Counting down the final 30 days to puck drop on the 2014-15 NHL season, Sportsnet previews all 30 NHL teams in reverse order of how we believe they will finish the regular season.
A dozen reporters and analysts from Sportsnet’s hockey brain trust — Doug MacLean, John Shannon, Chris Johnston, Damien Cox, Mark Spector, et al. — submitted a list ranking all the teams in order of how they think the NHL season will shake out. We crunched the numbers and will be unveiling our consensus standings prediction from worst to first.
Anaheim is our second-ranked team.
2013-14 finish: 54-20-8, 116 points, second overall; lost in conference semifinals to L.A. Kings
Leading scorer: Ryan Getzlaf (87 points)
General manager: Bob Murray
Head coach: Bruce Boudreau
Captain: Ryan Getzlaf
Opening night starter: Frederik Andersen
Key acquisitions: Ryan Kesler, Dany Heatley, Jason LaBarbera, Clayton Stoner, Louis Leblanc
Key departures: Jonas Hiller, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa
Off-season grade: A. Fresh off his General Manager of the Year award and a record-setting season for the Ducks franchise, Bob Murray upgraded his team by picking up Ryan Kesler, who was looking for a way out Vancouver. In truth, the Ducks could have sat still and it would’ve been hard to criticize Murray, whose team finished the season with a franchise-best 116 points, good for second overall in the league, behind only Boston. After being a Cup favourite all season, the Ducks fell to the rival Los Angeles Kings in a ridiculously good conference semifinal. Anaheim’s best move was to keep the moves minimal but significant, adding talent and strength on the second line. An upgrade on defence would’ve been ideal, but there wasn’t much in the market that would fit with the franchise.
Greatest strengths: The Ducks had the best offence in the league last season, averaging 3.21 goals a game. Ryan Getzlaf finished second in overall scoring, behind Sidney Crosby. Corey Perry was fifth. With Kesler as its No. 2 centre, Anaheim looks even more dangerous this season. They paid a price to get him — Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and two draft picks—but it was a gamble worth taking.
Greatest weaknesses: The Ducks went into the playoffs last year with three possible starting goalies: veteran Jonas Hillier plus rookies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. It was an odd situation for such a successful team to find itself in — without a clear guy to ride through the playoffs. Ultimately Gibson won the role and was remarkable through the conference semis against the Kings. With Hiller gone to Calgary, the position belongs to Gibson and Anderesen, both highly touted, both young and unproven. The Ducks have put their faith in youth between the pipes. The move might pay off, but it leaves a big unknown heading into a year where nothing less than a Cup will do.
Biggest story line to watch: Ryan Getzlaf finished second in Hart Trophy voting last season, and he and Corey Perry have become the most dangerous linemates in the league. They are also reaching their peak, so this team is looking to win now. But the West is a wild, dangerous place, and the Ducks won’t have an easy path to the Cup. The main questions will be whether the addition of Kesler can put the Ducks over the edge, and whether the young goaltending tandem of Andersen and Gibson is stable enough to ride all the way.
2014-15 prediction: A top three team in the West, the Ducks will reach the conference final—at least.