The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division five years in a row from 2013-2017. In 2018, the Ducks were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by their division rivals, the San Jose Sharks. This season, they failed to make the postseason for the first time since 2012.
Many are making the case that the Ducks’ Stanley Cup window has shut and that their days of battling for the Pacific Division crown are over (at least for now). However, many had the same thoughts when the Ducks missed the postseason in 2012. Similar to 2013, the Ducks will fly into the 2019-20 season under the radar.
The Ducks have been one of the most successful NHL franchises over the past decade and there are many reasons why they’ll find more success in the next decade.
John Gibson Is an MVP Caliber Goalie
John Gibson finished the 2018-19 season with a 26-22-8 record, a save percentage of .917, alongside a 2.42 goals-against average. A very respectable stat line in today’s NHL, but these numbers still do not give him justice, as Gibson was the sole reason why the Ducks weren’t in last place in the NHL after the first month of the season.
Through the first quarter, he could have been considered the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, and for some was perhaps a Hart Trophy candidate.
If not for the many injuries that plagued the Ducks this season (including one to Gibson), the Ducks roster had as much potential as any of their previous Stanley Cup contending teams.
Gibson is also only 25 years of age and is just entering his prime. Even though many view the Ducks as an older team, Gibson is becoming one of their main leaders as the Ducks turn to a new core of young players to lead them back to the top.
Troy Terry & Sam Steel Are Ready to Lead the New Core
One of the biggest issues that has nagged the Ducks for the past two seasons is their speed. With an aging roster, they were no longer able to keep up with some of the younger and faster teams. This past season, one of their few bright spots was the emergence of their future core players.
Players such as Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones, Jacob Larsson and Isac Lundestrom proved, at times, that they would soon be full-time NHLers. With veterans, such as long-time captain Ryan Getzlaf, ready to play reduced minutes and the possible buyouts or trades of Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler, the kids are hungry and ready to go.
Many of the Ducks’ future players have recently finished a long and impressive playoff run with the San Diego Gulls, losing in Game 6 of the Western Final of the AHL Playoffs. That experience is valuable as they head into September’s training camp and eventually into the NHL season.
The Ducks will have a great mix of speed and skilled youngsters who will mesh well with the team’s older and bruising veterans; a dangerous combo that makes for a successful NHL team. However, the most prominent reason why these young Ducks will have a terrific chance to take flight is the motivation to impress their new head coach.
New Coach – New Look – New Mindset
With interim head coach, Bob Murray, behind the bench this season, the Ducks ended the season with more structure, passion and hunger, despite the roster being decimated by injuries.
When the season begins in October, the Ducks will have a new face behind the bench. When they first fired Carlyle in 2012 (the end of his first stint in Anaheim), the Ducks responded by winning their division and finishing second overall in the Western Conference the following season.
Whoever is behind the bench in Anaheim come October will have plenty to work with: young players who are ready to make the jump to the NHL and proven veterans who are still hungry for a Stanley Cup, such as Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Jacob Silfverberg and Cam Fowler. Overall, the defensive core can also skate very well and be physical. Lastly, the new coach will also have one of the best goaltenders in the league between the pipes.
Many are already counting the Ducks out for next season. That’s because they don’t fully understand the team’s roster. The Ducks will be well rested, much faster and also highly motivated to play under a new head coach. As a result, the Ducks will surprise many, including their division rivals, when they push to reclaim their division crown.