By AJ Manderichio
As part of the AnaheimDucks.com annual Player Reviews, we will be featuring a different Ducks player throughout the coming weeks, in numerical uniform number order. Each review will include key stats, a highlight and an outlook for 2016-17.
Slow start, incredible middle and a disappointing finish.
The 2015-16 season for Corey Perry, the team’s resident goal-scorer and agitator, was an up-and-down one marked equally with frustration and dominant play. The 11-year veteran kicked off the regular season with no goals – and just three points – in his first 11 games. The struggles coincided with a lackluster start to the season for the Ducks, who failed to consistently find the back of the net.
When he scored his first of the season – a crucial, last-minute goal against the Florida Panthers on November 4 – the floodgates opened. He went on to post 14 points (8g/6a) the rest of the month, serving again as the team’s go-to offensive force.
The surge earned Perry his fourth career All-Star nomination. He brought his scoring touch to Nashville and the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game, scoring the lone goal in the championship game to deliver the Pacific Division a championship in the league’s first 3-on-3 format.
Perry played a large role in the team’s second-half surge, collecting 29 points (14g/15a) over the final three months of the regular season. He finished tops among skaters in goals (34), power-play goals (12) and power-play points (24) and co-led the team in shots on net (215). His sixth 30-goal season tied Paul Kariya for second-most in franchise history, and he also skated in his 800th career NHL game.
The playoffs, however, left a sour note on Perry’s resurgent season.
The right wing did produce, finishing second on the team in assists and points. However, it was his inability to score in the seven-game First Round series that left everyone perplexed. After a 2015 postseason marked with career-defining moments and more than a point-per-game production, the lack of goal-scoring shocked many – including Perry himself.
“When it comes crashing to a screeching halt, it’s tough,” Perry said during his exit interview. “I take a lot of blame for what happened. I didn’t score a goal.
“I take a lot of responsibility for that.”
Perry re-discovered his scoring touch during the IIHF World Hockey Championships, helping Team Canada capture a second straight gold medal. As team captain, he finished the tournament tied for third on the team with nine points (4g/5a) in 10 games.
Few players embody the Freeway Faceoff rivalry more than Corey Perry. It’s not unusual to see the rugged right wing parked in front of the net battling with Jonathan Quick or engaged in a few friendly post-whistle discussions.
It’s no surprise, then, that Perry saved one of his best performances for a February 29th matchup with Los Angeles. He posted a hat trick – the ninth of his career – and an assist in a 4-2 win over the Kings.
Perry helped the Ducks finish their best month in team history. His four-point night clinched a 12-1-1 record in February, marking the most wins, standings points (25 pts.) and highest points percentage in a single month (.893%).
There’s no denying Perry sits squarely under a microscope heading into the 2016-17 season. An alternate captain, he’s one of the leaders on a team looking to turn the tide of postseason misfortune.
“We’re on the ice, we’re performing and we need to hold ourselves accountable,” he said at the end of the season. “I think a lot of guys are going to do that this summer.”
He’ll once again need to carry the load offensively, as the team looks to improve on last year’s goal-scoring struggles. Perry posted just 19 of his 34 goals at even strength - his lowest total in the last three seasons. A return to normal in this area will almost certainly help the Ducks improve on their 2.62 goals-per-game from last season.
Ultimately, Perry – and the leaders on this team – will be judged on their postseason success. Can he help exorcise the postseason demons and bring a second Stanley Cup trophy to Anaheim?
“We have to go next year and prove ourselves all over again,” he said. “It’s a clean slate; a new year. Hopefully, we can re-write that story.”