Five months. That’s how long the Anaheim Ducks are set to be without Corey Perry, their first-line right winger, after news came down Wednesday that the 33-year-old has gone under the knife to repair the meniscus and medial collateral ligament, or MCL, in his right knee. And if all goes well in his recovery, Perry might be back in the lineup sometime in late-February or early-March.
With the statuses of Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves still up in the air — the former continues to battle a hip issue, the latter a shoulder injury and both are expected to miss the season opener — Perry’s injury becomes the latest in a string of ailments that have wounded the Ducks. But for those thinking of using Perry’s injury to advocate for a shorter pre-season or looser rules on who needs to compete during the exhibition slate, the argument doesn’t really hold much water. To hear Ducks GM Bob Murray tell it, it seems this was a surgery just waiting to happen. “They saved his right meniscus, which was flopped over, and they also fixed his MCL that has been bad for the last three or four years, so they fixed that,” Murray said, according to the Orange County Register. “We talked (Tuesday) night and we, and Corey, decided it was time to get [his MCL] fixed.”
And while that’s assuredly good news for Perry in the long-term, it puts Anaheim in a bind for much of the upcoming campaign.
Undoubtedly, some will assert that Perry, whose past two seasons have been among the lowest-scoring of his career, isn’t a loss of grand proportions, that his days of being a legitimate top-line contributor have passed him by and that he’s a shell of his former self. Maybe there’s some truth to that in Perry’s statistical contributions falling short of the 35-goal, 70-point averages we became accustomed to during his prime in Anaheim, but the fact remains that even during his past two down years, Perry’s 82-game average is 19 goals and 55 points. The same player he was when he won the Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard in 2010-11, he is not, but he’s still more than capable of earning his keep on the Ducks’ top unit. And for those still questioning his contributions, Perry’s 36 goals and 102 points rank 29th and 18th, respectively, among right wingers over the past two seasons.
So, yes, Perry is a loss. He’s a loss that will be hard to replace. That doesn’t mean Anaheim doesn’t have to find the solution, however. And the Ducks at least have the good fortune of having some legitimate options who can step in to fill the Perry-shaped hole in their lineup.
On paper, the prime candidate would seem to be Jakob Silfverberg. The 27-year-old winger has spent much of the past two seasons on the second unit, often skating alongside Kesler as part of a shutdown unit, but the opening would seem to lend itself to an established winger who’s been good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 goals and 40 points over the past few seasons. In practice, though, to move Silfverberg up the lineup would be to strip the second line of the two-way play that has made it so successful in recent years.
In an effort to keep Silfverberg as part of that top matchup line, then, it is entirely possible Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle turns to Ondrej Kase as Perry’s replacement alongside first-liners Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Kase, in limited minutes last season, was somewhat of a revelation. In 66 games, he scored 20 goals and 38 points, and while he’s a more undersized winger in comparison to Perry, Kase can nevertheless bring similar scoring punch. If his performance last season is to be believed, too, then the opportunities he could be provided alongside a playmaker of Getzlaf’s ilk could result in a true breakout campaign. The two did play alongside each other briefly last season, as well, to decent results. When paired together at all strengths, Kase and Getzlaf were on-ice for eight goals for and drove play to the tune of a 61.4 Corsi for percentage.
If the pre-season has been any indication, however, the most likely scenario would see what would have been expected to be one of the least likely candidates for top-line duty slotting into the role straight away.
Throughout the pre-season, 21-year-old Troy Terry, who is about to embark on his first pro campaign, has gotten repeated looks alongside Getzlaf and Rakell. So much so, in fact, that Getzlaf has skated the majority of his minutes at 5-on-5 alongside Terry: the duo has played nearly 37 minutes together at five-a-side, while Getzlaf has been apart from the rookie for all of four minutes during the exhibition schedule. And while, yes, it is the pre-season and reading too much into meaningless games is a fool’s errand, there appears to be some chemistry and the underlying numbers are certainly promising. Across their time together at 5-on-5, Getzlaf and Terry have a 57.6 Corsi for percentage, 55.2 shots for percentage, 69.2 scoring chances for percentage and have managed those rates despite a slightly heavier slant of defensive zone than offensive zone starts.
To jump into the top-line role would be a significant leap forward for Terry, who was projected in some circles to start the season in the AHL. If any rookie is up to the task, though, it might be Terry, who is not only coming off of consecutive 40-plus point campaigns with University of Denver but broke away from the college ranks briefly last winter to play in some tournament called the Olympics. In five games with Team USA in Pyeongchang, Terry finished second in team scoring with five points, all of which were assists. The added benefit in having Terry play alongside Getzlaf, particularly if the line experiences some early success, is that it would be a tremendous learning experience for a player who’s projected to be a significant part of the organization’s future.
Be it Silfverberg, Kase or Terry, or be it a replacement-by-committee model, Anaheim will need to ensure they keep the top-line clicking in a vastly improved Pacific Division. And the Ducks’ hope should be that they can keep pace in Perry’s absence, and be better off for it upon his late-season return.