With the NHL season just around the corner, we begin unveiling our 31 in 31 series previewing one team per day for the next month. We’ll go division by division, moving alphabetically within each. Today we look at the Anaheim Ducks.
With five straight Pacific Division regular season titles, it’s hard to believe the Ducks would be looking in their rear-view mirror — but they are. The Alberta pack is closing, as the Pacific pendulum swings after years of domination by the three California clubs.
Anaheim still drafts and develops defencemen as good (or better) than any club in the league, but lost Shea Theodore and veteran Clayton Stoner to Las Vegas in their quest to retain Josh Manson. The Ducks added Ryan Miller, who might be the best backup in hockey working behind John Gibson, and a team that scored the 17th most goals in the NHL last season still has some pop.
Anaheim is as good a bet as any to win the Pacific. But it’s become a bet — not a guarantee — as the Oilers and Flames improve.
UP-AND-COMING PLAYER TO WATCH
Losing two defencemen to the Golden Knights will free up some ice time for Brandon Montour, whose time has come to become an NHL regular. He was up and down the highway last season to AHL San Diego more often than an usher at Sea World. Then Cam Fowler and Kevin Bieksa got hurt in the playoffs, and Montour played all 17 games, adding seven assists.
He’s a modern day defenceman who can skate, pass and give you some offence. A nice fantasy pick that will come cheap, but could get some points.
WHAT A SUCCESSFUL 2017-18 WOULD LOOK LIKE
The Ducks are doing a nice job of transitioning to a younger group, with guys like Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm slowly taking over leadership roles. But when you’ve won five straight Pacific titles, and played in two of the past three Conference Finals, there can be no other goal than to get to the Stanley Cup final and win it.
Sure, a Cup appearance would equate to success. But this franchise has been too good for too long to have only one Cup to its name, a decade ago in 2007.
BIGGEST REMAINING QUESTION
Closing the deal.
The Ducks got over their issues in Game 7s at home when they beat the Oilers in Round 2 last spring, but Anaheim always finds a reason not to get to the Stanley Cup — beyond just superior opponents. Gibson got hurt in Round 3 against Nashville last spring, and backup Jonathan Bernier simply didn’t give his club a chance to win.
Something always goes wrong come springtime in Anaheim. How do you fix the problem, when it’s never the same one?