Tha Sports Junkies 101

Is Quieter Off-season better for Ducks?

Tha Sports Junkies 101-Sports News Dinur/via


The 2015 NHL playoffs saw the Anaheim Ducks do something they hadn’t done since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007: they went all the way to the Western Conference Final. They ultimately fell to the eventual Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks in seven games, but many Ducks fans surely felt the Cup would be returning to Anaheim soon.

However, for a team that finished one win away from the Stanley Cup Final, the Ducks made quiet a few changes to their roster that off-season.

They let forward Matt Beleskey go to unrestricted free agency. Beleskey had scored a career-high 22 goals that season and chipped in with eight more during Anaheim’s playoff run. He would eventually sign with the Boston Bruins.

They also let veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin go to free agency. Beauchemin, a member of the 2007 team that won the Cup, was basically the heart and soul of the Ducks blue line. He would go on to sign a three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

Next, they traded away two of their young forwards.

First, they sent right wing Kyle Palmieri to the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks. The next day, Anaheim would send speedy winger Emerson Etem to the New York Rangers in exchange for another speedy winger, Carl Hagelin, and two draft picks.

The day before free agency opened, the Ducks would acquire defenseman Kevin Bieksa from the Vancouver Canucks for a second-round pick in the 2016 draft.

When free agency started, Anaheim would make a few signings.

They would bring in goaltender Anton Khudobin and forwards Chris Stewart, Shawn Horcoff, and Mike Santorelli.

With these players joining an already deep lineup, many people were expecting big things from the Ducks in 2015-16. In fact, many experts had picked Anaheim as their preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

However, things did not start anywhere near what people were expecting as the team seemed to struggle to gel.

The Ducks would go 1-7-2 to start the season. Not only did they have problems winning, they had problems scoring.

Anaheim scored just 10 goals in the first 10 games of the season. Four of those goals came in their only victory that month.

They would slowly begin turning it around in November and December.

The start of the new year saw the Ducks become the hottest team in the NHL. However, management still felt they needed to make some more moves.

About halfway through the season, Anaheim traded Hagelin to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward David Perron.

The move worked instantly as Perron provided some offense and would spend most of the remainder of the season playing on the top line with captain Ryan Getzlaf.

The Ducks added more depth at the trade deadline when they acquired forwards Jamie McGinn and Brandon Pirri to help down the stretch going into the playoffs.

Anaheim would rebound from its horrific start to claim their fourth straight Pacific Division title. However, the playoffs, and more specifically Game 7, would not be kind to them yet again.

After being down 2-0 in their first round series with the Nashville Predators, the Ducks would come back to grab a 3-2 series lead. Like the three previous seasons, though, they could not close out the series and would fall in Game 7 at home for the fourth straight postseason.

The 2016 off-season began with Anaheim letting go of coach Bruce Boudreau not long after being ousted from the playoffs. General manager Bob Murray would take his time in looking for a new coach and on June 14, they brought back Randy Carlyle.

Carlyle was the bench boss for Anaheim from 2005-2011.

They made their first player-related move of the off-season just under a week later when they traded goalie Frederick Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two draft picks. Since that move, however, the Ducks have been pretty quiet.

When free agency started on July 1, while other teams were making headlines with big or multiple signings, Anaheim did not make a single signing.

Their first signing of free agency happened the following day when they brought back depth defenseman Nate Guenin on a one-year contract.

Since then, they brought in another depth defenseman, Jeff Schultz, as well as re-signing blue liner Korbinian Holzer. They also brought in some depth upfront by signing forwards Mason Raymond and Jared Boll.

They also acquired goalie Jonathan Bernier from the Maple Leafs in exchange for a conditional draft pick to back up presumptive starter John Gibson.

These moves, while they do add depth to the Ducks, more than likely won’t put Anaheim at the top of most people’s 2017 Stanley Cup winner’s list, like last summer’s moves did. That may be a good thing, though.

As mentioned earlier, the Ducks struggled mightily to start the season last year and suffered their fourth straight Game 7 loss on home ice. One may wonder if the preseason expectations were a bit too much for them to handle.

In fact, one could argue that they have had high expectations since the 2012-13 season, Boudreau’s first full season behind the Ducks bench. However, they have yet to lift the Stanley Cup again or even get to the Final.

This year, unless they make one or two massive moves before the season starts, it’s hard to see Anaheim having “Stanley Cup or bust” type expectations going into the 2016-17 campaign. Sometimes, a team that plays with nothing to lose performs better. That could help them, especially with the type of coach they have.

Carlyle showed in his first time through with the Ducks that he can get a lot from a team with low expectations.

In his first season as Anaheim bench boss in 2005-06, he helped lead the team to the Western Conference Final as a sixth seed. In 2009, as an eighth-seed, Anaheim would fall one win short of reaching the Conference Final yet again.

One thing that could be worrisome, however, is the depth that they have lost this summer.

Stewart, McGinn, and Perron have all signed elsewhere. Stewart and Perron spent a lot of time with Getzlaf on the top line, with McGinn replacing Stewart from time to time. Horcoff, Santorelli, and Pirri have yet to be re-signed.

They have also yet to re-sign restricted free agents Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell, two guys who were big in the Ducks’ turnaround last season. One would think, though, that management has that as their top priority at the moment.

Regardless of who comes into the lineup or who leaves it, don’t expect Anaheim to carry big expectations into the season and, again, that could be really good.

As a person who has been a fan of the team since the mid ’90s, I’ve seen this team perform beyond what was expected when many weren’t expecting much out of them (the 2003 team, for example). I’ve also seen how they do well when, on paper, they don’t seem to be as good as other teams (2006 and 2009).

This upcoming season will more than likely be one of those seasons where on paper they don’t seem as good as other teams in the league because they haven’t made any major additions.

At the same time, however, it’s setting up to be a good opportunity to prove people wrong. Don’t be surprised if they do.