This season is, mercifully, coming to a close for the Anaheim Ducks. By no means were they expected to compete for a playoff spot this season and they’ve confirmed that with gusto, sitting dead-last in the Honda West Division. Another loss on Saturday night to the Vegas Golden Knights draws them ever closer to a chance at being awarded the first-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. If this does happen, it would be their highest draft pick since selecting Bobby Ryan second overall in 2005.
Silfy on the Shelf
The Ducks announced on Thursday that Jakob Silfverberg underwent hip surgery, which means he is done for the rest of the season. Like many of the Ducks, this season was statistically one of the worst of Silfverberg’s career. He had 16 points in 47 games with a minus-17 rating. It’s the first time that the Swede has failed to reach double-digit goals in his entire NHL career and just the second time in his career that he has posted a negative plus-minus.
Silfverberg will have three years remaining on his contract this offseason, a five-year, $26.5 million deal that he signed in March 2019. This deal signaled that the forward—who was in a contract year at the time—would be a significant part of the Ducks’ core for years to come. Unfortunately, a combination of age and the team’s less-than-stellar play have resulted in a career-low for the former Ottawa Senator.
Silfverberg’s contract includes a modified 12-team no-trade clause, which means it would be difficult to move him without his approval. What appears to be more feasible is exposing him in the Expansion Draft this summer and hoping that the Seattle Kraken take a flier on him.
It’s possible that Silfverberg can turn things back around next season, especially given that he will be fully healthy. But with young forwards from the minors chomping at the bit in a flat-cap era, general manager Bob Murray may be keen to move on from the 30-year-old.
Getting shut out often signifies a terrific defensive performance from the opposition but the Ducks did themselves no favors in this one. Two crucial turnovers resulted in goals for the Golden Knights, including one in the defensive zone just 90 seconds into the game, which led to a Chandler Stephenson goal.
This is nothing new for the Ducks. Their consistency at both ends of the ice this season has left many wanting, particularly head coach Dallas Eakins. Too many times the Ducks have been hemmed in their own zone by a team’s ferocious forecheck, which has resulted in turning over the puck and – more often than not – getting scored on.
The Ducks don’t particularly have any defensemen that are cool under pressure with the puck with Hampus Lindholm out indefinitely as even veteran Cam Fowler is often prone to mishaps in his own zone. But newcomer Jamie Drysdale has been very efficient in his zone exits since making his NHL debut in March. Drysdale is a very smart player and will continue to improve as he gets more seasoning.
Vegas Struggles Continues
With their latest loss to the Golden Knights, the Ducks are now 3-14-4 all-time against the team from Sin City. Even given the disparity of the quality between the two teams, it’s a pretty poor record against a team that the Ducks face quite often. To make matters worse, former Ducks William Karlsson and Shea Theodore do some of their best work against their former team.
The Golden Knights have been a perennial contender ever since their inception into the league while the Ducks at the same time have fallen from their previous glory of being a consistent playoff team. It looks like it will be some time before the Ducks return to their glory days but the future is bright thanks to players like Drysdale and Trevor Zegras.
Kings of California
The Ducks now face off against the Los Angeles Kings in a four-game series. The Ducks are 2-2-0 this season against the Kings and recently lost 4-1 last Tuesday. The Kings have lost both of their games since beating the Ducks and were outscored 7-2 in those two games. The Ducks are on a four-game losing streak, so stringing together a couple of wins against their in-state rivals would do them well. The Kings sit in seventh place but thanks to games in hand could potentially slip into the fourth and final playoff spot if they win enough of their remaining games – and San Jose, Arizona and St. Louis lose enough of theirs.
Ping-pong balls are pretty much all there is left to play for this season for the Ducks but it would still be nice to see them end it on a high note. The return of fans to Honda Center hasn’t had much effect as the Ducks have lost all three of their home games since their return. A home win against bitter rivals would be a highlight of the season.