The Anaheim Ducks once ranked as a mystery team going into next season, but things look brighter now that Teemu Selanne’s back and Jonas Hiller claims he’s healthy. Having the fog lifted (for the most part) from their two biggest question marks is a huge step forward for the top-heavy team, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other variables that could have a massive impact on their fortunes.
While most people in the hockey world begrudgingly agreed that Corey Perry was an elite power forward going into the 2010-11 season, few would have predicted his 50-goal, Hart Trophy-winning campaign. Perry’s red-hot second half propelled him to the forefront of the MVP race and also helped the Ducks make a manic late-season run to the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
It would be natural to ask the “Can he do it again?” question about any player who made the leap from very good player to arguably being the top guy in the sport, but it’s an even more pertinent one because of Perry’s style. The agitating forward makes almost as much of an impact by rubbing opponents the wrong way as he does by creating offense. Last season, he found the right balance between being a nuisance and a goalie’s nightmare. NHL.com’s Brian Hunter took a look at whether or not he could pull that off again next season.
“That’s kind of my style of game, being not so much an agitator but being in people’s faces and in front of the goalie and those different things,” Perry told NHL.com. “You’ve just got to be careful. You can’t take those stupid penalties in the offensive zone, or a tripping or a slashing or whatever. You’ve got to eliminate those and go from there.”
“I wasn’t in the penalty box as much as I was in the first half of the year,” Perry said. “Those different things definitely helped to increase my ice time, kept me in the game a little bit more. You put those things in the back of your mind and I think you use those to your advantage.”
While his PIM total (104) was only slightly lower than previous seasons, Perry made more of an impact killing penalties than ever before last season. He was the Ducks’ fifth-highest rated forward as far as shorthanded time per game, with an 1:38 average. If he can make the same kind of impact this season as he did in 2010-11, the Ducks might just find themselves in the playoffs once more.
With all the concern over Selanne’s future, one under-the-radar loss that could leave a substantial dent in the Ducks’ already-shaky defense was Todd Marchant’s retirement. Marchant logged a staggering 3:36 shorthanded time per game, far and way the most among Anaheim forwards and second most among all NHL forwards. (If you look at total penalty killing time rather than average, he was number 1 among forwards last season.)
It’s true that training camps can change things, but the thought is that Andrew Cogliano might take his third line center role and many of those penalty killing responsibilities. Considering his struggles in Edmonton and his faceoff deficiencies, that might be a cause for concern. Both Cogliano and the Ducks hope he can turn things around after the team gave up a 2013 second round pick to acquire him and then handed him a three-year, $7.17 million deal.
“I think there’s so much more for him to give and I told him so,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “With a player of that ability and that speed we’re going to try to push him into a different area and hopefully he responds.”
The Ducks will likely need some great play from their forwards this season, so getting much more out of Cogliano and the same efforts from Perry could go a long way in helping them earn a playoff berth in the brutal West.