Ryan Miller

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What’s the long-term outlook for the Ducks?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Anaheim Ducks.

Pending free agents

The core

The face of the franchise at this point is still John Gibson, and while his numbers took a bit of a hit this season he is still one of the league’s elite goalies. As long as the Ducks have him as their foundation there is always the chance that he can give them a chance.

Is it unfair to put so much on one player to carry a team? Of course it is, but right now he is the reason for hope.

Beyond him, the Ducks have a handful of long-term contracts on their books.

Defenseman Cam Fowler is signed through the 2025-26 season. Forwards Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg are signed through 2023-24, while Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all signed through the 2021-22 season.

Ryan Getzlaf, one of the franchise icons, still has one more year after this one at $8.25 million.

Long-term needs

Offense, offense, and more offense.

Even when the Ducks were still a contender as recently as a couple of years ago they were still only a middle-of-the-pack team offensively. Over the past two years, though, they have plummeted to the bottom of the league.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season they are the second-lowest scoring team in the league (2.47 goals per game, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings), second-worst in shots per game (again ahead of only Detroit) and third-worst on the power play (ahead of only Nashville and Detroit).

Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg are still good top-six options, and they do have some young players starting to break into the league (Sam Steel, Max Jones being at the top of the list) but they need to start taking big steps in the coming seasons.

For as promising as those young players may be, they still lack a young franchise player to serve as a long-term building block. Their best hope for acquiring that: Some draft lottery luck. The Ducks have two first-round picks this season (Bostons, plus their own pick which will be a lottery pick) and along with their own second-round pick will have three of the top-40 picks in the 2020 draft.

Long-term strength

For all of their current and long-term flaws, they still have an impact player at the one position that can make a meaningful difference — goaltender.

Even though Gibson had a down year this season he is still one among the league’s best and is capable of single-handedly changing their short-term outlook.

Since becoming Anaheim’s starter during the 2015-16 season his .919 save percentage ranks eighth in the NHL among 55 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games.

They have him signed long-term at $6.4 million per season. Given how good Gibson has been, how dominant he can be when he is at at his best, and his age, that is a more than fair number for the Ducks to build around. The issue now is whether or not they have the players and resources to do that.

MORE:
Looking at the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks
Ducks’ biggest surprises, disappointments so far

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Anaheim Ducks: This season’s biggest surprise, disappointment

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Anaheim Ducks.

Biggest surprise so far

There are not many, but Adam Henrique would easily qualify.

He is not only the Ducks’ leading goal-scorer and point producer, he was also on track for a career year offensively with 26 goals and 43 points along with strong possession numbers in his 71 games. He has done most of that damage at even-strength while playing only around 16 minutes per game. By comparison, when he scored 30 goals during the 2015-16 season in New Jersey he did it while playing close to 20 minutes per game.

How efficient has his goal scoring been this season? Among the 334 forwards that have logged at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time this season, Henrique ranks 27th in the league in goals per 60 minutes. That has him sandwiched directly between Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin. In other words, at even-strength he has been one of the best goal-scorers in the league.

An impressive accomplishment in any context. Even more impressive while playing on an otherwise offensively starved hockey team.

Biggest disappointment so far

It is not any one particular player, but rather a collective group effort.

That group being all of their young forwards not really taking any sort of a meaningful step forward in their development. This isn’t to say that they should be written off, or that they still can’t become good NHL regulars, but the group of Sam Steel, Max Jones, Troy Terry, Max Comtois, and Sprong (before his trade to Washington) did not really make any sort of a meaningful impact this season offensively. That was going to be a must for the Ducks to be even remotely competitive.

Now, to be fair, all of them are age 22 or younger and have very brief NHL resumes. Not every rookie or young forward is going to step right into the NHL and succeed. But there had to be an expectation that somebody would make a big leap this season and take on a bigger role with the offense. It did not happen.

John Gibson still did not get much help

Entering this season Gibson had established himself as one of the league’s top goaltenders. A game-changer that could help elevate any team he plays on and give them a chance to win any given a game.

If there was a reason to believe this team as constructed could remain competitive, it would be the goaltending duo of him Gibson and Ryan Miller. It is an unfair expectation to put all of that expectation on just two players at one position, but it was the reality of the team’s situation right now. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they did not even really get that this season as Gibson went through the least productive seasons of his NHL career.

It is also hard to put a lot of the blame on him. The defense in front of him was mired by injuries all season and just didn’t perform at a level that was high enough to give their goaltenders any support. That in itself is a bit of a disappointment. That the Ducks have been blessed with one of the league’s most valuable assets (not only a franchise goalie, but an outstanding backup) and still were not able to be even remotely competitive.

MORE:
Looking at the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks
Ducks’ long-term outlook

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Thin Mints, Tic Tacs now the going rate for pucks from NHLers

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The NHL Trade Deadline was last week, but some deals are still going through.

Of course, these deals don’t involve players changing teams; rather, they are simple swaps of pucks for treats.

Ryan Miller made his trade before the deadline, which has started a bit of a trend. Last month, one young fan brought a sign to a game that stated she would trade a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies for a puck. The Ducks goalie saw the sign and could not refuse such a good offer.

When Miller got home that night, his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, asked to have some and the netminder told her he left them in the freezer at the rink for a pregame snack. (Thin Mints right out of the freezer is the only true way to enjoy them and I will not hear otherwise.)

That successful trade prompted a young Red Wings fan to offer up some Thin Mints for a puck. The very wise Luke Glendening took advantage of the offer.

“I’ll make that deal every day. I love Girl Scout cookies.” Amen, Luke.

Finally, over the weekend, a Jets fan didn’t have Thin Mints to offer Nikolaj Ehlers. Instead, she gave the forward two options of Tic Tacs to choose from.

So if you want a puck now from an NHL player during warmups you better bring a treat worth trading for.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

My Favorite Goal: NHLers reflect on Sidney Crosby’s golden goal

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers, personalities and NHL players remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, Matt Dumba, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Matt Duchene reflect on Sidney Crosby‘s golden goal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

The road to gold was a tough one for Canada’s men’s team at the 2010 Olympics. Faced with the pressure of winning on home soil in Vancouver, the team finished second in their group to the U.S. and found themselves needing to stay alive in the qualification playoffs. From there they topped Germany, knocked out Russia, and edged Slovakia to set up a gold medal final against the Americans, who beat them 5-3 in the final preliminary game.

What once was a 2-0 Canada lead evaporated and overtime was needed after Zach Parise‘s tying goal with 24 seconds left in the third period. It was then in overtime that Crosby called for a pass from Jarome Iginla and beat Ryan Miller to win gold.

You check out previous “My Favorite Goal” entries here.

Ducks goalie Ryan Miller at ease entering twilight of career

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a smile and a wave to the crowd, Anaheim Ducks goalie Ryan Miller left the ice in Buffalo a winner for perhaps one last time.

”Yeah, the fans in Buffalo have always been great,” Miller said, acknowledging the cheers he heard in being introduced as the starter, and the more that followed when named the game’s third star in a 3-2 win Sunday.

The 39-year-old goalie spent his first 11 seasons in Buffalo. He expressed a hint of regret in knowing he won’t be in town Thursday when the Sabres honor members of the 2000-09-decade teams as part of the franchise’s seasonlong 50th anniversary celebrations.

”I’m actually going to miss that group of guys who are going to be here in a few more days,” he said, referring to many of his former teammates.

”I’ve got a little FOMO,” he said, referring to the phrase of having a fear of missing out. ”There’s a lot of guys on that list I’d like to be back with them in Buffalo.”

Whether it was the familiar setting or the victory that moved the former Michigan State standout into a tie with Mike Vernon for 15th on the NHL list, Miller was in a reflective mood at the end of a five-game road trip.

”I guess when I look back, I never would’ve expected to be on a list like that or playing this long, so I try to appreciate the opportunities, and it’s been fun,” he said.

As to how much longer he intends to keep playing, Miller gave no hint. And it made no difference when reminded he’s only four wins shy of matching Dominik Hasek– the starter he eventually replaced in Buffalo – and how close he is to 400.

”Yeah, it’s a nice round number. But I’m going to have to play longer to see where we get to after the next couple of months,” he said. ”I still enjoy it. And I still think I can play some hockey. But I’m starting to evaluate more about how my body feels, and am I able to do it at a high level.”

Miller showed few signs of age in stopping 31 shots, including all 15 in the third period, to improve to 7-5-3 in a season in which the Ducks have fallen out of playoff contention and are retooling an aging roster.

First-year coach Dallas Eakins praised Miller for how he has handled the switch to a backup.

”There’s zero arrogance with him, there’s zero entitlement with him, and I think that could come real easy to somebody who’s been in the game as long as him,” Eakins said of the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner and goalie who played a significant role in helping the U.S. win a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Eakins credited Miller for the time he’s spent mentoring the team’s youngsters.

”That’s not something that was encouraged by me. He’s done that on his own,” Eakins said.

”We’ve leaned on him. He’s got great experience in the game, and he’s somebody that I personally listen to a lot,” he added. ”He’s had an amazing career, and one I hope for him that keeps going.”

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto hasn’t seen Miller lose a step despite long stretches between starts.

”Every opportunity he’s in net, we have a chance to win,” he said. ”He brings his best game, and that’s a credit to his work ethic.”

Miller hasn’t lost his desire. That was evident when he recalled Friday night’s 5-4 loss at Toronto in which he made 30 saves. John Tavares decided the outcome, scoring on a power play with seven seconds left in overtime.

Miller was looking forward to the challenge matching up against the likes of Auston Matthews and a Maple Leafs’ lineup of snipers in a shootout.

”Really would have liked to have done that, so that was disappointing,” Miller said, before reflecting on his win over Buffalo. ”So this is a nice bounce back.”