ANAHEIM, Calif. – That brand-new Pacific Division title banner in the Honda Center rafters is going to mock the Anaheim Ducks until they figure out how to back up their regular-season prowess with playoff success.
With Teemu Selanne back for one last run at the Stanley Cup, the Ducks are eager to extend the Finnish Flash’s final season well into the summer.
Anaheim went back to training camp this month still smarting from its seven-game loss to Detroit in the first round of last season’s playoffs. The Ducks have still only won one playoff round since claiming their only NHL title in 2007—none since 2009.
The best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history led to another early summer, and coach Bruce Boudreau is confident the Ducks are done with first-round flops.
“I think they’re mad, and rightfully so,” Boudreau said. “Good players, and teams that are good, it takes them a long time to get over (it when) they didn’t do what they wanted to do. Our whole motto this year is unfinished business. You’ll see them walking around in T-shirts that say, ‘Unfinished Business.’ And that’s what we feel.
“We did a lot of great things, but our plan from the start of the season to the end was to go further than that, so it’s a goal we’re going to strive for.”
The 43-year-old Selanne’s last skate is just one attraction for an invariably entertaining team. Anaheim also expects big seasons from its twin cornerstones after giving lucrative eight-year contract extensions last winter to captain Ryan Getzlaf and former 50-goal scorer Corey Perry.
Five reasons to watch Anaheim’s attempt to pair its regular-season proficiency with playoff success:
BYE BYE BOBBY: Those $135 million in new contracts for Perry and Getzlaf came at another price: Anaheim dealt consistent 20-goal scorer Bobby Ryan to Ottawa.
Anaheim saved money and acquired promising forward Jacob Silfverberg while shedding Ryan’s $10.2 million in salary cap hit over the next two seasons. But even though there’s speculation Ryan might have peaked, given his disappointing performance last season, the loss of such a dependable scorer will affect even the Ducks’ stacked lineup.
SHARING GOAL: Anaheim general manager Bob Murray didn’t get rid of either half of his dynamic goaltending tandem, choosing to go into another year with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth.
That’s good news for the Ducks’ short-term prospects: The Swiss veteran and the Swedish newcomer were both solid last season, and either seems capable of being the No. 1 goalie for a playoff team.
Hiller, a free agent next summer, and Fasth both would like to be the starter. Both claim they’re willing to share playing time until something changes their circumstances.
PANCAKES, PART 2: The Ducks re-signed a key cog from their Stanley Cup title team, inking left wing Dustin Penner to a one-year deal worth $2 million.
Penner, Perry and Getzlaf are starting out on the same line in the preseason as Boudreau hopes they’ll rekindle the chemistry they showed off on the PPG Line in 2007. Penner left for a lucrative offer sheet from Edmonton that summer, eventually joining the Los Angeles Kings before heading back to Orange County.
Penner was a sluggish performer for the Kings at times last season, but Boudreau is hoping responsibility and familiarity bring out the best in the power forward.
“What’s important to me at this stage of my career is just winning,” Penner said. “I want to be one of those guys that can be dependable and accountable for the coaching staff.”
BOUNCE-BACK BEAUCHE: Defenceman Francois Beauchemin is returning more quickly than anybody expected from off-season surgery on a torn ligament in his left knee.
Beauchemin is already back in exhibition games with the Ducks after an injury that can keep many athletes out of action for several months—maybe a year. Instead, the Quebecois blueliner is nearly ready to follow up his stellar effort last season.
The Ducks dearly need a fast start from Beauchemin while defenceman Sheldon Souray is out likely until January. He’s recovering from surgery on a torn ligament in his wrist.
YOUNG ONES: Everybody knows about Anaheim’s veteran talent, but its impressive group of young forwards is ready to catch the NHL’s attention.
Kyle Palmieri, 22, is poised for a breakout season after scoring 10 goals last year. Speedy Emerson Etem, 21, seems capable of taking an everyday role with the Ducks, as do 21-year-old Devante Smith-Pelly and Silfverberg, the 22-year-old newcomer from Ottawa.
Add in 22-year-old Peter Holland and 25-year-old Nick Bonino as two playmaking centres, and the Ducks have the makings of a remarkable young core—if everybody pans out the way Murray and Boudreau are hoping.