Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anaheim Ducks 2011-12 Preview

Can the star power of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry push the Ducks to the elite of the Western Conference?

Bring the Mighty Back to Anaheim?  With Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer long gone, and Teemu Selanne on the verge of retirement, the Ducks have struggled to retain their spot near the top of the Western Conference.

While Corey Perry emerged as a legitimate star in the league, the Ducks were still far removed from the team that hoisted the cup in 2007. The 2011-12 version of the Anaheim Ducks will continue to re-build and to improve upon their performance last year. A healthy Ryan Getzlaf will center a dynamic top line with Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne will lend some secondary scoring but likely will leave the Ducks wanting should injury strike. 
Still, they lack the supporting cast to do any serious damage. The acquisition of Andrew Cogliano will help, but they are too small and inexperienced on their bottom two lines. 

On Defense, Cam Fowler made a rapid ascension, but their defence corps will struggle to protect Jonas Hiller, who will likely have a long year in Anaheim.

The Pacific Division will not be easy, and the Ducks likely do not have the depth to trump the Kings or Sharks. These Ducks will struggle to beat the Dallas Stars and avoid the division basement, but may squeak into the playoffs.

Anaheim boasts three of the best young power forwards in the game, but depth remains an issue as it thins out after that due to lack of youth, size, and skill.  Teemu Selanne's departure or an injury to Saku Koivu or Jason Blake could be disastrous.

Ryan Getzlaf
The Ducks number one pivot is coming of a solid but injury-plagued season that almost saw him miss 15 games.

Getzlaf may be one of the  best players in the league, and it seems he has not hit his peak yet.  He should be your top Duck.

Corey Perry
Perry ripped up the league in the second half of the season.  Even with Getzlaf for part of the year, he emerged as a scorer, winning the Rocket Richard and Hart Trophies.  Do not expect another increase though.

Bobby Ryan
Ryan took a step forward last year but has yet to reach his peak.  34 goals and 71 points are just the beginning.  Expect nearly 40 goals and 80 points this year.  Less dependence on Teemu Selanne will give more ice time for Ryan.

Teemu Selanne
The Finnish Flash is getting old but keeps hanging around and continues to produce. His linemates aren not who they once were,  but Saku Koivu and the powerplay should offer enough skill to help.

Saku Koivu
Koivu seems to be showing his age, but the veteran still has something left in the tank. The injury prone Finn rebounded slightly with 45 points, but age and injuries ensure that his best years are behind him.

Andrew Cogliano
Cogliano showed promise to be a 30 goal scorer earlier in his career. His stint in Edmonton disappointed many. Despite his speed, he has not put it together yet.  40 points would be a good year.

Jason Blake
Blake has been a shadow of his former 40 goal self since his days on Long Island. Toronto and now Anaheim have invested in him only to be disappoint-d with the output. Don’t expect 40 points unless injury vaults him into serious offensive duties.

Brandon McMillan
The 21 year old demonstrated penalty-killing capabilities last year and is one of the Ducks only legitimate young forwards vying for a serious role this year.  He should build upon last seasonès successes. The Ducks could use his youth and versatility.  Expect about 30 points.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Visnovsky has been instrumental on the Ducks powerplay and will reap the rewards of playing with Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan up front.  His impressive total of 68 points last year was remarkable. 60 points this year would be considered a success.

Cam Fowler
The rookie blue liner impressed everyone last year with his tremendous poise and ability and was rewarded with a significant role as injuries exacerbated a lack of depth on the Ducks back-end.  Fowler racked up 42 points in his rookie campaign, and 50 points seems within reach if he can avoid the sophomore slump.

Jonas Hiller
Hiller will be the starter for Anaheim once again, with Curtis McElhinney backing him up. Expect Hiller to start close to 70 games and be amongst the league’s minute leaders for goaltenders. The loss of Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Whit-ney will leave the Ducks fairly thin on the back end. Hiller should see a lot of rubber this year and may wear out down the stretch.
Prediction - 29 Wins

Dan Ellis
Ellis lost his shot at a starting job in Tampa Bay when Dwayne Roloson arrived.  He has another chance in Anaheim as Jonas Hiller will attempt to regain his form after a bout with vertigo last season.  Ellis looks to be pegged as a reliable back-up but he has yet to find his niche in a starting role.
Prediction -  12 wins

Top Sleeper

Ryan Getzlaf
Sure, Ryan Getzlaf likely isn’t flying under anyone’s radar. Heck, he’s one of the best players in the league. But this year, he may be drafted far lower than he should be. Why? Well, there’s a bumper crop of centers!  Crosby, Malkin, Sedin, Backstrom and maybe Joe Thornton will be picked before him.  But Getzlaf deserves to be in that group, and he may beat most this year.

For someone with his skill level, 100 points is not out of the question, but you can bank on him getting at least 80 and challenging for 90-95.

Top Rookie
RW - Kyle Palmieri
A first round pick from ‘09, Palmieri found himself at home in the AHL last season.  A lack of depth at Right Wing may vault Palmieri to the show soon than some expect. 

There may be a spot open with Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, and with both those Finns nearing the end of their careers, a year to bestow wisdom unto a young forward may be in the cards, and Palmieri may be that rookie.

Potential Breakout Player
Bobby Ryan
Last season, Corey Perry broke up in a big way.  This year, we think Bobby Ryan is due.  He has 40-50 goal skill and he tantalizes fans and terrorizes opposing defenders with his blend of speed, size, and skill.  Ryan benefits from tremendous linemates and looks poised to break the 40 goal—80 point barrier this year.  Big things were expected from the American when he was drafted 2nd overall by Bryan Burke years ago.  This year, expect Ryan to take the next step and perhaps challenge Corey Perry for the team lead in goals.  Want another reason to believe in Bobby?  Teemu Selanne has made a living scoring goals on the power play.  If Teemu calls it quits, or if age or injury catch up to the Finnish Flash, that will mean more power play time and more ice time overall for Ryan.

Long story short - expect big things.

Season Prediction
Expect the Ducks to finish 3rd in the Pacific Division, behind San Jose and Los Angeles, but ahead of Dallas and Phoenix, and 7th or 8th in the Conference.

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