Pacific Division 2014-15 Preview: Anaheim Ducks
COACH: Bruce Boudreau
2013-14 RECORD: 54-20-8, 116 points (First in Pacific, lost Kings, 4-3, in second round)
VITAL SIGNS: 3.21 goals-for per game (1st); 2.48 goals-against per game (9th); 16.0 power play pct. (22nd); 82.2 penalty kill pct (13th); shootout record: 3-6 (27th)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:
Andrew Cogliano — Ryan Getzlaf — Corey Perry
Dany Heatley — Ryan Kesler — Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey — Rickard Rakell — Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon — Nate Thompson — Kyler Palmieri
Francois Beauchemin — Cam Fowler
Ben Lovejoy — Hampus Lindholm
Clayton Stoner — Sami Vatanen
OUTLOOK: Despite their regular-season dominance last season (116 points, first in the Western Conference, first in goals per game), the Ducks lacked an elite second-line center who could take a load off their star-studded top line anchored by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. That problem was addressed during the off-season. Despite concerns about his attitude while playing for Vancouver, Ryan Kesler should aid the Ducks’ puck possession and add punch to their quick-strike offense. The retirements of Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will be felt (though Koivu struggled toward the end of last season), but an exciting crop of young players that includes Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly coupled with savvy veterans such as Dany Heatley and Andrew Cogliano should keep the offense among the league’s best. The addition of Heatley (one year at $1 million), once an elite scorer, could prove to be one of the savviest moves of the offseason if he has any bullets left in his arsenal. On the backline, Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin are strong first-line defenders while Frederik Andersen and John Gibson are two of the most promising young goalies in the NHL. But are they ready to handle a full season of high expectations? Coach Bruce Boudreau will likely feel some heat as well guiding a team that will almost surely finish in the top five of the Western Conference, but a second-round exit like last season’s will hardly be sufficient—especially with the reigning Stanley Cup champions playing a few miles away down Freeway 5.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ryan Kesler
This is an easy selection as Kesler moves from the crazed fishbowl of Vancouver to the relaxed confines of Orange County. Either his attitude issues will manifest themselves into laziness or he’ll shed the problems that hounded him as a Canuck and re-emerge as the offensive force who scored 41 goals in 2010-11. We're banking on the latter.
PREDICTION: 105 points (first in Pacific)