The Ducks have a solid young defense corps and some household names up front, but are they still an elite team with Randy Caryle behind the bench?
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN’s Prediction: 2nd in Pacific
Stanley Cup odds: 13-1
Key additions: Jonathan Bernier, G; Antoine Vermette, C; Mason Raymond, LW
Key departures: David Perron, LW; Jamie McGinn, LW; Frederik Andersen, G; Brandon Pirri, LW; Mike Santorelli, C; Chris Stewart, RW; Shawn Horcoff, C
-Can Randy Carlyle regain his coaching magic? Carlyle had one of the most impressive winning percentages in NHL history after seven seasons coaching the Ducks and won the Stanley Cup in his second year (2006-07). He even had a winning record in less than 200 games coaching the dysfunctional Maple Leafs. So why is his return to Anaheim met with such mixed reviews?
GM Bob Murray wouldn’t have hired Carlyle if he thought stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf would resist the move. With Carlyle, the Ducks will peak in the playoffs rather than the regular season.
-Is Nick Ritchie ready for top-line duty? When Ritchie was drafted 10th overall in 2014, it was with the anticipation he’d be able to make an impression on Anaheim’s top line with Getzlaf and Perry. After all, Ritchie is big (6-foot-2, 232 pounds), and showed excellent finish in the OHL. He started last season as a 19-year-old in the AHL and made a smooth transition, but he struggled in 33 NHL games (two goals and four points). With few other options for Anaheim on the left wing, they’ll give the young power forward a long leash.
-Can John Gibson be the main man at 23? Knowing they’d lose either Gibson or Frederik Andersen in next summer’s expansion draft, the Ducks got a first-round pick from Toronto for Andersen. That’s putting a lot of faith in Gibson, whose numbers haven’t been quite as solid as Andersen’s.
Gibson is a future top-10 goalie in the NHL. The only question is how soon? Anaheim added fallen-Leaf Jonathan Bernier as insurance, but don’t expect a co-No. 1 situation to develop.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Anaheim Ducks have been an elite team in the Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry era, but that may be coming to an end this season. For starters, both guys are now 31 and have been slowing down the past couple years. They simply aren’t as effective as they once were, although they’re obviously still very good.
The other big name they have in their core, Ryan Kesler, is one year older and his play has depreciated even further to that of a second line player. Kesler’s probably a better player than most analytically inclined people will admit, but he’s not as good as the mainstream media would suggest, and his body has taken a lot of wear and tear over the years. He’s only going to get worse as the years go by. The fact that he’s just now beginning a new six-year deal worth $41.25 million is extremely concerning for the future of this franchise.
Beyond those three the forward group is very weak for a team that fancies themselves a contender. Forwards make the biggest impact for any team and this cast doesn’t look nearly as deep as the other contending teams in the league, especially if Jared Boll ends up in the lineup.
The team’s biggest strength is their back-end. Anaheim is flush with young, talented, puck-moving D-men, which is why they were one of the best defensive teams last season. Hampus Lindholm is a star in the making and is due for a big season, and the guys behind him are no slouches either.
The Ducks have a solid roster here and should make the playoffs, but their big coaching change will have an effect on that. Bruce Boudreau is arguably one of the league’s top coaches, and while it’s possible he reached his expiration date with the players, his replacement is a very clear downgrade.
Almost every team Randy Carlyle touches turns into a bottom-10 shot rate team. The Ducks were top-five last season and that was a big part of their success, especially when they weren’t getting much shooting luck. Expect that to change this year for the worse, and a playoff spot less likely because of it.
Up next: Chicago Blackhawks
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