In a season that’s fallen somewhere between “miserable” and “un-watchable”, the Anaheim Ducks have zero margin for error in managing their roster.
As bad as their play has been, Anaheim has also fallen victim to some horrible injury luck, an issue that they largely avoided in 2014-15.
’15-16 hasn’t been kind, with Ryan Getzlaf, Simon Despres, Jiri Sekac, and Josh Manson all missing chunks of time.
Organizational depth has been put to the test and the results have been largely satisfactory. AHL-ers like Korbinian Holzer, Max Friberg, and Chris Wagner all delivered some solid hockey when called upon, sometimes even out-performing their NHL counterparts on one-way contracts.
Perhaps because of this depth, the Ducks might have thought that they could pull a fast one on the rest of the league when they tried sending down the waiver-eligible Wagner to San Diego.
It’s hard to fathom what the thought process was behind the move, because no skater goes unnoticed in this era of high-end video scouting.
Sure enough, Wagner was snatched up by the struggling Colorado Avalanche, who will surely benefit from the 24-year old’s presence on their bottom-six.
Ducks Badly Miscalculated The Situation
Look, Wagner isn’t a world-beater by any means. That being said, he’s scored at a respectable clip at the AHL level, and the physicality and puck-possession savvy that he brings to a lineup makes him a logical fit on any hockey club.
That’s why it’s so inexplicable that the Ducks would send him down, being fully aware of his waiver eligibility. Yes, Nate Thompson is returning soon, but they’ve already seen how injuries can impact their season on a dime. Wagner is a guy they could shoehorn into their lineup and from whom they can expect quality results at any time.
Now, Anaheim’s center depth looks like Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Shawn Horcoff, Mike Santorelli, and Thompson. Those bottom three, though not bad by any means, would feel a lot more secure with Wagner in the mix.
Thompson gets a bad rap in the analytics community for being a weaker puck possession player, which is fair. As far as fourth line centers go though, you could do worse. And there’s something to be said for having a player on your team that can consistently piss off the other team. He can also chip in some points every now and then to boot. So, swapping him in for Wagner isn’t the end of the world at face value, but that’s not the point.
Wagner is an above-replacement level insurance policy, and in a season that’s already been dotted by injuries, the Ducks are in no position to flat out give players away.