We’re down to the final team projected to make the playoffs in the Pacific Division, today we look at…
Anaheim Ducks – 228 goals for, 196 goals against (2nd in the Western Conference, 1st in the Pacific)
Getzlaf – Dominant 1st line C still, benefits from having Kesler as a top-competition foil. This is an example of what every Western Conference team needs to aim for with the center depth.
Kesler – Despised, and rightly so, but remarkably effective player at his position.
Perry – Transitioning into a 2nd line scoring winger who can still play just as effectively against top competition.
Rakell – Demonstrates the depth of scoring and skill on the team, WOWYs show a dominant possession player against all levels of competition.
Silvferberg – High-end complementary scoring winger.
Cogliano – Not cited enough as one of Steve Tambellini’s more egregious errors. Has come into his own in Anaheim, adding to their excellent forward depth.
Ritchie – Deployed primarily as a middle-range player, strong possession numbers in his WOWYs suggest a strong player in his own right.
Vermette – Still effective against all but the other teams’ best. Pretty good career for this local boy.
Eaves – Heavily criticized acquisition by Anaheim, but he appears to be an effective player against all levels of competition, though the offense never seems to arrive.
Kase – Surprisingly effective depth player.
Cramarossa – Bottom-rotation forward with little upside.
Shaw – Not ideal in anything but a support role.
Wagner – Impresses visually with the physicality of his play, but not necessarily an effective possession player.
Garbutt – Replaceable bottom-line forward. Effective agitator and hitter.
Boll – One of the better agitators though there are indications his career is beginning to wane.
Lindholm – Was available to any team with picks and cap space for an offer sheet last summer. 29 GMs made a poor decision not capitalizing on that opportunity.
Fowler – Shows well here, despite concerns about his defensive play,
Vatanen – Ideally suited as a 2nd pairing defender who can post good offense, slots in well behind Fowler.
Bieksa – The wheels are falling off but the Ducks only have to weather out one more season on his contract. Good timing.
Manson – George McPhee had a chance to take this player and did not. It was a crucial error.
Holzer – Effective bottom-pairing defender.
Montour – Looks like a solid 2nd pairing player with the possibility of improving to 1st pairing potential. Tremendous defensive depth.
Gibson – Good starter, still ironing out the wrinkles that come with a young man’s game.
Miller – The antithesis of Gibson, his best days are behind him but he brings as much consistency as can be expected for his position and could help to shelter the promising young man until he finds his sea legs. In Vancouver, Miller helped hold off the demons that were circling and I expect he will struggle coming to a new team (most goalies do) but if he can settle in under Carlyle’s system he may do well.
The Ducks have dominant forwards, depth at center, skilled wingers and a defense that should be in the conversation with Nashville’s as among the league’s best. This team is firmly within a window of challenging for a Stanley Cup and it seems any team in the Pacific that wishes to try their hand at hockey immortality will have to go through them to do it. They are likely to be a dominant team in the Western Conference this season and I suspect that anyone looking to challenge for the Cup is going to have to climb over the Ducks to get there.
Tomorrow I’ll wrap up the series with the Canucks, Golden Knights and Coyotes.