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Season Preview: Anaheim Ducks

Return of Randy Carlyle as coach could reinvigorate veterans

by Abbey Mastracco / NHL.com Correspondent
At a glance

2015-16 record: 46-25-11, 103 points, 1st in Pacific Division, 4th in Western Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost to Nashville Predators in seven games in Western Conference First Round

Additions: F: Jared Boll, Mason Raymond, Antoine Vermette; G: Jonathan Bernier

Subtractions: F: Shawn Horcoff, Jamie McGinn, David Perron, Brandon Pirri, Mike Santorelli; G: Frederik Andersen

 

Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

Nick Ritchie -- Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano -- Ryan Kesler -- Jakob Silfverberg

Mason Raymond -- Rickard Rakell * -- Jared Boll

Ryan Garbutt -- Antoine Vermette -- Chris Wagner

Defensemen

Cam Fowler -- Kevin Bieksa

Hampus Lindholm * -- Josh Manson

Simon Despres -- Sami Vatanen

Clayton Stoner

Goalies

John Gibson

Jonathan Bernier

Dustin Tokarski

* - restricted free agent

 

Video: ANA@OTT: Lindholm ties game with under a minute left

The Anaheim Ducks spent the offseason angry about their early exit from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After four straight Game 7 losses, all at home, the Ducks opted to return to their roots with a former coach.

The first significant offseason move was hiring Randy Carlyle on June 14 to replace Bruce Boudreau, who was coach for the four playoff eliminations. Carlyle, who guided the Ducks to the Stanley Cup in 2007, was 230-155-49 from 2005-11 and helped develop key players, including captain Ryan Getzlaf, forward Corey Perry and defenseman Cam Fowler.

The Ducks are confident they can contend for a championship 10 years after winning their first but know the window is closing with Getzlaf (31), Perry (31) and center Ryan Kesler (32) all over 30.

With the NHL expansion draft looming next summer, general manager Bob Murray knew he needed to make a decision about which goaltender to keep. On June 20, the Ducks traded pending restricted free agent Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2017, clearing the way for John Gibson, 23, to be the undisputed No. 1 goalie. The Ducks acquired Jonathan Bernier in a trade with the Maple Leafs on July 8 to be Gibson's backup.

In a move to add depth at center, the Ducks signed 34-year-old Antoine Vermette to a two-year contract on Aug. 15. With Nate Thompson rehabilitating a ruptured Achilles tendon and Rickard Rakell an unsigned restricted free agent, Vermette gives Anaheim some much-needed insurance down the middle.

Rakell and defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who also is an unsigned RFA, have been working out at home in Sweden during contract negotiations with the Ducks. Rakell also is recovering from abdominal surgery that kept him out of the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He's coming off his first 20-goal NHL season and was one of four Ducks with 20 or more. Any extended absence by Rakell could adversely affect their offense.

Lindholm is viewed as a key piece of the Ducks' future. However, with a wealth of quality defensemen and two top prospects waiting in the American Hockey League, they have depth in place if Lindholm isn't signed by the start of the season

Kevin Bieksa will anchor a defense that includes Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson and a healthy Simon Despres. Vatanen has established himself as a tough, physical defenseman despite lacking size (5-foot-10, 183 pounds). Manson (6-3, 215) is imposing and uses his size and strength in much the same way as his father, Dave Manson, did during his 16-season NHL career.

Despres saw a specialist to deal with concussion issues during the offseason and said those issues are in the past. Clayton Stoner also is healthy, and Shea Theodore, 21, and Brandon Montour, 22, each is waiting for his chance at a full-time NHL job.

The Ducks are in win-now mode and anxious to right past playoff wrongs.

 

Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Carlyle's return reinvigorates Getzlaf and Perry, and Kesler puts together a Selke Trophy-worthy season. The depth on defense lays the foundation for a fast, physical style of play.

Video: ANA@COL: Getzlaf wrists it by Varlamov for a PPG

 

Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

A lack of offensive depth. At the All-Star break last season, the Ducks had 99 goals, the fewest in the League. The rotating cast of left wings who play with Getzlaf and Perry limits their output, and they could be without one of four 20-goal scorers from last season if they are unable to sign Rakell.

 

Breakout candidate

Nick Ritchie. At 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, the 20-year-old left wing has the size to play around the net and go into the corners or along the boards to win puck battles. Ritchie, who was the No. 10 pick in the 2014 draft, should get to showcase more of his offensive upside this season and will benefit from time spent on Getzlaf's line.

 

On the hot seat

Fowler. He was the subject of trade rumors during the offseason, but the Ducks hope he can take the next step as a leader on the ice and in the locker room. He's a tremendous skater who plays on the power play and penalty kill. If the Ducks look to add offense, Fowler could be a player they could part with. They have depth on defense and prospects in Theodore and Montour who appear to be NHL-ready.

 

Trophy candidates

Kesler (Selke); Getzlaf (Hart); Ritchie (Calder)

 

Quotable

"The game has obviously changed, and with this group, it's not the same group. It will not be the same as they had last year. We know that. So we're trying to do an evaluation on the players that were here previous and some of the younger players as everyone tries to transition into your hockey club. There's some good young players here. What we talked about when I took the job is that we felt they had a good team with their commitment, that this team is ready to take the next step. We're trying to identify who wants to take the next step, and that's what we've asked them." -- coach Randy Carlyle

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