So, we’ve lost sports indefinitely to the COVID-19 virus. As we found out this week, no Anaheim Ducks player has tested positive for the virus. Still, a hockey-less spring has already made an impact on our mental state as we try to figure out how to entertain ourselves while stuck at home.
For Ducks fans, there isn’t much to miss considering the team’s place in the standings when the league announced its indefinite hiatus. However, losing those last few weeks of the season to drum up hope for 2020-21 feels even more depressing than anything the Ducks might have done with their remaining games. Luckily, there is a silver lining to not finishing the season, if that happens.
Locked in at No. 5 in the NHL Draft Lottery
The Ducks were 5-3-2 in their last 10 games before the COVID-19 hiatus, despite playing without their top-four defensemen Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Eric Gudbranson and Cam Fowler. Goaltender John Gibson missed the final three games as well. The Ducks were winning with perhaps their thinnest roster and their No. 1 goalie out of action. Continuing that success would’ve raised hopes for next season, but it also would’ve been bad for their lottery odds.
Now, the Ducks can’t win any games and climb the NHL standings, which they might have done. Only five points separated them and the Chicago Blackhawks for the ninth-worst record in the league, with 11 games remaining.
If the regular season doesn’t resume and the NHL proceeds with the playoffs when they see fit, the Ducks will finish with the fifth-worst record in the league, three spots lower than last season.
Rest Is Best
As seems that, over the past few seasons, the Ducks have suffered more than their fair share of injuries.
On top of the six games Lindholm missed in November with a lower-body injury, he missed the final eight games before the NHL paused. Gudbranson hadn’t played since Feb. 7, and Fowler might have missed almost the remainder of the season as well, after sustaining an injury on Feb. 17 against the Calgary Flames.
Fowler’s lower-body injury, if it was to his right knee, would be at least the third injury to that knee since 2017. Repetitive knee injuries have destroyed many careers, including that of the legendary Bobby Orr.
Now, Fowler and the rest of the Ducks’ walking wounded will have extra rest to heal which will help them whenever they do step back onto the ice, hopefully in 2020.
Time to Strategize
Since the league froze its rosters on March 16, and (almost) no one is playing hockey, general manager Bob Murray and his team of scouts don’t have any players to watch unless they’re scouting in Belarus.
That means, prospects aren’t rapidly rising or falling in the draft rankings (unless they get bored and make some poor personal decisions while they’re not playing).
Yes, NHL general managers always have a plan going into the draft, but they also have more on their plates during the season. Now, Murray and his team can focus more closely on their draft plan and free agency. With the Ducks’ spot in the lottery likely solidified, this would be a good year to put more emphasis on their draft strategy.
The same applies to free agency.
Sonny Milano, Christian Djoos, Jacob Larsson, Troy Terry and Brendan Guhle all need new contracts, and this added time will help Murray and company to also focus on free agent negotiations. Many players don’t like to be distracted by contract discussions during the season. During the hiatus, Murray should be getting ahead of his restricted free agent negotiating list. No, he can’t announce the signings, but that doesn’t mean he can’t negotiate.
Related: The 50-Goal Season
Without hockey, many of us are lost. Luckily, the Ducks won’t lose much if they don’t finish the season and they could benefit from the increased time off. Ducks ownership has pledged to pay full- and part-time workers, at least in the near future, and hopefully, they will continue to be able to do so during the suspension.
You may be going stir crazy from social distancing, but it does give you time to take care of chores and projects at home and to get some rest. The Ducks organization can do the same when it comes to hockey matters.
Anthony Ciardelli grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire but now lives in Los Angeles. Though he was raised a Bruins fan, he quickly came to enjoy the hockey culture in Southern California and the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks. He covered USC Athletics while pursuing his journalism masters there. He also enjoys doing play-by-play for USC Trojan Hockey.