Talk around the Anaheim Ducks in past weeks has been focused on adding a top-pairing defenseman at the trade deadline. Those plans may now be in the gutter with Tuesday’s announcement that Sami Vatanen will miss four to six weeks with an undisclosed upper body injury.
The focus for general manager Bob Murray now shifts from bolstering a solid, yet not elite, group of defensemen, to simply keeping the ship afloat. Josh Manson should be able to help in the short term picture, as he looked solid in an early season stint, but allocating more minutes to players such as Clayton Stoner and Eric Brewer will only hurt the Ducks in the next month and a half.
Ducks’ Division Up For Grabs?
Bob Murray should be every bit concerned about the state of the Ducks’ defense. Anaheim is 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and while many will chalk up some losses, such as in Florida, to poor luck, the fact remains that points in the standings are always on the line, no matter how the game was won or lost.
This may seem like an obvious point, but consider that the Los Angeles Kings, who were once considered dead in the water, have now rattled off five straight wins and sit only three points behind the second-place Vancouver Canucks. Sure, maybe the Kings have been luckier lately, but they’re now legitimately looking at a playoff spot.
The Ducks’ lead in the Pacific once seemed safe and sound. Their ten point lead now seems anything but safe. As the Kings have proven, a hot streak for one team and a stretch of mediocrity for another can make things dicey really quickly.
Anaheim’s Deadline Plans
Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register also reported Tuesday that Matt Beleskey will miss two to four weeks with injury. Emerson Etem has been called up to fill that void, which he should be able to do, but Beleskey remains a player that head coach Bruce Boudreau heavily leans on.
With two key players out for meaningful periods of time and a suddenly red-hot Kings squad, Murray has no choice but to make a move or two to patch up his team. The possibility of having to play the Kings or Sharks (who have had Anaheim’s number all year) could mean an early playoff exit. Staying at the top of the division would at least maximize the Ducks’ chances of playing a weaker opponent like the Calgary Flames.
James Wisniewski’s name has been floated around as a player who could be available at the deadline. Wisniewski, a former Duck, could certainly be a player of interest for Murray. His booming shot from the point could add another threat to the power play. This season has been tough on everyone in Columbus, yet Wisniewski had an excellent possession season last year, hinting that he could also help the Ducks at even strength.
Regardless of who they bring in, the Ducks cannot stay silent at the deadline. The situation in their division is too fluid and can change all too quickly. If this is truly “The Year” for Anaheim, then Bob Murray needs to do everything in his power to assure that his team is in the best position possible come spring.