This is part of Anaheim Ducks day at PHT…
Even though the Anaheim Ducks have been one of the top teams in the league for four years now they have been unable to completely climb the mountain that is the Western Conference playoffs thanks to four consecutive Game 7 losses.
That disappointment forced the team into a coaching change over the summer (a change that certainly carries some risk) in the hopes that it is the missing piece the team needs to finally kick the door down and get back into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2007.
Along with the coaching change, the Ducks had a couple of secondary players leave over the summer in free agency with Chris Stewart, David Perron, Shawn Horcoff and Mike Santorelli all moving on. Coming in to replace them are veteran center Antoine Vermette and perhaps some younger players within the system like former top-10 pick Nick Ritchie.
More importantly, the Ducks are returning the same core that has helped them win four straight division titles, a groups that includes Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler up front, and a tremendous young defense led by Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm behind them.
The other factor to keep in mind is that some of the other top contenders in the conference might be starting to take a step back. The Blackhawks’ latest salary cap purge has stripped the team of the depth that made them such a dominant team, while the Kings are showing signs of starting to slow down after winning two Stanley Cups between 2012 and 2014.
Based on the roster the Ducks have on paper and the way the team played for most of last season following a terrible 10-game stretch at the start, this should once again be one of the top contenders in the conference.
But will this be the year they have what it takes to get to the Final?