NHL PLAYOFFS 2013: Anaheim Ducks – against all odds.
As we get closer to the playoffs, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team’s roster as they clinch a spot in the postseason. Next, the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks overhauled their roster after a disappointing 2011/12 season that saw them miss the playoffs, opting not to re-sign long-time team enforcer George Parros, bottom pairing-defender Sheldon Brookbank and disappointing back-up Dan Ellis, and trading star defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky to the NY Islanders for a 2nd round pick. The Ducks then went on to make several extremely smart signings, including offensive defenceman Sheldon Souray, defensive stalwart Bryan Allen, and top defensive forward Daniel Winnik. These signings would serve to strengthen immeasurably the Ducks’ depth, which was their downfall the year before.
After the disappointment of the year before, no-one expected the Ducks to be as good as they were this year. They went 3-1-1 in January, and then went on a 10-2-0 tear through February. They continued their strong form into March, not dropping a game in regulation until March 22nd, when they went on a 4 game losing streak. Finishing March 9-4-4, they are currently 4-4-1 in April, so they are slowing down some, and will be looking for a strong finish to regain some confidence as they enter the playoffs.
The season’s main individual highlight involved rookie* goalie Viktor Fasth, a 30 year old from Sweden who’d never played in North America previously, starting his NHL career by going 8-0-0 and being a huge part of the Ducks’ best start since the 2006/07 season.
As a sidenote: the Ducks have been a very interesting team to follow this year. They have an incredible amount of talent, particularly their top 6 forwards. Their bottom 6 and their defence is also considerably improved over previous years, whilst both Hiller and Fasth have given outstanding goaltending.
However, the advanced statistics hate this team, despite the number of genuine good NHLers present. All the underlying numbers suggest the team has been playing in incredibly good luck all season, scoring a tonne of goals when their possession numbers (shots differential) suggests they shouldn’t be winning nearly as much as they should. Everything pointed to a dramatic regression by the team, and although they have slowed a bit, the massive drop-off hasn’t really happened. They could just be one of those teams that buck the trend, the exception to the rule – they could return to being a bad team next year, or with the quality of their players they have they could have a good season with good underlying numbers. Weird.
*though not eligible as a rookie under Calder Trophy rules due to his age.
2012/13 Season Team Stats (to date):
44 Games – 27 Wins – 11 Losses – 6 OT Losses – 60 Points
Goals For = 128
Goals Against = 111
Goal Differential = +17
Home Record = 16-6-1
Away Record = 11-5-5
BOBBY RYAN – RYAN GETZLAF – COREY PERRY
EMERSON ETEM – ANDREW COGLIANO – TEEMU SELANNE
DANIEL WINNIK – SAKU KOIVU – RADEK DVORAK
MATT BELESKEY – DAVID STECKEL – KYLE PALMIERI
SHELDON SOURAY – FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN
BRYAN ALLEN – SAMI VATANEN
TONI LYDMAN – BEN LOVEJOY
EXTRA: BRAD STAUBITZ, MATTHEW LOMBARDI, JORDAN HENDRY
INJURED: LUCA SBISA, CAM FOWLER, NICK BONINO
The team’s top trio of forwards – Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan – are one of the top lines in the league in terms of both ability and past performance. This year, their performance appears to have been somewhat uneven. Getzlaf is the only one who is performing, in terms of boxcar stats, at a level in-line with his previous output; in fact, he’s enjoying a somewhat resurgent year after a poor 2011/12. He leads the team in points and is joint top in goals with Perry, though part of that success can be attributed to a high shooting percentage. He is taking on middling competition and blowing it out of the water. Whilst you’d prefer if he was taking on tougher competition, the team’s depth allows him to dominate lesser players. He’s doing everything he’s asked to basically, and doing it well.
Perry meanwhile, is playing well, but is not quite at previously established levels. He’s just under a 70-point pace, and just under a 30-goal pace, so whilst still solid, it’s slightly underwhelming for a player of his ability. He’s still providing his other talents however: physical, two-way, agitating play and an ability to dominate middling competition, much like Getzlaf.
The third wheel is Bobby Ryan. Long the subject of trade speculation and rumours of discontent, Ryan has disappointed the most of almost any player on the team this year. On pace for under 20 goals and just over 50 points, way off the pace previously expected from one of the most consistent goal scorers in the league. He’s still one of the top scorers on a team that is scoring by committee however, and the lower goal-count can be attributed at least in part to bad luck with his shooting percentage being way below his career average. He should rebound, if not this year then next – if he stays a part of the team, of course.
Andrew Cogliano is enjoying a fantastic season, the first time he’s been on pace for 40+ points since his rookie year and also the first time he’s ever been on pace for 20 goals. This is most definitely an outlier season for him though, as he is shooting at an insane 17.9% rate so far, a rate this is almost certainly unsustainable. Still he’s proven to be a consistent double digits goal scorer no matter how high or low his shooting percentage is, and as such is a valuable secondary scorer with little powerplay time. He is still an awful face-off man for a center, which isn’t great, but he does provide quality two-way play and phenomenal speed, handy on the forecheck.
Emerson Etem has had a rough start to his pro career. He scored 13 goals in 45 games in the AHL, not a bad amount for a rookie pro, but only had 3 assists – a very odd ratio, although he’s always been more of a goalscorer. He’s played 35 NHL games for the Ducks since the end of the lockout, and only has 3 goals and 9 points to show for it. Whilst it wasn’t expected for him to be a star right away, I think more was hoped for than this. He’s been awful defensively aswell, taking on by far the easiest competition on the team with over 55% offensive zonestarts but still gets outshot handily. Nonetheless, with his size, speed and skill he remains a great prospect, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t turn out.
Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, the ageless wonders, are still giving the team great secondary scoring and defensive play, particularly Koivu who is taking on extremely tough competition with primarily defensive zonestarts and still coming out ahead on shot differential. Daniel Winnik has been a great pickup for the team, and whilst his early season scoring flurry predictably didn’t last, he’s still been a fantastic defensive forward for them – if the Selke Trophy was truly about defensive ability, Winnik would be in serious contention. Palmieri, Beleskey, Bonino have all chipped in on scoring whilst not being too much of a liability defensively. David Steckel has been a pretty decent fourth line center for the team, and late season pickup Radek Dvorak has given his usual sound two-way ability.
On defence, there’s no way I can start with anyone else but Francois Beauchemin. He would probably be my pick for the Norris Trophy, that’s how good his play has been this year. He’s taking on the toughest competition on the team, with over 50% of his zonestarts being in the defensive zone, and still dominating in terms of shot differential. He plays the most amounts of minutes per game, more than 2 and a half minutes more than the next closest (Souray). He’s also putting up points at the second best rate of his career, on pace for 41 in a full season. In other words, he’s doing everything a defenceman can be asked to do, and doing it an incredibly high level, elite in fact. He’s always been an underrated defenceman, but it is difficult to see whether this is him finally breaking out at age 32, or if it is just a random spike in performance. His PDO of 1063 does suggest he’s playing in good luck, but not outrageously so. Either way, he’s been a godsend for this team, and deserves every compliment sent his way.
Souray has also been very good for this team, and whilst not at his old level of offence – last seen with the Oilers in 2008/09 – still provides sound two-way play, leadership and a physical presence, something this team has needed on the backend ever since Pronger left (though obviously he’s not at Pronger’s level). Bryan Allen was an astute signing, providing a solid veteran defensive presence. Toni Lydman is still providing good defensive play, but has dropped off the map offensively having not scored a goal since 2010/11. Lovejoy has also been pretty decent for the team defensively since being picked up from Pittsburgh. The team really could use Sbisa and Fowler back in the lineup however. Sbisa has had a rough year both on offence and defence, but he is still probably better than the likes of Vatanen and Lovejoy. Fowler is also not having a good year at either end of the ice when healthy, but given how good he was both of his first two years, I’d expect this to simply be an off year not helped by injuries. Fowler in particular has a heck of a career in front of him.
In goal, the aforementioned Fasth has been a revelation, sporting a .921 SV% and 2.20 GAA in his first NHL season. Hiller has been mediocre, with a 2.48 GAA and .908 SV%, but he’s been great so far in his NHL career so I wouldn’t bet on that lasting. They’re as good a tandem in the league, and if there’s a weakness with this team it’s not the goaltending.
STAR PLAYOFF PERFORMER
Despite the heroics by Viktor Fasth at times this year, the re-emergence of Getzlaf and the great years being enjoyed by Cogliano and Souray, I think that Francois Beauchemin will be the motor that drives this team in the playoffs. You may have noticed that in many of these playoff previews I’m picking defenceman as the Playoff Star Performers, and that’s simply because if a team possesses a top defenceman, there’s really no limit on what said team can do. Beauchemin has been absolutely phenomenal this year, and I see no reason for that to stop in the postseason. Look for him to log monster minutes in all disciplines and excel.
This all depends on how long the Duck’s top players play. If they continue to struggle as they have in April, then they won’t get out of the first round. If they play like they have the rest of the year then they could almost certainly make it to the second round, but I don’t see them making it any further than that, particularly if they run into a heavier team with better possession ability like St Louis or LA.