Whether we get to see the Anaheim Ducks play hockey this year or next, we’re going to see a team that is almost completely absent of any secondary scoring.
Barring the uncertain success of Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem,or the emergence of some other forward out of the Ducks farm system, Anaheim has no one on their roster capable of taking on a secondary scoring role. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are 42 and 37, respectively, and shouldn’t be counted on to shoulder the responsibility for so much offensive production. While Selanne will be able to pick up some of the slack, Koivu is likely to be moved to a third line defensive role (think Todd Marchant type responsibilities) leaving Andrew Cogliano and Matt Beleskey as the next two most qualified forwards on the roster. Yikes.
That’s not to take away anything from Cogliano and Beleskey, but they’re fourth line guys at best. It’s hard to imagine them taking on the roles that were filled by Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman last season, both of whom haven’t been re-signed by Anaheim. While their exodus wasn’t a surprise, it’s hard to understand at this point why the Ducks weren’t more aggressive in pursuing viable replacements during the offseason.
There were plenty of offensive options available during free agency, yet the Ducks went out and signed two defenseman. Now, to be fair, the team has struggled defensively and it needed to be address. However, Anaheim still has a lot of cap space to work with and if they don’t want to spend that money on secondary scoring, there’s really no where else they can spend it.
That being said, if the lockout is lifted and the Ducks want to pick from the remainder of free agents, their options are fairly slim at this point. Kristian Huselius was averaging 26 goals per season before injury wiped out almost his entire last two years. If the Ducks are looking for secondary scoring, he might be a serviceable option. Beyond that, it’s a virtual no-win situation for Anaheim who would have Jason Arnott, Tom Kostopoulos and Mike Knuble left as their most viable choices.
Though in all likelihood, the Ducks will count on their youngsters to step up and contribute in a big way at the NHL level. If they aren’t able to do that, then Anaheim is going to be a very one-dimensional team this year.