Ducks Summer Mailbag: Does Anaheim Have A Leadership Problem?

It’s been a long summer for Ducks fans. Maybe not as long as last summer, when the Ducks bowed out at the Honda Center after a game seven loss to the Los Angeles Kings, but a long summer nonetheless.

So while we anxiously await the puck dropping on the season, let’s answer some burning questions that loyal readers submitted:

“Is there a lack of leadership on Getzlaf and Perry’s part? Why have the Ducks lost 3 straight Game 7s?” -Adam, Orange County

Thanks for the question Adam! It’s one worth asking considering Anaheim’s playoff failures. I’ve been in Anaheim’s locker room a number of times on press duty and I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that Corey Perry doesn’t strike me as a very vocal guy. Judging by the way he performs on the ice, he really doesn’t have to be.

Ryan Getzlaf is a bit more congenial in front of journalists and cameras, but again, he doesn’t seem like a “rah-rah” kind of guy. Which is totally fine, by the way, when you consider that some of the greatest captains in NHL history (think Steve Yzerman) led by example on the ice without being rabble-rousers. However, Getzlaf did not have a good series against Chicago last spring, and that’s where leadership should be defined.

Both him and Perry were Anaheim’s best players during the playoffs and the regular season, but they’ll have to put that into overdrive next season to erase any doubt about their leadership capabilities.

As far as the Ducks’ string of game seven losses go, the sad truth is that both times Anaheim was simply the inferior team playing an inferior style. With the moves they’ve made this summer, that win-less streak could end.

With the added veteran presence, have the Ducks solved their lack of mental toughness to help them win a Cup?” – Gina, Garden Grove

Thanks for the question Gina! Kevin Bieksa and Carl Hagelin have a combined 144 games of playoff hockey under their belt (71 and 73, respectively), so that should help to some degree once the post-season rolls around in Anaheim. The rest of the groups’ playoff experience is limited, yet all represent quality additions.

The Ducks’ mental toughness is just fine, by the way. They’ve been losing game sevens because, put simply, they haven’t been the better team. They have a more complete roster with their summer additions though, which will help them out a ton when facing Chicago or Los Angeles. And if mental toughness really is an issue, then the added presence of guys who have been to the Stanley Cup Finals will help to some degree.

“I guess I would want to know if Murray is finished with his moves for his Cup bid? Meaning do you think he will pull the trigger with a trade of possibly a goalie and a RFA offensive talent to get the stud blueliner that we need with our young core of defensemen to get us past those game seven losses. All I keep going back to is look at our defense pairings when we won the Cup, Niedermayer and Pronger. It takes defense to win the Cup and we are just a bit shy.” – John, Orange County

Thanks for the question John! If Murray’s track record is any indication, he’s certainly not afraid to make a big move in order to get his club closer to the ultimate goal. And with both Frederik Andersen and John Gibson set to be restricted free agents in the summer of 2016, one of the two will be an attractive trading chip. Do I think it will happen? I’ll say that anything and everything is in play with a chess-player like Murray.

The need for a franchise defenseman is certainly a glaring weakness on this roster. I’ve written about it in the past, and history tells us that a stud blueliner is essentially a requirement to win a Stanley Cup. However, that 2007 Ducks team is an outlier with two generational talents, so to compare this current group to them is a bit unfair. What the Ducks do have is a quality group that can move the puck exceptionally well and seamlessly transition from defense to offense. If any defense corps could get it done in the playoffs without a Norris-type guy, I honestly think it’s this one.

Who would be the backup for Andersen for most of the year, Gibson or Khudobin?” – Shane, Lakewood

Thanks for the question Shane! As shaky as Andersen was in the last two games of the Western Conference Final, he’s earned the right to be the starter for now. Anton Khudobin is a quality veteran backup perfectly suited for spot duty in the NHL, something that the Ducks sorely lacked (anyone remember Ilya Bryzgalov, part deux?).

Gibson should start the season in the Ducks’ shiny new AHL affiliate in sunny San Diego, which will be much more beneficial for his development in the long run than sitting on the bench in the NHL night in and night out. However, Anaheim needs to find out at some point what they have in Gibson, especially going into his contract negotiation; so expect to get a look at him with the Ducks during the season.

“Where does our defense rank and who will step up for a big year?” -Andrew, Kern County

Thanks for the question Andrew! The Ducks have one of the most potential-laden defense corps in the entire league, but they don’t quite have the experience yet to be considered part of the reigning elite. As far as who will step up in 2015-16, I would expect Hampus Lindholm to continue his progression as the team’s best defenseman.

Supremely patient with the puck on his stick, Lindholm just seems to have an innate ability to make the right play at the right time. He’s responsible in his own end, and that’s reflected in his strong possession rating. With another summer of getting bigger, stronger, and faster, look for him to take a big leap forward.

“What do you think is a plausible trade that you think should happen regarding the Ducks’ cap situation for upcoming RFA’s?” -@Patty_Maroon, Anaheim

Thanks for the question @Patty_Maroon! If I were to put a G.M. hat on, I’d make every attempt to bring back every restricted free agent that the Ducks currently have. It might not be the sexiest answer, but there’s really no rush for Anaheim to make any big moves since their roster is so set in stone.

Everyone wants to imagine a scenario where one of Andersen or Gibson gets traded, but really, what’s the rush? Compared to Andersen, how much more will we really understand about Gibson (especially in the AHL)? Murray isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on trades, but patience is the way to go here.