Ducks Need Some Clear Progress to Have Successful Season

With Anaheim Ducks training camp set to begin in less than a month, it’s time to think about the upcoming season and evaluate their chance at success. History tends to remember the winners. The Ducks have failed to make the postseason in the last four seasons, and a likely fifth consecutive season means they won’t be rewriting the history books. Fans, however, will remember the ebbs and flows of their favorite teams. From the lowest of lows that result in transcendent draft picks, to the prospect development and eventual journey to get over the hump, each season adds a new chapter to a larger story that tells of a team’s success. The Ducks will probably not win the Stanley Cup this year, but that isn’t what this chapter in their story is about.

Related: Pacific Division Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

The Ducks are a young team with a promising future, but it probably won’t be realized as early as this season. There will be continuing growing pains from last year, including the vacuum at leadership in the post-Ryan Getzlaf era. Setting a “playoffs or bust” goal for the Ducks wouldn’t be fitting yet, so here are a few ways the team can be successful in the 2022-23 season.

Prospects Develop Into Full-Time NHL Players

With the ongoing rebuild, there is no shortage of high-end prospects within the Ducks’ system. Recently, Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked the Ducks’ pipeline as the fourth-strongest in the NHL (from ‘Anaheim Ducks Rank No. 4 in NHL Pipeline Rankings for 2022,’ The Athletic, Aug. 25, 2022). Included in this list are a few full-time NHL players like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. Mason McTavish, the third pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is also expected to make the team out of camp.

Mason McTavish Anaheim Ducks
Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Ducks also have a handful of prospects ready to make the jump. Wingers Brayden Tracey and Jacob Perreault each made their NHL debuts last season. While it’s likely that the Ducks will start the season with a larger veteran presence at the bottom of the roster, they’ll also only be an injury away from calling up one of these younger prospects. If they make the most of their opportunities, it would be hard for head coach Dallas Eakins to justify keeping them out of the lineup.

No Disastrous Late-Season Slide

Another signal of success for the Ducks this coming season will be how they handle the final stretch of games compared to last season. While they were an early season surprise at the top of the Pacific Division in December, their playoff hopes were dashed after losing 17 out of 21 contests after the All-Star Break. Trading away a handful of key contributors at the deadline didn’t make it any easier on the players who were still around, including many of the younger players.

The Ducks may have a few more names to shop during this year’s deadline, notably the newly acquired John Klingberg and his one-year “prove it” contract. But with a team that has gotten a little more experience, they should be capable of winning more than two games in the month of March. Most of the core for Anaheim’s future plans is now playing in the NHL, and they need to prove that they can avoid a slide that covers nearly a third of the whole season.

New Leadership in Post-Getzlaf Era

Last year saw the retirement of long-time captain Ryan Getzlaf. There are a handful of veterans on the team that can assume a leadership role in the short term, but this could be a season that determines the future leaders of the franchise from some of the younger player groups.

The Ducks may not name a captain this season, but rely on a handful of veteran alternate captains, like Cam Fowler, Jakob Silfverberg, and Adam Henrique. There is also a group of Ducks players reaching their mid-20s and have logged quite a few NHL games to this point. Troy Terry, Max Jones, Max Comtois, and Isaac Lundestrom were the “first wave” of Ducks prospects to make the jump to the NHL. With fewer veterans in the locker room and younger prospects getting ice time, these players suddenly have a lot more responsibility in both aspects. I’ve mentioned before that I believe Terry has the potential to be the Ducks’ next captain, and this season can go a long way to making that a reality.

Troy Terry Anaheim Ducks
Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With these points in mind, it’s important to look at the Ducks in the 2022-23 season with a different lens than a true contender. The team has a bright future, and the things done in this season will go a long way to developing the winning culture that the franchise needs after several years of decline.

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