Vancouver Canucks Division Preview: Anaheim Ducks

Apr 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) celebrates his goal with right wing Corey Perry (10) and center Ryan Getzlaf (15) and right wing Chris Stewart (29) in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) celebrates his goal with right wing Corey Perry (10) and center Ryan Getzlaf (15) and right wing Chris Stewart (29) in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Anaheim Ducks changed coaches but left their core roster intact; have Vancouver Canucks fans seen this movie before?

After the Vancouver Canucks were ousted from the 2015 playoffs by the Calgary Flames, Calgary advanced to play the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks made quick work of the Flames and advanced to the Western Conference final. They built a 3-2 series lead and seem poised to break through into the Stanley Cup final.

And then they blew it.

Their story ended the same way as many other teams’ stories: they ran into the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Ducks once again had high hopes for the 2016 playoffs. But their dreams were dashed even earlier, losing their first round series with the Nashville Predators.

After four straight seasons of exiting the playoffs early after losing a seventh game at home, Ducks general manager Bob Murray fired head coach Bruce Boudreau. Otherwise, Murray opted to keep his team largely unchanged.

Vancouver Canucks fans, does this script sound familiar? It should! This was the Canucks’ story when they hired John Tortorella.

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Like the Ducks, the Canucks suffered a few early exits with contending teams. Like the Ducks, they eventually broke through and came close to ultimate victory. Like the Ducks, they suffered a first-round defeat the year after. Then, like the Ducks, they replaced their coach and trusted the new guy to lead the same team to the promised land.

Well, not quite a “new” guy. After being fired by the Ducks in 2011, Randy Carlyle is returning for a second stint behind the Ducks’ bench. Carlyle led the franchise to their only Stanley Cup back in 2007.

Beyond the coaching change, the same old crew is back.

Unlike the Canucks, the Ducks haven’t taken a huge risk with their new coach. Most of the Ducks core has played for Carlyle before — including Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, who played under Carlyle with the Manitoba Moose. Carlyle probably won’t upset the applecart the same way that Tortorella did in Vancouver.

Still, this movie didn’t end well for the Vancouver Canucks; how will the Ducks fare?

Projected Lineup


Nick Ritchie — Ryan Getzlaf — Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano — Ryan Kesler — Jakob Silfverberg
Mason Raymond — Antoine Vermette — Rickard Rakell
Chris Wagner — Nate Thompson — Ryan Garbutt
Jared Boll, Michael Sgarbossa, Stefan Noesen

Last year’s top-five scorers from the Ducks forward group are all returning: Ryan Getzlaf (63 pts), Corey Perry (62 pts), Ryan Kesler (53 pts), Rickard Rakell (43 pts) and Jakob Silfverberg (39 pts). An effective group with solid, if not eye-popping, numbers.

If the Ducks do run into problems this season, it will be with depth scoring, particularly on the wing.

Most of their bottom-six forwards from last year were allowed to depart: David Perron (36 pts), Jamie McGinn (39 pts), Brandon Pirri (29 pts), Mike Santorelli (18 pts), Chris Stewart (20 pts) and Shawn Horcoff (15 pts). The only additions to the bottom six have been Antoine Vermette and Mason Raymond, who managed only five points last season.

Anaheim only scored 218 goals last season; that was the fourth-lowest among playoff teams. Bob Murray let 42 of those goals walk out the door without replacement. If their top six cannot carry the load, the Ducks might be out of the playoffs even earlier than last season.


Hampus Lindholm — Sami Vatanen
Cam Fowler — Kevin Bieksa
Simon Despres — Clayton Stoner
Josh Manson, Shea Theodore

The situation on defense is brighter. All the regulars are returning and the Ducks have some promising youngsters who could take a big step forward this year.

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Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler each scored over 25 points last season. Rookie Shea Theodore potted eight points in only 19 games.

Given Anaheim’s lack of firepower up front, they would welcome more scoring from the back end. And they could very well get it. Lindholm is only 22 and hasn’t yet reached his offensive peak. Shea Theodore is a year younger and set a 35-point pace last season.

Defensively, the group is equally solid: the Ducks allowed the fewest goals in the league last season with 188. If the back end performs anywhere near as well this season, perhaps the lack of scoring will not be an issue.


John Gibson
Jonathan Bernier
Dustin Tokarski

Last season, Frederik Andersen and John Gibson split the starts 50-50, with Gibson posting slightly better numbers. Since Gibson is three years younger, the Ducks have opted to make him the No. 1 goalie going forward. Andersen is out, Jonathan Bernier has arrived to back up Gibson.

Bob Murray has taken a risk in making the 23-year Gibson the starter on a team he believes can compete for the Stanley Cup. Gibson’s numbers are great, but he has never been the No. 1 before.

Bernier has the same problem. He posted solid numbers while backing up Jonathan Quick in L.A, but was often the goat as the starter for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Neither of these goalies is a proven No. 1. Anaheim’s fortunes hinge on whether one of these two young netminders can quickly establish themselves as a bonafide starter.

Key Players

1. John Gibson

Andersen is no longer around to assume responsibility — or blame. So many backups struggle in their first season as a starter, and some never rise to the task.

Can Gibson overcome all of this?

If Anaheim wants to achieve their Cup dreams, he must. Some teams can outscore their troubles in goal, but the Ducks will not be that team.

Gibson will have one of the league’s best defenses playing in front of him. He will have no excuse if he fails.

2. Nick Ritchie

The Ducks are paper-thin on the left wing. Andrew Cogliano must also have a big year, but it looks like Ritchie will get the opportunity to skate on the top line.

The left winger is a massive body at six-foot-two and 232 pounds; he will make the Getzlaf-Perry line even more punishing for other teams to play against. He is big and he is talented, but his four points in 33 games last year do not inspire confidence.

With such a dearth of scoring options behind him, the Ducks need every possible point from Ritchie.

3. Ryan Getzlaf

Getzlaf has played 77 games in each of the last three seasons. His points have steadily declined in each, going from 87 down to 70 and then 63 last season.

There is no question that the captain is still producing at a first-line rate. But again, the Ducks are top heavy on offense, and so Getzlaf needs to reverse his downward trend.

The good news is, some of the best offensive seasons of Getzlaf’s career have been under Randy Carlyle. Maybe reuniting with his old coach will increase his point totals.


The Anaheim Ducks were first in the Pacific Division last season. While the big names have not changed, a lot of the supporting has left.The Ducks are deep down the middle; they are strong up front; they have depth to spare on defense.On the other hand, they are trusting in a young goaltender and a handful of 30-year old starts to carry them.

On paper, the Ducks are not improved.

Randy Carlyle may be able to get more from this core than Bruce Boudreau could. But will it be enough? Their saving grace may be that few teams in the Pacific Division look strong enough to prevent them from reaching the playoffs.

Next: Pacific Division Preview - San Jose Sharks

All the same, the Ducks are in a vulnerable position. And when the Vancouver Canucks were in a similar position, it triggered an epic collapse, and the team went from the top floor to the basement in a single season.

Just sayin’.