The Anaheim Ducks are currently the #2 team in the NHL. After the trade deadline I think they are the 3rd best team in California.
The Ducks have had an excellent regular season to this point and they definitely have a very good team. The problem is they play in the Western Conference. The West is where Stanley Cup hopes and dreams will be going to die. Whoever makes it out of the Western Conference this year is going to earn it. Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim are all top end teams and are going to beat the hell out of one another.
Given the highly competitive nature of the West, it is imperative to always be looking at how you can improve your club. Anaheim had a terrific opportunity to do so at this year's deadline but failed.
The Ducks have Ryan Getzlaf in the middle of a career season, Corey Perry playing at a high level, Cam Fowler taking on a bigger role, solid goaltending, and Teemu in his last season. However, outside of that nothing really sticks out. The Ducks needed to add somebody significant to the roster at the deadline to help out.
I feel this way because some of the Ducks underlying numbers are troubling.
For as great as the Ducks have been this year they haven’t exactly been great in the possession department.
Possession isn’t the end all be all, but when you are trying to run the gauntlet in the West you probably want to have the puck more than your opponent and right now the Ducks aren’t in the same class as those other powerhouse teams. In fact the two other California teams rank #1 and #2 in FF% (close). Chicago ranks #3 and St. Louis is #8. The Ducks come in at #16 and lately it the number don’t point to things getting better.
Another thing I noticed when looking at the Ducks was the fact that they have been pretty fortunate on the luck side of things this year.
Only one stretch this year saw the Ducks go through a rough patch as far as “luck” was concerned. What happens if their possession trend continues the way it is going and they go through a stretch of time not getting the bounces? Sounds like an early playoff exit to me.
What could the Ducks have done to remedy some of these potential trends? GM Bob Murray could have gone all in at the trade deadline.
Instead the Ducks treaded water. Players like Ryan Kesler and Thomas Vanek were potential targets that could have helped push the Ducks closer to Western Conference supremacy.
Here is the Ducks current forward grouping (courtesy of the Daily Faceoff)
Not bad, but not as good as it could have been though.
Did the Ducks have the goods to make trades for one or both of Kesler or Vanek? Yes, most definitely. The fine folks at Hockey’s Future have the Ducks prospect pool ranked #3 overall in the NHL. Anaheim could have certainly made a play.
According to Elliotte Friedman the Ducks did make a play in the case of Ryan Kesler:
It is believed the six teams to which Kesler would accept a deal at the deadline were Anaheim, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Only two -- the Ducks and Penguins -- were really in it, though.
Anaheim needed to sweeten the pot to acquire Kesler, and they should have. Nick Bonino is a decent young player but he isn’t Ryan Kesler. Having a one two punch of Getzlaf and Kesler would have been an imposing challenge for opposing teams. Kesler wasn’t a rental situation and his acquisition would have been a game changer for the Ducks.
The Ducks traded away Dustin Penner for a measly 4th round draft pick at the deadline this year, many people (including myself) thought that this would be a precursor to a bigger move. I thought that bigger move was going to be Thomas Vanek. After seeing what the Islanders received for Thomas Vanek it makes you scratch your head why Anaheim didn’t get more aggressive on the Vanek front. A top line of Getzlaf, Perry, and Vanek would have been something else.
I believe the Anaheim Ducks had the resources necessary to vastly improve their hockey club, but for whatever reason they decided not to.
Because of this I think the Ducks are going to fall through the cracks in the Western Conference playoffs.
Hard to not think of what could have been if the deadline went differently for Anaheim.
Thanks for reading!