports NHL 30 in 30: Anaheim Ducks Preview
Season Recap 2011-2012:
Last season, the Anaheim Ducks didn’t stray from their usual. Though they won their home opener, they started the season out sluggish; ending the month of October with a 6-6 record. Following that month, things came tumbling down for the team. The Ducks won only two games in November and lost an astounding 11. The front office in Anaheim realized that changes needed to be made if they were going to dig themselves out of this one. That’s when they decided to part ways with coach Randy Carlyle, who helped coach the team to their first Cup in Ducks’ history in ’07, and hired Bruce Boudreau who was let go from the Washington Capitals. When there’s a coaching change, people should expect to see quick results. Bruce’s entire coaching career only consisted of the Capitals and taking notes mainly on East coast opponents. His transition to the West was a slow one, but he definitely made progress with the Ducks by season’s end. Some of the bright sides of the season was Devante Smith-Pelly making a mark during his rookie season, Jonas Hiller almost playing an entire season (73 GP) vertigo-free and the team finishing only two games below .500 after having a horrendous start to the season. On the other hand, their power play couldn’t seem to quite click, finishing 21st in the league, and their penalty kill was mediocre at best finishing the season 16th overall. The Ducks ended the season with a 34-36-12 record, which put them last in their division and 13th in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately, the Ducks didn’t make much of a splash during free agency. Star players such as Shea Weber, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Rick Nash who all came with a hefty price and a long term commitment, were contracts the management in Anaheim stayed far from. Instead, Bob Murray decided to pick up veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray for three years worth $11 million. The Ducks also signed another veteran defenseman, Bryan Allen, to a three year contract worth $3.5 million. With these two additions, the Ducks hope their size and strength will contribute to the team; mainly on their special teams. Souray will be a good addition to the power play and his toughness and leadership will also be a plus. Allen should be a presence on the penalty kill and almost Keith Carney-like as a stay-at-home defenseman. Ducks also added Brad Staubitz to their roster to fill the gap left by the aprting of George Parros.
Ducks fans had to hold back a tearful farewell when they discovered that tough guy George Paros signed with the Florida Panthers. Parros was, by far, a fan favorite in Anaheim. His merchandise and fake staches filled the stands at every game and he knew exactly when and how to get the fans and the team re-energized. Now fans have to find a new favorite enforcer; hopefully, it’ll be Staubitz. The Ducks also traded veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to the New York Islanders for a second-round selection in next year’s draft. Following the trade, Visnovsky filed a grievance through the NHLPA contending that the Ducks didn’t honor his no-trade clause by not asking his permission for them to waive it. His case was recently overturned.
With the lockout in full effect, Ryan Getzlaf is choosing to stay at home with his family and not play for another team in the meantime. Getzlaf is working out with teammates all while making his young son, baby on the way and wife top priority. Getzlaf is coming off of one of his least productive seasons, as far as numbers are concerned, but you can bet that his time off can only help rejuvenate the young captain. Getzlaf is in his last year of his contract with the Ducks, which gives him incentive to play his heart out ,when given the opportunity, in order to solidify a big contract. Expect big things from this big center.
Player Under The Radar:
A year ago you might not have known who Devante Smith-Pelly was, but after last season he sparked some interest in many people’s minds. In the winger’s rookie season, Smith-Pelly registered seven goals and six assists in 49 games played. Despite his big size, the winger possesses good speed and a knack for making simple plays. He is also a good battler along the boards and is only getting better with experience. This 19-year-old looks like he has potentital to be a solid player in the league.
2012-2013 Season Outlook (If there is one):
The Ducks aren’t going to be the usual “shoe-in” for a playoff spot like they were in recent years. Their defense is still questionable and has been ever since their captain Scotty Niedermanyer retired and the goliath on skates known as Chris Pronger was traded. They made good acquisitions in Souray and Allen, but I’m not sure that’s enough to help give their special teams a boost. I can picture the Ducks barely squeezing in to the 8th seed sport or falling just short. Hopefully, the lockout will benefit the young star players like Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan who all look like they aren’t going to play overseas. I’m sure veterans such as Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will reap the benefits from the time off. That is, if they decide to not retire before the league and NHLPA finally figure things out.
For more on the Anaheim Ducks and sports by Michelle Drinnenberg, follow her on Twitter (@mdintheoc) and check out her personal Facebook page (Michelle Drinnenberg).