NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Anaheim Ducks.
Dallas Eakins is counting on an influx of young talent to get the Anaheim Ducks back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first season as coach.
The 52-year-old was hired June 17 after coaching their American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego for four seasons. He replaced general manager Bob Murray, who coached the remainder of last season after Randy Carlyle was fired Feb. 10.
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The Ducks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
"It's the middle of summer and no one's lost a game and everyone's encouraged, so I am encouraged by our roster," Eakins said. "That nucleus of the group will be interesting to watch to see how they respond out of the gate."
Although the Ducks didn't make any significant moves this offseason, the roster is expected to be filled out with prospects who will look to earn playing time once training camp starts in September. Eakins has a leg up, having coached many of them (including Sam Steel, Max Comtois and Troy Terry) in the AHL.
"For me, when you look around at championship teams, I don't care what sport you're in, competition is usually the life blood of the organization, and that is everything to me," Eakins said. "It makes everyone better, so I'm all for the competition up and down the lineup, just not for one or two spots. We want it right up and down the roster."
Video: Gibson remains crucial for Ducks this upcoming season
Two of the open forward spots will be to take the place of Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry. Kesler likely will miss the entire season after having hip surgery, and Perry had the final two years of his contract bought out June 19. He played the first 14 seasons of his NHL career with Anaheim and signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Stars on July 1.
Replacing the two veterans won't be easy, but Eakins said he is confident those leaders are already in the locker room.
"Ryan Getzlaf is our captain and he's been an excellent one, but we're looking for people to step up and to help him with that," Eakins said. "Whether you're an older guy or a younger guy, someone has helped you along the way, made a positive influence on you, and I believe it's for everybody to chip in on that."
One area of focus for Eakins is the offense. Anaheim ranked last in the NHL last season averaging 2.39 goals per game, scored two or fewer in 45 of 82 games, and was shut out nine times.
"We were last in the League in goals (193) and last in shots on goal (2,271)," Eakins said. "That has to change, and we are going to be very focused on what we're doing with the puck as soon as we get it back and have a plan moving forward."
Anaheim tied for 17th in the NHL in goals against (248) after finishing third in 2017-18 (209) and 2016-17 (197) and leading the League in 2015-16 (188).
"We don't want to gain in one area and give up in another," Eakins said. "The one thing we do not want to get away from with our identity is how well the organization in previous years has been able to defend and keep pucks out of the net. We're blessed with two very good goaltenders (John Gibson, Ryan Miller) so we want to really get back to that as our organizational goal."
With the core intact, solid goaltending and an influx of prospects, the Ducks are hoping to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season, something that hasn't happened since 2000-01 and 2001-02.
"I think I'm optimistic by nature," Eakins said. "I've been talking to some of the NHL (roster) guys and now getting around to seeing some of them face to face and it looks like we've got some high-character guys who are very competitive and want to turn the ship quickly.
"And what I know about the guys I've been coaching in San Diego, they're highly motivated to make their mark on the NHL. They're a selfless group, and every team needs that if you're going to be successful. So I'm optimistic."
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