2014 Anaheim Ducks Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/24/2014
One thing you definitely have to say about the Ducks this year is that they are noticeably less Finnish. Both Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu have retired. Selanne is 44 and Koivu is 39, so that is a lot of veteran experience and leadership for the team to lose. Luckily, neither guy had been contributing close to their peak, so the loss will be felt in the dressing room more than on the ice. Selanne dropped a bomb in his autobiography released in Finland late this summer when he blamed coach Bruce Boudreau for his lack of playing time and suggested that he would have played another year if it weren't for the coach.
Beyond the two Finns, the team has gone through a remarkable amount of change for a team that was as solid as this one was last year. The obvious goal was to get better, but it remains to be seen if they have achieved that goal. There is so little margin for error atop the West, and some of the biggest moves involve some real risk, so you can't yet be certain of where the team is at compared to last year.
Anaheim Ducks Offseason Moves
The high-profile move was the trade for Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks. He'll slot in as the second center behind Ryan Getzlaf, and if he can perform to his capabilities and leave behind the bad attitude that clouded his last year in Vancouver then he could be a big acquisition. The price wasn't low, though. The team gave up their first-round pick this year, power play specialist Nick Bonino; who was third on the team in scoring last year; and serviceable defenseman Luca Sbisa. If Kesler finds chemistry and shines then the cost is totally acceptable. Kesler's last great year was 2011, though, so there is no guarantee in this deal.
The next noteworthy move involves a clear move to the future in the nets. Jonas Hiller, who fell out of favor late last year, is in Calgary now, so the team will rely on youngsters Frederik Andersen and John Gibson to carry the team. Both had stretches of sheer brilliance last year, but it remains to be seen if they can thrive in full-time service. Jason LaBarbera was added as a veteran free agent option in net, but things will be really bleak if the Ducks have to rely on him at all. In front of the goalies, Clayton Stoner was added as a decent-but-underwhelming defenseman. An intriguing gamble was taken with Dany Heatley, who was added on a bargain one-year deal. He has scored 50 goals twice, but he has been absolutely awful the last few years. If he can find his game - perhaps spending some time with Getzlaf and Perry - then he could be the bargain of the year in the league. There is a better chance, though, that he will amount to little.
Trading away their first-rounder didn't really hurt - it was the 24th pick, and they had the 10th pick from trading Bobby Ryan to Ottawa last year. They picked Nick Ritchie. He is a versatile and exciting player, but I would be shocked if he didn't wind up back in junior for another year.
Anaheim Ducks NHL Outlook
This team is very good. They had the best record in the West last year, and as long as Kesler is comfortable and the goalies don't fade under pressure then they probably got better in the offseason. I can't help but feel, though, that every break went their way last year. They could play very well this year, not reach the same heights in the standings, and still count it as a successful year. In the West there are just so many very good teams that success is tough. This is unquestionably a playoff team, though, and it is likely a team that will do some real damage throughout the season. I remain mostly bullish.
Anaheim Ducks Schedule
The team opens with four in a row on the road , headlined by a season opener in Pittsburgh. That should be an epic contest and a great early measuring stick for both elite squads - though bettors will have to resist the urge to overreact to a lopsided outcome in either direction.
Anaheim Ducks NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
At 12/1 the Ducks are tied with Pittsburgh and St. Louis and the fourth choice to win the Stanley Cup behind only Chicago, Boston and L.A.. Not surprisingly, then, they are tied with the Blues at 6/1 to repeat as Western Conference champs, behind the Blackhawks and Kings. They are the second choice to win the Pacific Division at 11/4, compared to the Kings at 7/4. In relative terms, at least, there is value in that last price.
2014-15 Anaheim Ducks Predictions
I am optimistic about the goaltending - especially John Gibson. I am also somewhat optimistic that the low-risk Heatley move could pay off. I am less optimistic, though, that full value will be realized on the Kesler move. He's a moody player, and chemistry with Boudreau is not a given. Performance below expectations would have a negative impact on the team because of the price paid for him and the significance of acquiring him. Add it all up, and though there is no doubt at all that this is a playoff squad, I don't expect them reach quite the same levels as last year. They had 116 points last year. Coming within 10 points of that total this year would count as a major success.
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