Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pool Outlook for Anaheim

When offense wasn't coming as quickly as they needed it to, the Anaheim Ducks could rely on their defense and goaltending to get them through the tough spots in the 2018 season, as their 4th-best goals against in the NHL helped them get to 2nd place in the Pacific Division, since they had the worst goals for record among all 16 playoff teams in the league.

Of course, for us hockey poolies, not having a whole lot of offense didn't make the Ducks a favourite team this season and of course, it translated right into the playoffs, where they were swept out of the tournament by the San Jose Sharks in the opening round.  The Ducks were only able to score four goals in the four games and they just didn't have an answer for their division rivals in the 2-3 series.

The Ducks are a curious bunch, as they have lost the offense that has come from Corey Perry and that has to be a pretty big concern, given that he is an $8.625 million player for the next three seasons and his production is continually dropping off.  If it wasn't for the team's defense, that huge payroll hit for production ratio would have seriously done some harm to their playoff chances, but they were able to stick it out for another season, but how long can they possibly rely on that, without getting some new scoring talent in there?

Of course, it was John Gibson who led the way for the Ducks in their regular season hockey pool scoring, as the 24-year old keeper finished the year with 31 wins and 71 points in 60 appearances this season, good enough for 42nd in pool scoring, 9th among all goalies.  It was really a standout season for him and he should only continue to improve as a goalie, but it will be the team in front of him that will dictate his production moving forward.

Despite having some horrible goal scoring numbers among playoff teams this season, the Ducks still had 13 players in the hockey pool conversation, right up there among the rest of those playoff teams.  Ryan Miller was an adequate sidekick for Gibson this season, also finishing in the top 50 among goalies, continuing on the goaltending topic.  Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Corey Perry, Jakob Silfverberg, Ondrej Kase and Andrew Cogliano were all worthy forwards this year, Rakell being the only one worthy of the top two rounds in a draft redo.  On the blueline, the Ducks did have some injury problems, but they still finished with four players to talk about: Josh Manson, Brandon Montour, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm.  If Fowler and Lindholm were healthy all year, it would have been neat to see how well they would have done defensively.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The Ducks truly got a taste of what they are going to face moving forward, within their own division. The Flames are not going to roll over and the Oilers took them to the limit, while their own key players are not getting any younger. Getzlaf still appears to be a force for the Ducks, but with the way the team plays, they are going to be susceptible to injury, which likely was the difference between having an early start to the summer and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The Ducks will still be in the mix for a divisional playoff spot in the Pacific next season, but the challenge for the division title may be greater than their team can muster through. Once they make the playoffs, however, it'll be hard to bet against them, since they are a team built for the Spring Dance. As long as they can get there, they'll be able to grind it out with the best of them.

Okay, no one saw Vegas coming and how they'd roll over everyone in the Pacific, so there was that, and that the Ducks did still challenge for the division title, especially with a late run in the season.  Their team looked like the playoff juggernaut on paper at the end of last year, but they were certainly a dud this year, especially against a Sharks team that had a bit more bite than most would have given them credit for.  I feel I was close, but at the same time... not really.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

The feeling on Josh Manson was pretty much bang on, as he did get the minutes in the 2018 season and he really didn't disappoint, leading all Ducks blueliners in pool scoring with 7 goals and 37 points in 80 games.  Granted, he can thank injuries to Fowler and Lindholm for both the minutes and the points, as he was given the opportunity to shine and it was all on him to get the most out of that extra time... and he did!

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Corey Perry 8.625 Cam Fowler 6.500 John Gibson 2.300
Ryan Getzlaf 8.250 Hampus Lindholm 5.250 Ryan Miller 2.000
Ryan Kesler 6.875 Korbinian Holzer 0.900
Adam Henrique 4.000 Jacob Larsson 0.894
Rickard Rakell 3.800 Jaycob Megna 0.650
Jakob Silfverberg 3.750 Steven Oleksy 0.650
Andrew Cogliano 3.250
Patrick Eaves 3.150
Troy Terry 0.925
Max Jones 0.894
Sam Steel 0.894
Maxime Comtois 0.820
Joseph Blandisi 0.680
Sam Carrick 0.650

The outlook for the 2019 season isn't terrible, the Ducks still have a fair bit of their youth signed on and whatever they don't have signed, are coming back through restricted free agency... in theory.  The big concerns are the large lumps of salary that might not be getting the job done and it could really weigh this team down.  Still, there are some guys you should be high on from Anaheim, especially the likes of Rakell and Lindholm, as they're really coming on.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

I currently am showing a 22-man roster, short a defenseman, and they're coming in with some cap room, which does seem a tad surprising, given how much crap I've been giving them for their overpaid lumps.  Currently, the cap space is estimated at $8.8 million with the roster above, before the cap ceiling goes up, so they may have some play money, after the work that they need to get done.

Speaking of that work that needs to get done... Ondrej Kase, Josh Manson and Brandon Montour all need new deals and a guy like Manson, won't come cheap.  The restricted free agent class for the Ducks could be a difficult one to manage through, but if done properly, they could be in really good shape.

Thankfully for the Ducks, their summer was made a whole lot more flexible, due to the number of unrestricted free agents that they'll like see off to pasture.  Kevin Bieksa, Jason Chimera and Antoine Vermette were worth $8 million in cap space alone last season and I wouldn't expect them back for 2019.

Well, it's kind of hard not to pick Sam Steel or Josh Mahura here, as we can all watch them both tonight, playing for the Regina Pats in the Memorial Cup Final on Sportsnet.  These are the sort of kids that the Ducks could use to ease the burden of some of their overpaid lumps, as they are both scouted as solid two-way players, with some offensive kick to their game.  Both players are already rounding out to have good size and their work ethic has been one of the big reasons why they are playing for Canada's national championship at the under-20 level, so both would be good ones to watch tonight and moving forward.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft
I don't think there is a specific need for the Ducks, heading into this year's draft, as their cupboards, beyond what I have already added to their projected roster for next season, are looking pretty bare.  Adding some talent down the middle never hurts and a kid like Isac Lundestrom, already playing in the main Swedish league, would add some play-making ability to their roster, if and when he would be able to join the Ducks.  He's already got some decent size to him and has some offensive flair, so I would figure him to be a very good fit for a Ducks team in need of both.

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.
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