When Randy Carlyle began his second stint as Anaheim Ducks head coach, many wondered if there would be a big drop-off from Bruce Boudreau.
One season doesn’t make a coach’s run – unless you’re an unfortunate soul like Dallas Eakins – but so far, Carlyle’s been a solid success. The Ducks won the Pacific Division for the fifth season in a row and fell to the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Western Conference Final.
Granted, that’s not to say that it was all good, as the Ducks will surely pour over the way their playoff run ended. There’s also concern that the Ducks’ core could be aging out, at least in all of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler being 32.
The biggest move on defense likely ends the seemingly endless Cam Fowler trade rumors, instead signing Fowler to an eight-year, $52 million extension that kicks in starting in 2018-19.
They also kept Patrick Eaves around after a successful would-be “rental” at the trade deadline, handing the hugely bearded forward a three-year deal carrying a $3.15M cap hit.
So, the Ducks endured some changes, yet they also haven’t endured the sort of seismic alterations Anaheim experienced last summer. They now stand in an interesting spot, especially when it comes to the Pacific: will they hold off the Edmonton Oilers and other opponents once again? Will they remain legitimate Stanley Cup contenders or slip closer to the wild card?
PHT will break down the Ducks from several angles on Wednesday.
The Nashville Predators qualified for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second Wild Card team in the Western Conference. But it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish, and the Preds made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to translate the Stanley Cup run into regular-season dominance and more postseason success.
As of right now, they still have the same top four defensemen on their roster. They also added former Canadiens blue liner Alexei Emelin to fold.
Also, don’t forget that on top getting acclimated to his new surroundings last year, Subban also missed 16 games with an upper-body injury. If his postseason success carries over into the regular season, you can expect him to be a whole lot better in 2017-18.
Up front, GM David Poile was able to add a few interesting pieces via free agency. Nick Bonino, who is coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with Pittsburgh, will add some quality depth down the middle. His two-way style should make him an ideal candidate to center the second or third line.
Poile also signed veteran Scott Hartnell, who was bought out by the Blue Jackets. He’s back in Nashville after spending the first six years of his NHL career there. The veteran winger had 13 goals and 37 points in 78 games with Columbus last season.
Are those moves enough to propel them to another Stanley Cup Final berth in 2018? Well, lets look at the competition.
The San Jose Sharks were able to re-sign Joe Thornton, but they lost Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Other than losing Marleau, their roster hasn’t changed too much this summer.
Like the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks didn’t make a huge acquisition this offseason. They managed to retain potential free agent Patrick Eaves, who they acquired from Dallas at the deadline. Still, they should be plenty competitive in the West this season.
The Stars went into last season with plenty of expectation, but they ultimately missed the mark completely by not even making the playoffs. This summer, they added goalie Ben Bishop and winger Alexander Radulov. Those two moves should help them get back on track.
The Minnesota Wild got off to a great start last year, but they weren’t able to sustain that once the playoffs came around. On paper, they still have a very talented roster that could compete with any team in the conference.
The St. Louis Blues went through a bit of a transition phase last season, but they still managed to finish in the top three of their division. It might be a bit of a stretch to consider them as legit candidates to win the West, but they aren’t far off.
How do the Predators stack up against these teams? Are they the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final?
Alright, I’m turning things over to you. Cast your vote in our poll and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.
“I’ve coached against Radulov both in the NHL and internationally, and he brings an intensity to the game,” Hitchcock said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “You notice him and you have to account for him. Now, put Jamie Benn on the other wing, and you have the same thing. You know he’s there, and you know you have to account for him. Same with Seguin.
“I just think they will all feed off of each other if that’s the line we come up with.”
Riding shotgun with Benn and Seguin has been beneficial for a number of guys over the years. Last season, Patrick Eaves enjoyed a terrific offensive campaign while serving partial duty on the line. Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and a flurry of others have also received minutes alongside the dynamic duo, and produced well.
Radulov brings some interesting attributes to the line. He, along with Benn, are both left-handed shots, which will give the Stars some unique looks in the offensive zone. There’s also his style of play. Despite not being overly large — listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds — he plays a big man’s game. The 31-year-old has terrific upper-body strength, is effective in winning board battles and knows how to leverage his body to protect pucks.
As an example, this wonder goal against the Rangers in the playoffs:
Between Radulov and Hanzal alone, the Stars will be a “heavier” team — at least stylistically — than they’ve been in previous years. It’ll be fascinating to see how that plays out with Seguin and Benn, and under Hitch’s watchful eye.
Ducks bring Eaves back for three years, reportedly for $9.4M
Eaves, 33, carried over strong work with Dallas (21 goals, 37 points in 59 games) to Anaheim after being traded, managing 11 goals and 14 points in 20 regular-season contests. He also managed two goals and two assists in seven postseason games.
The Florida Panthers cleared up some cap space with yesterday’s moves in the expansion draft, but now they’ll need to find a way to replace the offensive production Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith were responsible for.
Marchessault broke out last season for 30 goals on a very affordable contract and while Smith’s goal total (and shooting percentage) were down last year, he’s still a two-time 20-plus goal scorer. Both are now gone from the Panthers lineup following yesterday’s expansion draft chaos.
Already among their offseason signings was a two-year entry-level deal with Henrik Haapala, who stands in similar stature to Marchessault at 5-foot-8 and led Finland’s top professional league with 60 points this past season — his fifth in SM liiga.
Beyond that, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has made his intentions known that he plans to be aggressive when the free agent market opens up.
“We have some flexibility long term. Our goal is to win multiple championships and these moves we’re making are looking to the present but also to the future,” said Tallon, per the Miami Herald.
“We will be aggressive moving forward in free agency. There’s a plan in place and we’re going to stick to it.
“This is not, necessarily, the team we will have in three months. We have plans in place to make this team exciting.”