Forty regular season games have now passed by for the Anaheim Ducks, leaving them with 42 more to prove to the rest of the NHL that they deserve to be considered one of the league’s best.
With a 17-16-7 record and the fewest amount of goals scored in the league, it is safe to say that the Ducks did not live up to expectations during the first half of the 2015-16 regular season. Luckily the team’s inconsistent play has not proven to be extremely detrimental as they are still very much in the race for playoff positioning in the Pacific Division.
With the second half and most important part of the season approaching, there are still many questions to be asked about Anaheim’s future. Will this team make the playoffs? Can they still contend for the Stanley Cup? Will Bob Murray make any moves before the trade deadline? What can we expect from Ryan Getzlaf?
I am going to attempt to provide answers to these questions and a few more. So without any further ado, here are my six predictions for the second half of the Ducks’ 2015-16 season.
2nd Place in Pacific Division
Take a look at the Pacific Division standings. The records and point totals are far from impressive but besides for the Los Angeles Kings, the rest of the division is closely contested. At the beginning of the season, very few people would have expected Anaheim to be in a battle for playoff position with the likes of Arizona, Vancouver, and Edmonton. However, that is exactly where the Ducks find themselves at this point in the season.
Have no fear though Ducks’ fans. The team has looked new and improved since coming off the holiday break and will continue to climb up the division standings. I have been extremely impressed with the play of the Coyotes and believe that they are a playoff team. However, the reality is going to set in a little bit and the Ducks are going to take over second place in the Pacific. When Anaheim is playing to their full potential, they are an elite-level team in the NHL. By the end of the season, it will show in the standings.
A Postseason Run
To piggy back off a prior statement, the Ducks are still fully capable of being one of the best teams in the National Hockey League. They have the goaltending, a strong defense, and the talent necessary to put the puck in the net. The key is to get all of these pieces working at once. If the team can manage to do so, there is no reason they should not still be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Anaheim will make the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and cause a few headaches for other teams. The Ducks will not be an easy team to eliminate in a seven game series and could make a deep run in the postseason.
Andersen Will Be Traded
This past week, the Ducks traded Max Friberg to the Montreal Canadiens for goalie Dustin Tokarski. With four NHL-caliber goaltenders now in the Ducks’ organization, it is expected that Murray will deal one of them to acquire some assistance on offense. John Gibson’s stellar performances have solidified his role as the starting goaltender making Frederik Andersen and Anton Khudobin more expendable.
Ideally, Anaheim would love to deal Khudobin and hang onto Andersen just in case Gibson misses extended time with an injury. However, Andersen is the man that will give Murray a much better return. Gibson’s dominance has been quite unfortunate for the 26-year-old Andersen. In almost any other circumstance he would be a team’s number one goalie. For this reason, the Ducks will find a suitor willing to deal immediate impact players for Andersen’s services.
Getzlaf Scores Less Than Ten
Ryan Getzlaf has not had an easy go of it so far this season. The assist totals have been impressive enough but the Ducks’ captain has only managed to score a measly three goals. Although there have been recent signs of improvement to his game, he is still demonstrating a lack of confidence with a pass-first attitude. Getzlaf will positively impact Anaheim in other areas this season but will continue to have issues scoring. Look for him to finish with a goal total somewhere between seven and nine.
A Blue-Liner Gets Traded
As the trade deadline gets closer, Murray is going to be looking for ways to improve his team’s offensive production. Anaheim is going to be looking for a forward who can have an immediate impact of the team to better their chances of making the postseason. In order to acquire talent, the Ducks must be willing to part ways with talent. Although Andersen will be a nice trade chip, he cannot be the only piece Murray is willing to part ways with. With depth in the defensive prospect pool, look for him to dangle out a blue-liner or two into the trade waters. The two d-men who could garner the most interest are Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. I would expect the Ducks to be more open to parting ways with Vatanen due to his RFA status this summer.
Kesler Scores Over Twenty Goals
Center Ryan Kesler has been another one of the Ducks players really struggling to find offense. However, his lack of productivity over the first half of the season has not been due to a lack of effort. Kesler continues to leave everything on the ice giving 100% effort every shift. He has had better luck over the past few weeks and managed to score twice in Friday night’s win over St. Louis. Although Getzlaf will continue to struggle with scoring goals, Kesler will not. I predict that he will play a major role in Anaheim solidifying themselves as a legitimate contender in the second half with over twenty goals on the season.
Expect the second half of the 2015-16 NHL regular season to be a much more pleasant experience for the Anaheim Ducks. Some changes will be made but it will all be for the better. There is no reason Ducks fans should not expect this team to be one of the sixteen competing for the cup this spring.