Another summer is upon us, which means another round of player reviews. AnaheimDucks.com is featuring a different Ducks player throughout the summer (in numerical order), highlighting key stats while also keeping an eye on next season. Next up is goalie John Gibson.
John Gibson's 2016-17 campaign was a microcosm of the Ducks' season as a whole - one that ended prematurely and left fans wondering what might have been.
Had Gibson been healthy enough to start Game 6 of the Western Conference Final in Nashville - and had impact forwards Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves been available as well - who knows how far the Ducks could have gone? Instead, all three were out with injuries for that crucial Game 6, and the Ducks were eliminated in a disheartening 6-3 defeat in Music City.
For the 24-year-old Gibson, it was just the latest injury frustration that sullied an otherwise strong 2016-17. Gibson was handed the No. 1 goaltender reins a year ago when the Ducks traded Frederik Andersen to Toronto for the 30th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2017. Gibson and Andersen had combined to with Andersen to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, presented "to the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it." But with Andersen scheduled to become a free agent last July 1, Anaheim was forced to make a move that slated Gibson as the clear No. 1.
He responded with arguably the best season of his career - not counting his short stint in 2013-14 in which he won all three of his starts (including a shutout) in the regular season and had two wins (including a shutout) in the playoffs. In 2016-17 he established career highs in games (52), starts (49), wins (25), save percentage (.924) and shutouts (6) in helping the Ducks to a fifth straight Pacific Division crown.
That was despite missing significant time in the latter part of the regular season to a lower body injury, playing just one game between February 20 and March 31 while veteran Jonathan Bernier shined in his stead. Gibson came back for the last three games of the regular season - including a shutout of the Blackhawks on the final day - to re-establish himself as Anaheim's go-to netminder entering the playoffs.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm3: Gibson lays out for series of stops
In that postseason he was sturdy enough to help the Ducks get past Calgary and Edmonton in the first two rounds and performed admirably for the bulk of the Western Conference Final. But he tweaked his hamstring in the first period of Game 5 at Honda Center and didn't return, a moment that would prove to be the end of his season after the Ducks fell in that game and then Game 6 two days later.
Bernier, who had one of his toughest nights of the season in that Game 6, was not retained by the Ducks this offseason. However, Anaheim did acquire another veteran goalie in Ryan Miller. The former Vezina Trophy winner who just turned 37 earlier this month was 18-29-6 with a 2.80 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and three shutouts in 54 games with a struggling Vancouver Canucks team last season.
"I do feel I have a lot of hockey left in me," Miller said after signing a two-year deal with the Ducks. "I've been able to take care of myself and still feel I can play at a fairly high level. Any chance you have to play in the NHL is really a blessing, and I wanted to maximize my time and my chances chasing down the Stanley Cup."
Miller, who like Gibson has backstopped a number of Team USA squads in international competition, will undoubtedly push Gibson for time in the crease this season. Though it would appear that Gibson - who is signed through the 2018-19 season - will again by Anaheim's No. 1 goalie come opening night.