Tuesday, September 5, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Anaheim Ducks

GM: Bob Murray (since 2008). 8/10
Coach: Randy Carlyle (second stint, since 2016). 8/10

2016-17 record: 46-23-13, 105 points, 6th overall, Conference Finals.

Departures: Jonathan Bernier (G), Shea Theodore (D), Nate Thompson (C), Emerson Etem (RW), Clayton Stoner (D), Simon Després (D).

Arrivals: Ryan Miller (G), François Beauchemin (D), Dennis Rasmussen (D), Derek Grant (C), Steve Oleksy (D), Reto Berra (G).

Top forwards: Ryan Getzlaf (captain, 65-80 points), Corey Perry (50-55 points), Ryan Kesler (usually good for some 50-60 points, but will start the year injured), Rickard Rakell (55-65 points), Jakob Silfverberg (50-60 points), Patrick Eaves (often injured and may not score 20 goals ever again, but 15 is a fair expectation), Nick Ritchie (30-40 points), Andrew Cogliano (30-40 points), Antoine Vermette (there's no reason for someone in his talent range to not get 40-45 points, except he just no longer does).

Must-improve forwards: Perry scored 50 goals in 2010-11 and 43 more in 2013-14, followed by two seasons in the 30s. He scored 19 last year and took until mid-winter to get going; he hindered Getzlaf's production and cost his team between 5 and 7 wins by not producing enough. He's paid way too much ($8.625M per year) to be such an anchor when he should be in the league's top-15 instead. His and Kesler's contracts will haunt this Ducks team for a while.

Top defensemen: Cam Fowler (40-45 points), Sami Vatanen (30-40 points), Hampus Lindholm (25-35 points), Brandon Montour (25-30 points), Josh Manson (15-20 points and over 100 penalty minutes), Beauchemin (15 points), Rasmussen (eating up minutes for 50-65 games).

Goalies: John Gibson (91/100), Miller (83/100).

Top rookies: Jacob Larsson (20 years old, D, 2015 first-rounder), Marcus Pettersson (21, D), Max Jones (19, LW, 2016 first-rounder), Sam Steel (19, C, 2016 first-rounder), Troy Terry (20, C).

Before news came out of just how banged-up these players were coming into the season, I had them pegged for first in their division by a 10-point margin. But because Kesler's going to miss months, because Manson will get suspended at least once, because Perry seems to be on a down slope yet still plays dirty, and because Eaves and Silfverberg are fragile, I had them fall to second place.

They lost a lot on defense (Theodore in particular), but they could afford to; their top-4 remains among the best in the West (behind perhaps only those of the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames), and trading Bernier for Miller to back up Gibson is a huge improvement that will just add to how difficult it'll be to score on these guys. They also have kids in the minors who'll soon be ready to step up.

They're a team that I hope will not advance past their division final, but they also have good leadership and coaching, and no glaring weakness and must therefore be counted upon as a Stanley Cup contender.

Prediction: 2nd in the Pacific Division.

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