The Anaheim Ducks are coming off one of the best seasons in team history with regards to regular season wins. They finished second in the league behind only Boston, who edged them out by one point. They ended up winning their first round matchup vs Dallas (4-2), but were eventually defeated in round two by the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
The key to the Ducks success is the incredible consistency throughout the lineup. At first glance, people just see the massive point totals coming from the Ducks’ Superstars – Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. What most people do not notice is the ridiculously high +/- stats contributed by nearly every player in the lineup.
Some key role players for Anaheim have put up mediocre numbers with regards to point production, but have done exceptionally well at keeping the puck out of their own net. For example, Dustin Penner put up a decent 32 points, but maintained a +22 during the season. Hampus Lindholm put up 30 points, and nearly matched that total in +/- with a +29. This is maintained throughout the lineup, and is proving to be the new model for modern day NHL teams who want to be successful.
Advanced sport statisticiansknow that production needs to be consistent throughout the lineup if one wants to maintain a successful team. If we look a little closer, we can see evidence of this on every one of the successful NHL teams in today’s league.
The value of two way forwards, and consistent defensemen has skyrocketed as GMs around the league need to fight for solid role players. Players like David Bolland are benefiting significantly from this new system. He can win face-offs, hit, kill penalties and chip in offensively. He will not score 40 goals a season, maybe not even 20. However, he signed a 5 year, 27 million dollar deal because he has such a strong all-around game.
This style of team building is not easy, however. Progressing into 2014-15, we see the Ducks making some bold moves to solidify themselves in the West. I believe the series loss against Los Angeles last year was the reason Bob Murray made the moves he did.
In an effort to add some more firepower to his lineup, the Ducks traded for Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks. When healthy, Kesler can easily put up 20-30 goals a season. The one enormous downfall to this deal is the fact that Kesler is an inconsistent and streaky scorer who has had injury trouble in the past. If Kesler stays healthy, he will likely be top 3 on the team in nearly every offensive category.
On the other hand, Kesler brings in 5 million dollars against the salary cap, and the Ducks were forced to trade away Luca Sbisa as well as as Nick Bonino.
Bonino is getting paid just under 2 million dollars a season for the next three years. Given his production last year, he may be the best bargain player in the league. He potted 22 goals and 27 assists last year in Anaheim, putting him third on the team in point production. It is hard to say who won the trade, and only time will tell.
I believe that Bob Murray and his Ducks will be one of the dominant NHL teams in the West for some time. Don’t expect them to take the number one spot in the west again, however.
Teams like Los Angeles and Chicago will likely overtake the Ducks, as they are once agin lack experience in goal. Anderson is too young and inexperienced to be the number one goalie in a seriously talented Western Conference. By the looks of it, he will be expected to start the majority of the games this year. This can be a tall task and an important test for the young goaltender moving forward.
It will be a struggle, but look for Anaheim to finish anywhere from 2-4 in the West. As of now I have them in the 3 spot behind Los Angeles and Chicago.