The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we look at the Anaheim Ducks.
Anaheim Ducks 2019-20 Rewind
Record: 29-33-9 (67 points); Sixth place in Pacific Division; 13th place in Western Conference
Leading Scorers: Adam Henrique (26 goals, 43 points; team leader in both categories)
It was the second consecutive year outside of the playoffs for the Ducks, with the .472 points percentage being the Ducks’ worst mark in nearly two decades. It remained a team stuck somewhere between rebuilding and trying to contend, not really showing a true direction in what it wants to be, where it wants to go, and how it wants to get there. They have a great goalie and some intriguing young players, but there were a lot of weaknesses and no real strengths.
Kevin Shattenkirk (free agency)
Erik Gudbranson (trade), Michael Del Zotto (free agency)
3 Most Interesting Anaheim Ducks
• John Gibson. Gibson is the Ducks’ best player and, when he is on his game, is one of the best goalies in the NHL. But like most of the players in Anaheim he struggled through the 2019-20 season and finished with the worst marks of his career, registering only a .904 save percentage in 51 games. He had a .920 mark for his career (tied for second-best in the league during that stretch) heading into the season, so it was an obvious dip in production.
Simply a down year for Gibson? The result of playing behind one of the league’s worst teams? Maybe a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
The bottom line though is that Gibson has a track record of being capable of more, and can be a difference-maker when he is at his best. He still has seven years remaining on his contract that pays him $6.4 million per season. He can make the Ducks better by himself, but the Ducks need to do a lot more to put better players around him.
[MORE: 2021 NHL schedule notes: Stats, oddities, fuel for nasty rivalries]
• Rickard Rakell. Between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons Rakell scored 67 goals in 148 games. That comes out to a 37-goal average per 82 games, and made him one of the most efficient goal scorers in the league. In the two years since he has scored 33 goals in 134 games. That comes out to a 20-goal average per 82 games. A fine number for an NHL winger, but a noticeable drop from what he was doing at his peak.
You are probably never going to see Rakell go back to that near 40-goal pace, but he is still a player that carries some value. He has strong possession numbers, is still capable of hitting the 20-goal mark in a full season, and he has a very affordable contract with only a $3.7 million salary cap hit for this season and next season.
The intrigue is that it could make him a valuable trade chip if the Ducks decide to look more toward the future. The Ducks are not contending this season. They probably will not be contending next season. He is one player on the roster that might be able to bring them a decent return and would be attractive to a lot of teams.
[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
• Trevor Zegras. The Ducks got a look at some of their top young forwards a year ago with Sam Steel and Max Jones. This year they could get a look at the best of their young players with the 2019 first-round pick. Zegras is not quite a lock to make the roster at this point (general manager Bob Murray has said he will have every chance to make the team) but he is definitely the most intriguing prospect and young player in the organization. A skilled playmaker, Zegras has been outstanding at the World Junior Championships this season and is one of the Ducks few prospects that has a chance to be a top-line player in the NHL.
The best-case for the Ducks is John Gibson putting on his superman cape and putting the team on his back in a way that only a franchise goalie can. That, combined with young players like Zegras, Steel, and Jones taking big steps, and Rakell being a 30-goal forward instead of a 20-goal forward, might make the Ducks a very interesting team in the West Division. Especially if Ryan Getzlaf still shows that he has something left in the tank.
The top three teams in that division look to be set with Colorado, Vegas, and St. Louis at the top. But there is no team that has a clear path to that fourth playoff spot. Big years from Gibson, Zegras, Steel, Jones, and Rakell could put the Ducks in play for that.
Gibson does not put on his superman cape and is merely average instead of great, while the young players do not progress or take any major steps forward. This could be made even worse if Zegras does not make the NHL roster at the start of the season. This is a team that that finished near the bottom of the league a year ago in goals, goals against, power play, and penalty kill while its only major addition from outside the organization was a three-year contract for Kevin Shattenkirk. He is a fine player, but he alone can not improve the team that dramatically.
Pointsbet – Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup odds
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.