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Division Preview: Anaheim Ducks

This is one part of a multi-part series profiling the 2018-19 Pacific Division. 

The Anaheim Ducks had their five-year Pacific Division Champions streak snapped last season. The Vegas Golden Knights came out of nowhere and stole their crown as the Ducks struggled with a wealth of injuries. Now, with an ageing core, can the Ducks continue to be a contender in the Pacific?

Last season

44-25-13 – 101 points (2nd in Pacific)

235 goals for (18th in the NHL)

216 goals against (4th in NHL)

It’s honestly pretty incredible that the Ducks had as successful of a 2017-18 season as they did. They rolled into the season decimated by injuries, as their opening night roster lacked Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. Ryan Getzlaf would be in and out of the lineup for the first few months of the season due to injury and the team didn’t really reach full strength until after Christmas.

Despite the turmoil, a Ducks team which featured, at times, Derek Grant (former Flame!) and Antoine Vermette as its top two centres managed to finish second in the Pacific Division with a 101-point season.

Key to the team’s success was excellent play from Rickard Rakell, who led the team with a career-high 34 goals and 69 nice points, a breakout 20-goal season from Ondrej Kase, and a midseason trade that brought Adam Henrique to Anaheim. Rakell and Kase emerged as the team’s two best scoring wingers, which was critical as Corey Perry took another step backwards with a 17-goal campaign. Henrique also provided more offensive depth down the middle for the Ducks in the wake of Getzlaf and Kesler’s absence.

Ultimately, though, Anaheim’s sort of surprising success can be chalked up to defence and goaltending. The emergence of Brandon Montour on the blueline made Sami Vatanen expendable. After Vatanen was moved in the Henrique deal, Montour slid up next to Cam Fowler on the team’s offensive pair while Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson handled much of the heavy lifting defensively.

John Gibson should probably be heralded as the team’s MVP last season. Despite the Ducks routinely getting outshot (they ranked in the bottom third of the league with a 48.57 CF%), Gibson’s .926 save percentage helped the Ducks finish fourth in the league in goals against. Backup goalie Ryan Miller was also fantastic in relief, posting a .928 SV% over 28 games.

All told, Anaheim managed to stay above water in the first few months of the season while their roster was riddled with injuries. They compensated for injuries and declining play from their old core with breakout seasons from young forwards and strong defence and goaltending. In the second half, they got themselves to full strength and managed to go on a run to the playoffs. That playoff run ultimately resulted in a sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks in the first round.

Apr 2, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) collides with Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

This season

Notable additions: Carter Rowney, Luke Schenn, Andrej Sustr, Chase De Leo, Brian Gibbons.

Notable subtractions: Kevin Bieksa, Francois Beauchemin, Antoine Vermette, Derek Grant, Jason Chimera, J.T. Brown.

Anaheim’s offseason was more about housekeeping than it was making changes. The biggest signing they made was inking Gibson to a massive eight-year extension worth $6.4 million annually that’ll start in the 2019-20 season. They also gave a three-year deal to Kase for his breakout season, a five-year deal to Henrique, and a two-year deal to Montour. Nick Ritchie remains an RFA at this point, but all of Anaheim’s core other than Jakub Silfverberg is locked up for the next couple of seasons.

All of the Ducks’ free agent moves were minor. They let defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Francois Beauchemin walk in free agency and replaced them with Andrej Sustr and Luke Schenn. They also let a handful of depth forwards like Vermette, Grant, and Jason Chimera walk but brought in Carter Rowney and Brian Gibbons to fill the void. So, ultimately, the Ducks are just as good on paper as they were on last year.

The question for the Ducks yet again will be health and declining play from the team’s core. While Getzlaf is still a very good player, Perry is a shell of his former self. Kesler could also miss significant time this year. He played in 44 games last season and only managed 14 points. Like Perry, he was a shell of himself. Patrick Eaves will be returning after missing virtually all of last season with a terrifying illness in which the immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system.

Last season, they navigated a wealth of injuries largely with strong defence and goaltending. Will they be able to do it again?

Anaheim’s cap situation

Anaheim’s projected lineup

  • buts

    I keep waiting and hoping for the ducks to fall. I’m hoping its this year and could very well be. Kesler, Bieksa and the rest can drop and it wouldn’t bother me at all. Great picture showing Hamilton’s tremendous defensive positioning.

      • whysoserious

        To add, to have the top 2 DEFENSIVE forwards on the Ducks (if not the league) get behind you in your own zone is incredible, this dude is going to cost people their jobs in Carolina!

        • Off the wall

          Why the Hamilton bashing?
          He’s gone. He was our best offensive D man, in case you didn’t notice.

          Yes he took stupid penalties, yes his defence was suspect at times. But he produced..at the highest level.

          Let Carolina worry about him.
          I’m more interested in our current roster..and their capabilities.

          • Atomic Clown

            Sometimes the homerism on the comments reminds me of the Oilers fanbase. Everyone on the team is amazing, everyone traded away from the team is garbage. Juat like Hall and Eberle. Now the Hanifin-Hamilton trade is nowhere near as lopsided as the Hall-Larsson trade, but the flames still gave up the better player in Hamilton. Yes he was just average on the defensive side of things, but he was one of the most offensively gifted dmen in the NHL. It would be nice if we could focus on the the current roster versus players traded away. I hope Hamilton puts up 60 points in Carolina.

          • canadian1967

            Did you see The Dougie’s comments on Sportsnet today?
            Consider it his exit interview, and along with the photo at the top of the article, now maybe some of you will understand why he HAD TO GO.

          • mrroonie

            Not so much a bash as a dose of reality. It’s true that Hamilton was our best offensive dman, but the highest level was Burns at 218 and Karlsson at 215 points, Hamilton’s 137 points is a high level but not the highest level. He was 17th overall in points over the 3 seasons combined and only made the top-20 in points in one of the 3 seasons. As a note, Gio was 19th at 133 points and scored 4 more goals than Hamilton.

            Now, as you say, on to the current roster. Hanifin had 7 fewer goals and 5 fewer assists than Hamilton last season while averaging 2:40 less per game on the 2nd pair/2nd PP compared to Hamilton’s 1st pair/1st PP (I know, GG didn’t put him on the first PP until partway through the season but let’s not go there). Hanifin will still be playing 2nd pair but could see more minutes paired with Hamonic than he did with TVR in Carolina and could be used on the first PP. Hanifin is also 3 1/2 years younger and if he continues to develop should close that points gap over the next couple of seasons. Also, whatever part of that points gap that Hanifin doesn’t make up this season should more than be covered by the added offense from the other changes Tre made.

            Hanifin is young and, from what I’ve read, still needs to work on some aspects of his defensive game but from what I understand, he seems to be better at positioning and is willing to be physical which were the two biggest knocks against Hamilton. With Hanifin now signed long-term, if he develops as expected, in a couple of years he could be better than Hamilton in all aspects of the game and a steal at that price.

          • HOCKEY83

            44 points and 20 other D ahead in scoring does not make someone one of THE most offensive Dmen in the league. It just makes him an offensive Dman who can’t play D that well. also It was Hanifin and Lindholm for Hamilton with Ferland thrown in for good measure not just Hamilton for Hanifan. I do disagree with bashing a player just because he’s not on the team anymore. Usually it’s the organization that leaks something annoying about the player because the trade may have been lopsided and then the fans turn that little bit of info it into a monster.

          • Derzie

            People’s true colours come out when someone leaves. Bashing someone who is gone when you did not bash them when they were here is a red flag. Consistency is key to integrity.

  • SydScout

    Hey, a couple of things:

    1. I’m indebted to you local folks who give me so much Flames material to read every day. Thank you.

    2. I’ll be in Shenzhen in a week or so as it’s close to Sydney (8 hour flight plus a few hours train), and want to know if you would like a report from the game. It won’t be anywhere near as good as Stockton’s Finest, not will it have the panache of a tru Calgarian, but hopefully they’ll be a dose of flames that’ll be a genuine look at the game. If not…well this Aussie will give you an update in the comment anyway! It would be cool to do the first FGD from this hemisphere!

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    On the sliding scale of teams I hate as a Flames fan, the Ducks are listed as quite high:

    1.) Oilers
    2a.) Ducks
    2b.) Canucks
    3.) Kings
    4.) Tampa Bay ( I have left over rage from ’04)

    PS. I’m not going to miss seeing Kesler out on the ice, or Bieksa for that matter

    • Vernon30

      I have massive dislike for Anaheim. To put it eloquently, I want them to suck, and suck do a very long time. Maybe they can be folded. That would be even better.

      • Atomic Clown

        That’s actually very succinctly put. I have nothing against the Oilers team. I have absolutely nothing against Vancouver’s roster. But I genuinely dislike the entire Anaheim roster.

          • Atomic Clown

            Burrows and Bieksa were the only players I disliked on the Canucks team. Of course I had animosity against the team simply for being the Canucks, but the players themselves werent d*cks. Pretty same with Edmonton. Anaheim is just a team that plays dirty, and their players take every chance to cross the line.

    • Jobu

      Jobu really hated the Canucks most of all largely because of Bieksa, Kesler, and Burrows. He then hated the Ducks most of all once Teemu was gone and they brought 2 of those 3 bums to the club.

  • Squishin

    God I hate the ducks. Every time we play them I need twice as many drinks. I hope they fall and end up at the bottom and have to rebuild. Then we start sweeping them every single year for the rest of time.

  • JoelOttosJock

    That Sam Steel kid is going to be a player! Really hope the Flame can finally overcome the California hump. Nice to finally have won one In Disneyland, now to do it consistently. I hope Tkchuck can one day be as hated as much as Kesler by other teams, means he is doing his job!

  • LannyMac

    There is not doubt Anaheim’s dirty play goes over the line at times. I guarantee to the members of fan nation if our team can adopt some of that in your face attitude that Anaheim and Tkachuk play with it will go a long way to successful season. That IMO was one of the major reasons why they turtled figuratively and literally last year.

    • The Doctor

      Anaheim’s success in the past had a lot to do with their size up front and ability to leverage that size with effective play along the boards to dominate possession and wear down opponents. But the advent of the Vegas style and other developments, along with aging of Anaheim’s core, leads me to think they won’t dominate this year. Of course that all may be biased, wishful thinking because I hate Kesler so much 🙂

    • deantheraven

      Neal will bring some ‘in your face’ play, and Lindholm is a hard fore-checker. Really looking forward to the dynamics of having grit+talent on every line.

    • JoelOttosJock

      Add Bennett, Neal, Stone and Hamonic to that. Just dont take the stupid penalties, they are the hardest to kill. The hard, tough, mean hockey penalties are usually a little easier to kill off.

  • BringtheFire 2.O

    I really dislike the Ducks. Always have even when I was young. Stupid team name with two of the dirtiest players in the league. They are on the downward slide and I for one am happy. Lets hope the boys kick the tar out of these chickens this year. GFG

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      I’ve always liked Getzlaf. I’d call him top 3 in the league for hockey IQ. Not too many guys can make a play out of nothing like him. And he’s tough to play against. Hate most of those guys though.

  • Chucky

    Another reason to hate the Ducks is when I go to Palm Springs they are a local team and I can’t get the game on Centre Ice but no channel in the area carries the game. This year I dodge the bullet by a week but the last two years they have cheated me out of a game.

  • Mongauchuk

    I dislike the Ducks. I hope that they are healthy when we play them and am optimistic the Flames will win the season series . It is similar to when I used to dislike the Red Wings during the Linstrom years. I do like Hamilton but am sorta happy with the trade and rather optimistic about Hanifin and Lindholm. I was more disappointed in Brodie than Hamilton , don’t need to read many more negative comments about Hamilton and I think we could all wish him luck.

  • Puck Head

    Just looking at the schedule and was thinking about the home game against the Ducks on Friday, March 29. Kinda hoping that the Ducks are roasted at this point and have nothing left to play for.

    • SouthernFlame

      Yeah hopefully we don’t play too physical against them right Puckhead? I mean we hate to see some of those fourth liners act too mean towards those Ducks! Let’s just play those top six against those Ducks and we can all have a friendly game of hockey! Heaven forbid that a fight breaks out in hockey! Hopefully some day we can watch a hockey game that doesn’t involve checking or hitting or anything of that matter. Right?

  • Keith M

    I hate the Ducks as well but did I cheer hard for them against the Oilers in the second round of 2017 playoffs. I loved the part where Kesler held Talbots pad as the Ducks scored.