It was a very good year for the Ducks last year - 51 regular-season wins and three wins in the Conference Finals against Chicago. One more win and it could have been a great year. Now they need to prove that they can take the next step. Things aren't desperate yet, but the urgency can be felt - they haven't won it all for nine years, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have both had their 30th birthdays. Those two essentially are the Ducks, so if they start to wane then the team has some serious decisions to make.
Anaheim Ducks Offseason Moves
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Faced with this situation, and with a brutally-tough conference, the Ducks were far from complacent during the offseason. Two free agents of note left. Francois Beauchemin heads to Colorado. He's a solid defenseman but far from a fatal loss. Matt Beleskey, who is very feisty and coming off a career year offensively, will be more missed. He earned a huge raise with his play, though, so it more than makes sense that the Ducks weren't willing to pay him - he got almost $20 million over five years in Boston. They added several pieces in free agency, but they are all very affordable players on one-year deals. Shawn Horcoff from Dallas, Chris Stewart from Minnesota and Mike Santorelli from Nashville stand out as the most interesting.
The Ducks were more impactfuly active on the trade market. They shipped Kyle Palmieri to the Devils for picks. They swapped Emerson Etem with the Rangers
for Carl Hagelin. They gave James Wisniewski to the Hurricanes for goalie Anton Khudobin. They grabbed Kevin Bieksa from the Canucks for just a
second-round pick and then extended him for two years. That's two decent depth forwards, a defenseman more than capable of replacing Beauchemin, and
another goalie. Not bad production - especially considering the costs were reasonable.
Anaheim Ducks NHL Outlook
The top six forwards for this team are always good, and this year is no exception. I have high hopes in particular for Carl Hagelin in this new setting that should suit him better than New York in many ways. It's not immediately obvious who will play wing for Perry and Getzlaf, but that has mostly been true for the last decade. They are so good together that it's hard for a third-player to find his role. It's something to watch but not something to worry about. The bottom six was upgraded and should be fine as well. Chris Stewart could be a breakout candidate on his new team.
Defensively, Kevin Bieksa is a needed veteran influence to provide leadership and experience to a young defensive group. Cam Fowler already has an Olympics under his belt and just keeps getting better, so it's easy to forget that he's still only 23. Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are both young players who don't get the credit they should. Simon Despres was stolen from the Penguins in a trade last year and should take a big step forward in a full year in this system. This is a very good group. I'm not at all making light of a serious situation, but this just sounds so odd at first glance - third-pairing defender Clayton Stoner could face issues and distractions as the season progresses as he awaits trial for illegally killing a grizzly bear in Canada. That could affect him, but the team should be just fine no matter what happens - this is a solid defensive unit that is tough to play against.
The goaltending has upside but a lack of clarity. Frederik Andersen was supposed to be the clear No. 1, but he was just awful in the last half of the conference finals against Chicago. Anton Khudobin was lousy in Carolina, but a brick wall would struggle to stop pucks consistently behind a team that flawed. John Gibson has no limit to his talent but has struggled to capitalize so far. There is a winning combination there somewhere. It's just a question of whether they can realize the potential. This is the weakest aspect of this team.
Anaheim Ducks Schedule
Oct. 26. The third game of a five-game road trip takes them to Chicago for the first time since their playoff exit. You can be sure that Anaheim is already looking ahead to that contest with revenge on their minds. It has the chance to be one of the top games of the month of October.
Anaheim Ducks NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Ducks are +900 to win the Stanley Cup. That makes them the co-second choice with Tampa Bay and behind only Chicago. They are tied with the Kings at +550 as the second choice to win the Western Conference but are the outright favorites to win the Pacific Division at +160 - the Kings are the second choice at +275.
2015-16 Anaheim Ducks Predictions
This is a very strong, deep, talented team that is a serious Stanley Cup contender. They will ultimately go as far as their goaltending can take them. They made a lot of changes this summer and wound up as a better team. Bad news for other teams in the West. I pick them to win the West at this point.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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