Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pool Outlook for Anaheim

The Anaheim Ducks 2011 season will be remembered for their meteoric rise out of the basement of the Western Conference and into a home-ice spot in the playoffs, all on the backs of an MVP candidate and a couple of replacement goalies.  The Ducks endured some injuries throughout the year, but still made one heck of a season out it.  Unfortunately, the playoff run was cut too short by the Nashville Predators, right away in the opening round.

What a season Corey Perry had in 2011, especially in the back half of the season, carrying the Ducks into the playoffs, being the only 50-goal scorer in the NHL and finishing 3rd in the league in pool scoring with 98 points (50 goals and 48 assists) in all 82 games.  The chants of M-V-P rained down in Anaheim in the final regular season games and for good reason, Perry should have a good shot at winning the Hart Trophy as a player deemed most valuable to his team.

The Ducks scoring machine was very deep in 2011, as they had four forwards (including Perry) in the top 25 in forwards scoring in the pool.  Teemu Selanne led the best of the rest with 80 points in 73 games, while Ryan Getzlaf had 76 points in 67 games and Bobby Ryan had 71 points in all 82 games.  The best players were definitely the best players in 2011 and they had respectable support from Saku Koivu (45 points in 75 games) and Jason Blake (32 points in 76 games).

The Ducks also boasted one of the best offensive defense corps in the league as well, as Lubomir Visnovsky led all blueliners in pool scoring with 68 points in 81 games, ranking him 42nd overall in scoring.  Rookie defender Cam Fowler was second on the team with 40 points in 76 games, enjoying a very good freshman campaign, while Toni Lydman (25 points in 78 games) and Francois Beauchemin (17 points in 81 games between Toronto and Anaheim) rounded out the defenders that finished in the top 100 in defenseman scoring.

In what was arguably the team's strongest trait going into the 2011 season, the goaltending, ultimately became the weakest part of the team when Jonas Hiller went down with his vertigo (concussion?) injury after the All-Star Game.  Hiller was still excellent in the games that he did play, earning the right to be at the mid-season exhibition, but his injuries limited him to only 49 appearances, 26 wins, 5 shutouts and an assist for 63 points, still good enough to be 17th among all goalies.  Dan Ellis and Ray Emery were around to carry the bulk of the load when Hiller went down, but their number one goalie is definitely going to be the backbone of this team, if he can get healthy again.

2012 Pool Outlook
Looking at the team table below, the Ducks are ridiculously stacked with excellent talent from top to bottom, but the darkest cloud hanging over the team continues to be the health of the goaltending.  The Ducks are definitely hopeful that Hiller can return to the crease in 2012, symptom-free, and if that happens to be the case, I think the Ducks have an excellent shot at doing some real damage this coming season.  They'll be a hot bed for hockey pool points because of this.

Corey PerryLubomir VisnovskyJonas Hiller
Ryan GetzlafCam FowlerDan Ellis
Bobby RyanToni Lydman
Saku KoivuFrancois Beauchemin
Jason BlakeLuca Sbisa
Brandon McMillanAndy Sutton
Matt BeleskeySheldon Brookbank
George Parros

Salary CapWith only a few spots left to fill in the forward ranks, the Ducks have all kinds of cap room to do it with in the off-season.  The 17 players that are signed up above, plus one buyout still on the books, is coming in at an annual projection of $49.8 million, which should be just above the salary cap floor for the 2012 season.  With some key free agents supposedly hitting the market on July 1st, I expect the Ducks to be big players for 1-year deals with room like this.

The unrestricted free agent crop out of Anaheim is a decent one, with Teemu Selanne, Brad Winchester, Ray Emery, Jarkko Ruutu, Todd Marchant and Andreas Lilja all preparing for July 1st, with only one or two likely to return to Anaheim, if management sees a fit.  There is quite a bit of cap space opening up from last year's numbers with this crop and some decent depth players that could play a good role elsewhere.

The restricted free agents are fairly limited for the Ducks, as Dan Sexton, Kyle Chipchura and Nick Bonino are the only three that stepped on the ice for Anaheim in 2011, none of which are likely to be well sought after in the Summer, so they should be easy to re-sign.

The Ducks were offensively gifted in the 2011 season and looking at some of the rookies that the team has coming up, there is a good chance that most of their young players will be following suit.  Three forwards that will be getting some good looks in camp include Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem and Peter Holland, all of which have a nose for the net and will try to provide some more offensive depth in the coming years.

There was a time when the Ducks were trying to get the market cornered on defensemen or the big, rugged forwards, but since they weren't winning those battles against some other clubs, their scouting staff did a good job finding some offensive talent to help push the club forward.  I think now that they have some good scoring depth in their organization, it might be time to go looking for that big defensive prospect to help anchor the blueline down the road.

What I said last year at this time... "For 2011, I can see some of the normal numbers for Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan, possibly some new heights for Hiller and likely a few more points for Lubomir Visnovsky with a dynamic scoring team like the Ducks. Hopefully Joffrey Lupul can return to the line-up with the same sort of scoring flair he's been known to have in the past as well. I'll be expecting to see the Ducks in the fight between 6th and 9th in the West next season, unless they are going to make a blockbuster of a deal that puts them over the edge, but with the way they have been building, I would expect it to be 'steady as she goes.'"

The 2011 season went well beyond my expectations, especially in the scoring numbers department, as the Ducks superstars did a fine job (except for Getzlaf and his injury), scoring points at many turns.  The Ducks didn't many any blockbuster deals, they did acquire a couple of depth players, but mostly took advantage of a tightly packed conference to finish 4th in the West, giving themselves home-ice in the opening round.  For Ducks, it has been 'steady as she goes,' nothing too significant being done, rather than just tinkering and continuing on with the everyday business.

I really think that the Ducks will be off the charts in 2012, exploding into the regular season with some real scoring magic, with or without Teemu Selanne in their ranks.  Now, whether or not the Ducks end up winning games decisively will depend highly on what their goaltending situation looks like or else it could be some real run-and-gun hockey that runs up the goal totals on both sides of the scoreboard.  Nevertheless, the Ducks will be an exciting team, likely finishing on top of the Pacific Division and giving the poolies what they want for their fantasy teams.  I like all the big guns to continue what they are doing and Jonas Hiller will have a massive season, if he is deemed healthy in October.

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