News reports have been emerging that Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres returned to practice. Considering the fact that Despres has been out for nearly three months with a concussion, these reports are a welcome sight. While it is not certain as to when he will return, it is undoubtedly going to give the Ducks a great deal of defensive aid.
As the come-from-behind win over the St. Louis Blues proved, Anaheim’s defense is in dire need of better strategy. Despres is a two-way defender, so he can be physical when needed as well as start offensive drives up-ice. One of the defenseman’s biggest strengths is his speed which can get him into position quickly to protect the net. If there is one thing that the Ducks struggle with on defense it is giving the goaltender proper protection.
Will Despres’ return fix everything on defense? In a word, no. However, his presence is sorely needed in this crucial period for the Anaheim squad. The coming weeks will truly shape whether or not the Ducks are going to reach the postseason. This statement seems crazy until you consider that Anaheim is constantly changing places in the Pacific and Wild Card standings (currently they rank fourth in both). If they do not get consistent wins things will not end well for the team.
This leads back to the defensive performance of the Ducks. With such a sketchy offensive unit that fires a lot of shots but not necessarily shots that are goal-worthy, the defense and goaltending will win games. The net has great players in Freddie Andersen and John Gibson so there is nothing to worry about there (at least nothing massive enough to panic about). What does need to be worried about is defense. With Despres back there will be a much higher chance of Anaheim stopping puck carriers before they can fire on net (namely due to his blistering speed).