While Ducks fans would probably prefer to forget last season and especially the games against the Sharks, but what I’m actually getting at is that the Ducks were never fully healthy last year and the Ducks squad the Sharks faced weren’t quite the Ducks they knew.
The injury bug hasn’t seemed to go away yet and the Ducks’ core group of players is getting older. The franchise is going to be asking some big questions over the course of this season about the direction they’re heading and what they have to do to stay competitive in a division that is slowly getting stronger.
Where we left off
For the first time in five years, the Anaheim Ducks did not win the Pacific Division title. With a 44–25–13 record, the Ducks fell eight points shy of the Vegas Golden Knights and one point ahead of the Sharks, settling for second in the Pacific.
Who knows how differently that season could have been with a health roster. Could a fully healthy Corey Perry or Ryan Kesler or Ryan Getzlaf have pushed the Ducks to win five more games? What was the impact of Patrick Eaves missing the season? It’s difficult to say to what extent, but certainly those players would have made a difference.
They felt it most in playoffs, where they were swept in four games, scoring only 4 goals to the Sharks’ 16 over the course of the series, including a 8-1 beating in Game 3. Getzlaf, Perry and Kelser did not score any of the Ducks’ 4 goals.
2018 Entry Draft
The Ducks had seven picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and they used all seven, which was a smart move, given players moving up through the system last year during injuries and the age of core players. More players in their system will help them if they transition away from older players.
They selected center Isac Lundestrom from Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League with the 23rd overall pick. He record 6 goals and 9 assists in 42 games last season and was ranked eighth in European skaters by Central Scouting. He is the only 2018 Draft pick still on the Ducks’ camp roster and currently has 2 assists in the preseason.
Other selections include center Benoit-Olivier Groulx from the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, left wing Blake McLaughlin from the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, goaltender Lukas Dostal from Trebic in the Czech Republic, right wing Jackson Perbix from Elk River High School, goaltender Roman Durny from the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL and defenseman Hunter Drew from the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL.
The Ducks didn’t lose anyone of much consequence in free agency. They let goaltender Reto Berra walk and then lost depth forwards in J.T. Brown, Mike Liambas, Derek Grant and Corey Tropp.
Anaheim was busy on the free agent market to replace them, though, signing mostly short-term and team-friendly deals. They signed AHL goaltender Jared Coreau to a one-year, $650,000 deal. Brian Gibbons, a 30-year-old winger who posted 26 points in 59 games for the New Jersey Devils last season, was signed to a one-year, $1 million contract. Anton Rödin is making a third attempt at playing in the NHL at 27-years-old, signing a one-year, $750,000 contract. Ben Street earned the same contract.
Most baffling is the three-year, $3.4 million contract given to forward Carter Rowney. The $1.133 million average annual value isn’t necessarily bad, but Rowney is 29-years-old and has been unimpressive at the NHL level, tallying just 5 points in 44 games last season.
It seems as though the Ducks may have been unimpressed with the various young forwards they used to plug in last season and are opting to replace them with old fourth-line players.
The real question for this roster is if Troy Terry will make the big club and where he’ll fit in. He joined the Ducks for two games at the end of last season following his 48-point season with the University of Denver.
What can we expect in 2019?
This coming from a team that has its own reputation when it comes to being old — the Ducks are old and getting older. And they don’t seem to have longevity in mind when building this year’s roster. They’re still in compete-now mode, but can’t seem to figure out how to get there, adding in old, bottom-of-the-roster guys instead of developing youth at the NHL level. They’ll be facing a division that just added a lot of elite talent and it’s difficult to imagine this Ducks roster can compete.
Patrick Eaves is healthy, but who knows what the 34-year-old may be able to bring after a year away. Getzlaf appears to be healthy, playing in three preseason contests.
But Kesler is still on injured reserve, just getting cleared for light contact yesterday. Corey Perry will be out for at least five months following an MCL surgery on his right knee.
It’s possible that the Ducks may find themselves fighting for a playoff spot this year and they may lose out. This certainly isn’t a team that looks anywhere like a contender.
The Sharks will face the Ducks in the home opener next Wednesday, October 3.