Injuries played a very big role for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2019 season and it hit some of the bigger contracts on the team and it did sort of handcuff this team to a point, where it struggled to find any sort of consistency through the season.
After a 5-1-1 start to the season, they lost 12 of their next 15 games and really couldn't find any recovery from that. There was a slight surge at the end of November and into December, but it wasn't enough to make up for the early season and then the team just fell off the map again.
Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves were all hurt for the long-term and that worked out to be $18.65 million against the cap in three players, gone for the long-term. Perry didn't come back until the back third of the season, Kesler missed 22 games throughout the season and Eaves only figured into seven games after broken ribs and then an illness a couple weeks after his return, which finally led to an AHL demotion. Those were three guys that were hard to replace and the team never really got its footing with the youth they had to use. At the back, Cam Fowler missed 22 games to some broken bones in his face and there were other minor injuries there as well, which certainly didn't help their cause at all.
With that being said, the Ducks' offense sputtered, only 199 goals for, last in the NHL, they were tied for 18th in goals against at 251 and that all adds up to 24th place overall in the league standings.
Through all of that this season, John Gibson still plowed through and appeared in 58 games for the Ducks this season, registering 26 wins and 56 points, ranking 25th among all goalies in the hockey pool. He was certainly trying his best to keep this team's head above water, because it certainly wasn't as water tight as their team's name may have suggested. This is back-to-back seasons for Gibson, leading Anaheim in pool scoring and his new contract extension will certainly reflect that.
Only seven players, including Gibson, were pool worthy in the 2019 season and Gibson was the only goalie worthy. Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique were the only forwards worth taking in the end, none of which finished in the top 100 at the forward position, they were all in the bottom half of those rankings. Both Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler were worthy from the blueline, but neither of those two were in the top half of their respective position either. Last season, the Ducks finished with 13 players in this conversation and seemed to be doing a lot of things right, but they ran into the unforeseeable and it cost them big time.
What I Said Last Year, At This Time...
The Ducks still appear to be quite solid at the back, which will be their greatest strength, even if it is on paper right now. A good pair of goalies and a fresh and young blueline that has already gained some much-needed experience, they should be able to keep this team in a lot more games than their offense would give them on most nights. Once the pool worthy three are re-signed this summer, I think you can begin to feel confident that the Ducks will be a playoff race team, rather than lottery hopefuls. Get on board with the kids here, I think they're about to show the old dogs who's boss.
The kids were given their opportunity, thanks to all of those injuries, but they didn't exceed any expectations or see any flying colours this year. On their roster at the end of the year, 21 players, age 25 and under, made an appearance in various capacities and a couple of them were worthy of the pool (Rakell and Lindholm). The rest couldn't find their footing and the veterans that were there to guide the way, were struggling to stay healthy. The idea of the playoffs was there and I think many had the same idea, even through the year, but it just wasn't to be.
How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?
NCAA standout forward Troy Terry was thought to be the next best thing to come into Anaheim, but he was among those young players that really struggled this season. 4 goals and 13 points in 32 games, plus a good portion of his season down in the AHL, didn't make him a great hockey pool player this year, but the Ducks will hope he found a bit more confidence in the minors and just enough experience in the NHL to know how much harder he needs to work in this off-season.
2020 Pool Outlook
|Corey Perry||8.625||Cam Fowler||6.500||John Gibson||6.400|
|Ryan Getzlaf||8.250||Hampus Lindholm||5.250||Kevin Boyle||0.675|
|Ryan Kesler||6.875||Josh Manson||4.100|
|Adam Henrique||5.850||Jacob Larsson||0.894|
|Jakob Silfverberg||5.250||Josh Mahura||0.759|
|Rickard Rakell||3.800||Patrick Sieloff||0.700|
|Patrick Eaves||3.150||Brendan Guhle||0.698|
Health is the number one concern for these Ducks in the off-season, especially since they have a solid portion of their 2019 roster already signed on for the 2020 campaign. If Perry and Kesler can find their way to full health, the latter may be a bit more of a stretch than the former, there could be some recovery from their dismal offense this past season. Right now, it doesn't feel like we should be very confident in this group, but this is why we have a summer to figure these things out.
Free Agency and the Salary Cap
Currently, I am showing a fairly full 23-man roster above for the Ducks and against a projected $83 million salary cap ceiling, this team would still have about $4.9 million in cap space to work with. That won't make them into big players on the free agent market this year, unless they can start wheeling and dealing a little at the same time.
None of their current free agent batch was deemed pool worthy, but defenseman Andy Welinski is heading to unrestricted free agency, along with backup goalie Ryan Miller, and they would be the only two that bear any interest at this point. The bodies that are heading out are very much just depth players or minor league talent.
A rough finish to the World Juniors be damned, I think a kid like Maxime Comtois is one of those players that could really step up and be a force for good on this Anaheim Ducks team and there are a couple of bubble spots up for grabs in that roster I have above. The kid has plenty of size and a little bit of swagger to his game, which isn't unlike some of the Anaheim greats of the past (and/or present), so I would think that he will get a long look again at camp this fall and he could be the one that really surprises some.
Needs at the 2019 Entry Draft
The Ducks were one of the few teams I got right in last year's mock draft, so let's look for back-to-back years of good picks. The lottery bumped them down from 8th overall down to 9th overall, only one spot lost, which isn't too bad. Their own prospect pool suggests that they might be in the market for a defenseman with their top pick and I think it would be very beneficial for this team to add a young player like Philip Broberg to their mix, as they have had plenty of success with Swedish defensemen before. The NHL game is now becoming a skating man's game and Broberg supposedly has that in spades and at 17 years old, he already has a 6'3" frame to fill out and that's something you can't teach.
Right now, the Ducks have a decent prospect pool to pick from, but they are really weighed down by their veteran contracts and health statuses. Writing off the Ducks completely at the early part of the off-season is hasty, at best, but there is a certain lack of confidence one feels with where this team is on paper. The numbers don't reflect a good season on the ice and they certainly don't inspire us poolies to get on board with the lot of them, although you might be able to find a decent bargain pick, if you're carefully looking. If the Ducks can shift a contract or two out of their stable in this off-season, install some of their youth full-time and in a top six role, they might have a real shot again, but it's a long shot for any of that to happen right now. I think the trend is downward until further notice.