Back in November the Ducks made a trade to get rid of giant Bryan Allen and bring in winger Rene Bourque from the Montreal Canadiens. This is an interesting trade to point out because this is when Bob Murray started to change who the Ducks were as a team. Bryan Allen had recently turned 35 years old and the Ducks were looking towards their youth for more production. The 6’5 Allen was mishandling the puck and moving around the ice slowly with 23-year-old Josh Manson waiting in the wings to move up. This was the trade that started to make the Ducks a much more mobile, puck-moving team. It led to more movements from Murray to improve the speed game of the Ducks.
Jiri Sekac for Devante Smith-Pelly
Devante Smith-Pelly (DSP) was shining in the 2014 playoffs with big goals against the Dallas Stars and the Los Angeles Kings. But the following regular season had not been kind to DSP. He struggled to find playing time and linemates he clicked with. An opportunity came up with the Canadiens for DSP to be traded for Jiri Sekac. Sekac was rumored to have not found favor with coach Michel Therrien and the Canadiens were ready to move to bring more hitting to their team.
Jiri Sekac came into Anaheim and immediately became a fan favorite. His speed was a refreshing update to the Ducks who were relying heavily on their size to beat their opponents. Sekac sat out the first two rounds of the playoffs against Winnipeg and Calgary. He made his playoff debut against the Blackhawks where his speed was something needed to come close to matching up against Chicago.
Simon Despres for Ben Lovejoy
While Ben Lovejoy isn’t a slow hockey player, he isn’t a young one. Lovejoy was 31 years old when the Penguins inquired about him. Despres, then 23 years old, was adding even more youth to the Ducks’ blue line. Simon Despres is also a much better puck-moving defenseman than Lovejoy. Despres’ entrance into the mix largely helped the play of Cam Fowler pick up and the two formed an excellent pair.
Despres’ time with the Ducks has been short but his youth and his defensive skill has already made Anaheim a better team. He is thriving as much as Fowler is in the new pairing. His contract is up at the end of the 2015-16 season and will join Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm on the list of defensemen Bob Murray will want back on the roster for years to come.
Ducks Sign Mike Santorelli and Carl Hagelin
The departures of Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem left some holes to fill on the wings. Carl Hagelin was traded from New York to Anaheim in exchange for Etem. Etem was indeed known for his speed so Hagelin was a great acquisition. Hagelin, however, makes the Ducks penalty kill much better than it was. Hagelin also has more NHL experience than Etem who was struggling to find his groove in Anaheim. With the addition of Hagelin on either the Getzlaf or the Kesler line adds more scoring and experience.
Hagelin’s signing was the official signal to the league that the Ducks were becoming more than just a grind and pound team. Hagelin adds to the speed of Andrew Cogliano and Jiri Sekac who were the fastest skaters on the team before Hagelin came along.
Mike Santorelli was signed because of the injury to Nate Thompson. Thompson is expected to be out until November at the very least. Bob Murray made one thing clear when NHL free agency began this summer. He wants to change his team to have more speed because of how the Ducks lost to Chicago. Santorelli gives the Ducks speed in their third and fourth lines.
I am a young product of Southern California taking in the world of hockey from the palm trees. I was raised by Kings fans and rebelled to the Ducks in 1993. This sport is incredible and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the game, the fans, and most of all, coaches and players.