2011-2012 Anaheim Ducks Preview

Anaheim Ducks in 2010-11
47-30-5 (99 points)
239 goals for
235 goals against

The Ducks are an exciting team with Stanley Cup aspirations in the 2011-2012 season.  The Ducks have plenty of talent on offense, led by 2010-2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry (50-48-98) and superstar center Ryan Getzlaf (19-57-76 in 67 games).

They have a solid mix of veterans and young players on defense, including two defensemen with the potential to be stars in Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa.  Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes for the Ducks.

The Offense

Perry won the Hart and Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophies in 2010-2011.

Perry is an aggressive sniper with the ability to park himself in front of the net and agitate the opposition much like former NHLer Dino Ciccarelli (608 career goals).

Throughout his young NHL career, Perry’s minutes and points per game increased steadily each season.  This approach to handling a prospect has paid off for the Ducks, as Perry won the Hart and Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophies last season.

Points per game (minutes per game)
2005-2006:  0.45 (11:34)
2006-2007:  0.54 (12:28)
2007-2008:  0.77 (17:57)
2008-2009:  0.92 (18:36)
2009-2010:  0.93 (21:04)
2010:2011:  1.20 (22:19)

Perry’s rise in minutes per game came at the right time, as the Ducks will need him and Getzlaf to be their key players now and in the future.  Selanne is 40 years old and will likely retire at the end of this season.

Getzlaf is one of the most talented young centers in the NHL today; however, his durability has been a concern in the past two seasons.  After averaging 80 games played from the 2006-2007 season to the 2008-2009 season, Getzlaf appeared in only 66 and 67 games in the past two seasons respectively.

Getzlaf led the Ducks with 189 hits in the 2010-2011 season; if Getzlaf were to play less physical this season, perhaps he may be healthier and miss fewer games.

The Ducks’ dynamic duo is accompanied by the ageless Teemu Selanne (31-49-80), Bobby Ryan (34-37-71), veteran Saku Koivu (15-30-45) and Jason Blake (16-16-32).  The Ducks also acquired former Edmonton Oiler Andrew Cogliano in the offseason.

If coach Randy Carlyle utilizes Cogliano's abilities properly, Cogliano may be the biggest steal of the offseason.

Cogliano was seen as an underachiever in Edmonton; however, I believe his talents were never utilized properly.  In Anaheim, Cogliano will be surrounded by a stronger lineup; I believe he will be given the opportunity to showcase his talents.

Cogliano is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and is capable of playing center and wing.  He will likely start as Anaheim’s third-line center this season; however, I believe he would be better suited as a second-line winger (he is terrible on faceoffs).  His speed and his skills would come in handy on the wing.

Cogliano is an adequate two-way forward (contrary to what Oilers fans say about him) with playmaking vision; however, I believe he has untapped potential as a goal scorer.  Given the right linemates and the right scenarios, Cogliano could become a poor man’s Pavel Bure.  I believe it would not be unreasonable to expect 20 goals and 50 points out of Cogliano this season; however, I believe he has the potential to generate much more offense if he is placed on one of the top two lines.

Ryan’s job on the ice is obvious:  score goals.  In the first season of his new contract, Ryan scored 34 goals and registered 71 points.  With the top two lines likely being nearly identical to last season, there is no reason to doubt that Ryan can repeat last year’s performance.

Since scoring 40 goals in the 2006-2007 season with the New York Islanders, Blake has yet to record another 30-goal season.  In 102 games with the Anaheim Ducks over the past two seasons, Blake amassed only 47 points.  Blake will have to provide more offense than that to justify his $4 million cap hit.  Blake is in the final year of his contract and possibly his final year as a Duck.

Koivu is a veteran who provides depth and stability to the lineup.  Although Koivu’s days as a high scorer are a thing of the past, he is still an excellent center in the NHL.  Koivu led the Ducks with 707 faceoff wins last season (he won 52.8% of them).  Koivu also does not turn the puck over much, as evidenced by his 32 giveaways in 75 games; Getzlaf had 81 giveaways in 67 games.

The Defense

The Ducks’ defense has a good combination of youth and veteran talent and has plenty of promise for the 2011-2012 season.  Fowler (12th overall pick in 2010 draft) put on an impressive performance as a 19 year-old rookie last season with 40 points in 76 games.  Among prospects, defensemen usually take the longest time to develop, which makes Fowler’s performance all the more impressive.

Sbisa is another young defenseman to keep an eye on.  The Ducks acquired Sbisa in June of 2009 when they shipped Chris Pronger to the Philadelphia Flyers.  When he is on top of his game, Sbisa is a very good one-on-one defenseman with excellent hockey sense and plays like an intelligent veteran.  He is also not afraid to dish out hits, as he delivered 170 hits in 68 games last season.

The Ducks obviously have faith in Sbisa and feel that he is ready, as evidenced by his 68 games played last season and the contract extension he was given.

To help take the pressure off the young defensemen, the Ducks have a good mix of veterans on their blue line, led by Lubomir Visnovsky (18-50-68).  At age 34, Visnovsky showed he still has plenty left in the tank by setting career-highs in points, plus/minus and shooting percentage.  Look for him to serve as the offensive catalyst on the blue line again this season.

Toni Lydman, Kurtis Foster and Francois Beauchemin are solid veteran defensemen who provide the Ducks with sound defensive play.  Lydman and Beauchemin are good shot-blockers.  Look for Visnovsky to be paired with Beauchemin, Lydman with Fowler and Foster with Sbisa.

Between the Pipes

The Ducks' success ultimately depends on the health of Jonas Hiller in 2011-2012.

Hiller (26-16-3) had a strong season last year with a 2.56 GAA and .924 save percentage.  Hiller has demonstrated over the past few seasons that he can be a great goaltender; however, the 28 year-old has yet to play 60-plus games in any NHL season.

Hiller’s only playoff experience was in the 2008-2009 season, in which he registered a 2.23 GAA and .943 save percentage in 13 games.  Had he been healthy for the playoffs last season, perhaps Anaheim might have defeated the Nashville Predators.

With all due respect to backup Dan Ellis, the Ducks will only go as far as Hiller’s health allows.  Hiller’s health will be the key in whether or not the Ducks have a shot at the Stanley Cup in 2011-2012.  Hiller’s health permitting, the Ducks should be a playoff team this season and one of a handful of Western Conference teams who can contend for the Stanley Cup.

Christopher Wenrich is a senior fantasy baseball contributor for BaseballDigest.com and can be reached at philliesmuse@yahoo.com.  You can follow him on Twitter @DuggerSports.

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