The 2018-19 season was a trying one for Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler as it was for many Ducks. The former first-rounder struggled with a career-low in games played after taking a puck to the face and missing nearly two months recovering from reconstructive surgery. He also had career lows in assists and overall points primarily due to those missed games.
That, combined with Fowler’s 2017-18 performance, had Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic calling the eight-year, $52 million extension he signed July of 2017 the seventh-worst contract in the NHL. (From: ‘By the numbers: A look at the 10 worst contracts in hockey’ The Athletic NHL – 7/11/19). This season, Fowler has looked reinvigorated under head coach Dallas Eakins’ aggressive, offensive system and his encouraging defensemen to join the offense. It’s come just in time for the Ducks, who have been beset by injuries on their blue line and will need Fowler to continue his success.
Fowler’s Clutch Offense
The Ducks are off to a surprising start against challenging competition, and Fowler is one significant reason why. Through 15 games, the veteran defender is already two goals away from reaching the five-goal mark he managed last season in 59 games.
Though this isn’t far-and-away his best start to a season through 15 games point-production wise, it’s his second-best start in terms of goals scored. Plus, he’s already one game-winning goal away from his career-high of three.
Speaking of clutch performances, the Ducks excel when Fowler finds the scoresheet. They have a 5-1 record when Fowler contributes a point this season.
Joining the offense more has paid dividends for Fowler and the Ducks. On multiple occasions, he’s found a soft spot in his opponents’ zone when joining the rush. A prime example is the Ducks’ opening goal against the Winnipeg Jets.
Fowler takes advantage of time in space in the neutral zone to gain speed and make a clean pass to Jakob Silfverberg at the blue line. This forces the Jets’ defense to back into the zone, which gives Fowler miles of space to take a hard, accurate shot that beats Laurent Brossoit cleanly. Fowler scored a nearly identical goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Fancy Fowler Stats
It’s not just his point production and his clutch scoring that’s been good; his underlying “fancy stats” are some of the best on Anaheim’s roster. Whether or not you are a fan of advanced statistics in hockey, Fowler’s are excellent and further highlight the strength of his play and the assets he’s maximizing to get there.
Fowler’s Corsi for percentage, or the percentage of shot attempts for versus against the Ducks while he is on the ice, is nearly 53 percent. That’s good for the fourth-highest mark on the team and highest among Ducks defensemen, including Hampus Lindholm, who’s already notched nine assists this season. That’s also nearly a 10-point increase from his 2018-19 season total of 45.1 percent and the highest mark of his entire career.
While it is a small sample size, Fowler’s abilities fit much better in Eakins’ system that emphasizes offensive creativity and defensemen jumping into the offense to create more opportunities.
The Fowler Factor
Fowler’s elite skating ability enables him to jump into plays faster and generate opportunities in situations that other players might not be able to. Something that fits perfectly in Eakins’ system. This secondary assist that Fowler had on the Ducks’ only goal against the Boston Bruins is a prime example.
When the puck crosses back over the blue line and into the neutral zone, low-risk options would be to dump the puck back into the zone and wait for his team to tag up. However, with the time it takes for the whole team to cross back over the blue line and re-enter the zone, the Bruins would’ve likely retrieved the puck and had time to initiate a clean breakout.
Instead, Fowler sidesteps three Boston players maintaining control of the puck before regrouping in the neutral zone with Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique before Henrique dishes to Rakell for the goal. This is a prime example of how Fowler’s skating ability and poise with the puck fit into Eakins’ system and helps the Ducks generate a goal when.
Fowler’s Timing is Excellent
This success has come at a crucial time for the Ducks. After Anaheim’s disappointing 2018-19 season with a new coach and a roster now full of new, inexperienced players, Fowler’s active play is perfectly timed. Scoring has been sporadic for the Ducks’ youngsters, and contributions from the blue line are important.
Now that Josh Manson is out with injury, Fowler’s strong play needs to continue. Aside from Lindholm, who returned from injury versus the Vancouver Canucks, he’s currently the only defenseman on the roster with much offensive potential who is also capable of eating up minutes.
In Eakins’ new system, Fowler’s clutch play has come at a perfect time for the Ducks. If they are going to challenge for a playoff spot, he needs to maintain this performance for the entire season.