THN’s PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: Fourth in Pacific Division.
2013: 30-12-6. Second in West.
KEY DEPARTURES: Bobby Ryan.
KEY ADDITIONS: Mark Fistric, Dustin Penner, Jakob Silfverberg.
THN’s TOP PROJECTED SCORERS: Ryan Getzlaf (77), Corey Perry (75), Jakob Silfverberg (50).
PROS: Teemu’s back! And his preferred method of delivery was a hilarious YouTube video! With Selanne back in the fold, the Ducks once again have an excellent secondary scoring option behind the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry tandem, not to mention one of the most respected players in history still tootling around the dressing room. Elsewhere in the lineup, the Ducks have a lot of youth waiting to either build on early returns or prove themselves as full-time NHLers. There’s great competition for roster spots, so complacency will not be an issue – especially up front, where a couple of top-six roles are available. Will it be Jakob Silfverberg or Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri or Rickard Rakell? The jobs are there for the taking. In net, Anaheim can still depend on Jonas Hiller, while 2013 surprise star Viktor Fasth will no doubt want to prove that his rookie season in the NHL was no fluke, when his 2.18 goals-against average and .921 save percentage both ranked top-15 in the NHL (and ahead of Hiller).
CONS: Anaheim’s blockbuster deal with Ottawa yielded the Sens Bobby Ryan, the best player in the trade. He was a crucial part of the Ducks’ offense and a consistent 30-goal scorer before the lockout. The Ducks didn’t replace that offense and can only hope to make it up by committee, via Dustin Penner and the youngsters. A medicine ball wrecked Sheldon Souray’s wrist in the off-season, hurting the team’s defensive depth for the first two months of the season. Mark Fistric was signed as a replacement, but that won’t make up for Souray’s value on the point of the power play. There’s also the question of how good these Ducks would have been over an 82-game schedule. The team was basically even in shots taken versus shots against and the offense dried up and died in a first-round loss to seven seed Detroit.
X-FACTOR: Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne are both on one-year deals and could (probably, perhaps, maybe) retire at the end of the season. With Ryan out of the picture there are three guys who need to assert themselves as producers on this team. Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri and Jakob Silfverberg – all toddlers when Selanne first took to NHL ice – have shown different degrees of their potential. None have played through a full 82-game slate yet, but if the Ducks are to continue as a playoff team after their vets ride off into the sunset, new secondary scoring options are going to have to emerge. At the very least, those first steps need to be taken this season. Devante Smith-Pelly could also make a push in this role.
PERIPHERAL PREDICTION: This will actually be Selanne’s fifth-last season…
PACIFIC NO. 4: ANAHEIM DUCKS