NEW YORK — When the Anaheim Ducks struggled against quicker teams around the NHL, general manager Bob Murray shook things up with a handful of trades before the deadline.
The Ducks acquired Jiri Sekac from the Montreal Canadiens, Tomas Fleischmann from the Florida Panthers, James Wisniewski from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Simon Despres from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Anaheim is 6-3-0 since, but more importantly seems better equipped for the playoffs and the matchups that could arise.
“We needed that good breath of fresh air and sort of kick-started our team a little bit,” coach Bruce Boudreau said Sunday at Madison Square Garden. “They’re all good skill players, probably different than the players we’d had. Not taking anything away from (Eric) Brewer and (Rene) Bourque and that, but these guys are faster and younger.”
Sekac was exactly what Anaheim needed and came at a price of sending physical forward Devante Smith-Pelly to the Canadiens. The 22-year-old Czech winger has adjusted well to an energy role with the more up-tempo Ducks after breaking into the NHL under old-school coach Michel Therrien in Montreal.
“For me, it was a good change,” Sekac said. “I really like the way the team plays. It’s been working pretty well so far.”
Going into the Ducks’ game Sunday night against the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers, Sekac has a goal and four assists in 11 games since the trade. During his rookie NHL season, he has eight goals and 13 assists in 61 games.
Sekac said it was a difficult adjustment from the European game in the KHL to the NHL, but it’s nothing compared to the change from Therrien to Boudreau. With the Habs, Sekac was part of a chip-and-chase game that didn’t fit as well to his playmaking style as the push-the-pace expectations in Anaheim.
“It’s just different,” Sekac said. “You can’t really say it’s better or worse. It’s just a completely different type of space — different style of game. It’s always about getting used to it.”
Aside from Sekac, the Ducks have integrated three other players into their lineup in the past month, and that doesn’t even count injured defenceman Korbinian Holzer, whom they acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Brewer and a draft pick. Fleischmann benefited from playing for Boudreau with the Washington Capitals a few years ago, but the other newcomers are as new as they come.
Wisniewski, who played in Anaheim for parts of two seasons, but not since 2010, makes the Ducks more mobile on defence. Despres, whose inconsistency in Pittsburgh led to his being traded, makes them bigger.
“I thought everybody’s been playing great, the new additions,” defenceman Francois Beauchemin said. “Sekac and Fleischmann have brought some speed and skill up front, and Despres has brought some size and good skating ability, his physical play has been really good. Wiz is doing his game and he’s good offensively and can be physical at the same time, too.”
Murray’s hope is to make the Ducks malleable to different styles and hang with the likes of the defending Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings. Boudreau can now mix-and-match depending on the opponent, something he could do in the playoffs, as well.
“We can put a group together that plays against a big, physical team, and we can put groups together that play against a real fast team,” Boudreau said. “I think we’re capable of matching up in that department against most teams.”