The Ducks? They endured a terrible first half of the season, replaced Randy Carlyle as coach with Bruce Boudreau, then went on a furious run to cut a 20-point deficit in the postseason race all the way down to four before fading late and finishing with a 34-36-12 record, last in the Pacific and 15 points shy of a playoff berth.
The fade began the moment the guys got passed the trade deadline. In other words, once they knew they had their jobs, they quit.
Anaheim hasn’t made any splashy moves to this point in the offseason and, shy of the Bobby Ryan trade rumors coming to fruition, probably won’t. Instead, the Ducks will hope the revitalized health of goalie Jonas Hiller, a return by the ageless Teemu Selanne, and more consistent production from Ryan and linemates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf help spell a bounce-back 2012-13 campaign.
That’s a lot of the words to say we need our best players to be our best players.
For a team that scored 204 goals — seventh-worst in the NHL and 35 fewer than the previous season — the importance of Selanne’s return can’t be understated. As the Ducks try to develop some of their young talent into secondary scorers who can ease the pressure the top line has to produce, the 42-year-old Finnish legend remains a cornerstone of the offense — especially on the power play, where his 12 goals last season ranked eighth in the League.
Coach just might put Flash on the top line in ES situations.
Selanne is just one of many Ducks to speak glowingly this offseason about the job Boudreau did to turn the club around after his hiring last Dec. 1.
“He does it in a right way,” Ryan said in the L.A. Times late last season, after Boudreau had to give the team a dressing down. “He does in a way that makes you want to give a little more, makes you want to work that extra bit.”
As opposed to the rippin’ beat downs from his predecessor.
New additions brought in by general manager Bob Murray include a pair of veteran defenseman – Sheldon Souray, who had a resurgent season with the Stars and brings a booming shot from the point, and Bryan Allen, a steady stay-at-home type — as well as checking forward Daniel Winnikand gritty Brad Staubitz. Swedish goalieViktor Fasth was signed as the new backup to Hiller.
This D is very different and better defensively with the addition of Allen. Winnick might be our best defensive forward since Rob Niedermayer was allowed to go UFA. We’re tougher to play against but I don’t see this group as necessarily becoming more successful. They can but will they?
And while players like Selanne and 37-year-old fellow alternate captain Saku Koivu represent the elder statesmen on the Ducks, the roster is full of young talent who must continue to develop, like defensemen Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa and forwards Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelly. In addition, a list of prospects headed by forwards Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem are knocking on the door.
Yup, if the kids step up it will make a huge difference.
In many ways, Anaheim’s 2011-12 campaign mirrored that of the New Jersey Devils a season earlier. The Devils bounced back and went to the Stanley Cup Final last spring; while it might seem a tall order for the Ducks to do the same, their goal of making the playoffs is realistic. And as the Kings just got done proving, once a team gets there anything is possible.
All very true but being realistic I rate our chances of making the playoffs at 55%, missing the playoffs at 42% and going to the SCF at 3% or less.
The rest of Brian Hunter on our Ducks is here.