Skip to main content

Stewart's ability to contribute among Ducks' X-factors

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- There are not a lot of question marks with the Anaheim Ducks lineup. They remain deep at all positions after replacing integral pieces from a roster that last season reached the Western Conference Final.

Here are three X-factors showing how some of those lesser-known pieces could make significant impacts for Anaheim this season:

Chris Stewart: Stewart is seeking a career re-start, if not stability, after he signed a one-year contract with Anaheim on July 12. The Ducks are his fourth team in the past 18 months.

"It's been tough, and I'm definitely looking for a home," Stewart said.

Stewart has plenty of motivation and a history as a wrecking ball-type forward who can score. He had 28 goals in 2009-10 with the Colorado Avalanche and 14 goals and 36 points in 81 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild last season.

If Stewart can help Anaheim make up for the production lost by the departures of Kyle Palmieri, Matt Beleskey and Emerson Etem, he'll go a long way toward finding a home. But to do that he'll have to hold off a group of young forwards in Anaheim's system, which should light a fire under him.

"You're playing for a job," Stewart said. "Everyone here wants to play to compete and contribute. But I think that internal competition is just going to drive us to be a better hockey team."

The Ducks have a history of forwards who have tried unsuccessfully to revive their careers, recently Dany Heatley and Dustin Penner's second stint. Those two were trying to fill top-line roles. Stewart isn't expected to carry that duty but he can be a productive bottom-six forward who can be moved up if needed.

Stewart could thrive in a different culture in Anaheim, where expectations are high.

"It's been one of the tougher training camps I've ever been through," Stewart said. "You can tell everyone has a sour taste in their mouth over last year. You really feed off that vibe from Day One.

"It's been all business. You can tell. You can kind of taste it in the air. This team is on a mission."

Jiri Sekac: Sekac is projected to have a bigger role after he arrived in a Feb. 24 trade with the Montreal Canadiens for Devante Smith-Pelly. He brings speed on the wing, and freed from what he perceived was a stricter system in Montreal could thrive with Anaheim.

"From last year, I like the way we play and I like the style here," Sekac said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Sekac had two goals in 19 games with Anaheim and got the nod ahead of other young forwards to play in the conference final. Coach Bruce Boudreau said it was a big training camp for Sekac in his first full season with the Ducks.

"When you come in three-quarters of the way through the year, your role really isn't established because coaches don't really know what your role is," Boudreau said. "But you start at the beginning and everything becomes fresh."

Sekac said it helps that coaches are more familiar with him and vice versa.

"They know what I can do, and it's up to them on what kind of role they're going to give me," Sekac said. "But it's definitely easier for them because they know what I'm capable of."

Paul MacLean: The former Ottawa Senators coach was hired as an assistant, bringing 12 years of NHL coaching experience to Boudreau's staff.

MacLean, an Anaheim assistant in the early 2000s, is expected to help the power play. He was fired two months into last season but took Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice in four seasons.

He replaces Brad Lauer, with Trent Yawney as the other assistant.

"I think it's always great to have knowledge, experience," Boudreau said of MacLean. "For me, I want the best coaches in the world. I think we've got two really good guys with me, and I think we cover a lot of different aspects of the game. We've got different personalities, but I think that's what makes everything work."

How much can MacLean improve the unit?

"Only time will tell how much it's working," Boudreau said.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.