While it’s hard to poke holes in the Anaheim Ducks‘ regular season game, which took the team soaring into the playoffs in first place in the Western Conference, it’s not hard to find gaps in Anaheim’s playoff game needing a bit of filling through the offseason, most notably — the defense.
Anaheim is known for great speed, agility and the ability to roll four offensive lines of scoring depth throughout a full game. The Ducks are, at times, absolutely lethal in the offensive zone. But a team can’t win games without the ability to stop the bleeding from the other end, and while a stellar goalie is important, a solid blue line is equally so as well. During a few tight postseason games, and ultimately Anaheim’s Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the second round, the weaker blue line became very apparent.
All is not lost, though.
A key to this offseason for GM Bob Murray should be wheeling and dealing a bit to find a stable blue line presence; what Murray should also be concerned about is the presence the team already has that often goes overlooked in the form of Sami Vatanen.
Vatanen had a standout year, laced with being sent down to Anaheim’s AHL team a few times due to blue line depth and his contract enabling him to go back and forth.
Yes, the AHL experience was much needed by Vatanen; for a younger player, it always is. But anytime the young defenseman was thrown into the Ducks’ lineup, specifically in the Ducks vs. Kings series, Vatanen came to play and proved he is certainly a needed presence for Anaheim not only during even-strength minutes, but on power play minutes as well. Very few others on the team have Vatanen’s ability to skate the puck over the blue line with little to no contest from the opposing team like him. He may not have the sheer size of some other competitive defensemen, but he certainly has the power to make things happen for the Ducks. If he had been in the line-p more, perhaps things could have gone differently.
But the past is the past and all the Ducks have now is a very bright future ahead of the team — one that hopefully includes room for the talent of Sami Vatanen.