With NHL pre-season just over 30 days aways and the regular season just under 50 days away, it's time to gear up for the 2013-2014 NHL season. This will be the first instalment in the new "Season Preview" series, where we'll be teeing up the season for all 30 NHL teams. Our first stop will be in Anaheim, as we take a look at the Ducks upcoming season.
The Ducks are coming off a solid 2013 campaign that saw them back in the playoffs after a disappointing 2012-2013. Unfortunately, the Ducks didn't stay long in the postseason, as the Detroit Red Wings eliminated them in the first round.
Much like the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks were also able to ride their hot start right through to the playoffs. The Ducks opened the season winning 13 of their first 16 games. But with a full training camp and pre-season games, catching teams sleeping early on wont be easy. The good news is the Ducks will get their first training camp under Bruce Broudreau and have time to adjust to his fast-passed offence right off the bat.
Heading into next season there are three crucial questions the Ducks must answer. Who will play on the top line, will Teemu Selanne return and who starts between the pipes?
After sending Bobby Ryan to Ottawa this offseason, the Ducks must now find someone to step up and Dustin Penner, Jakob Silfverberg and the Ducks x-factor from last season Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri saw some time on the top line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf during the playoffs and may be able to spark the top line again. After putting up 10 points last season and having some experience on that line, Palmieri may get the first chance to crack the top line. Jakob Silfverberg would be another player who could slide up the line-up. He was acquired in the Bobby Ryan deal and also put up 10 goals last season. Dustin Penner could be reunited with his linemates who helped bring the Stanley Cup to Anaheim in 2007, should he get a chance to play on the top line. Penner, Silfverberg and Palmieri will be fighting it out to gain chemistry and a chance to anchor the Ducks top line.
fill his spot. There are three players who could easily fill in on that top line;
The great Teemu Selanne's future is once again up in the air. The Ducks have said that if Selanne wants to return they would leave a spot for him on their second line. Selanne now 43, is an unrestricted free-agent, but has made one of the greatest late career resurgences with the Ducks over the past 8 seasons. Does Selanne have one more season in him? He scored 12 goals and put up 24 points in 46 games last season with the Ducks, pretty solid numbers for someone in their 40's. If Selanne does decide to come back for one more season, it will no doubt help solidify the Ducks roster.
The Ducks don't have a goaltending controversy, they have a goaltending blessing right now. Both Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller are playing stellar hockey and they get along perfectly. Last season the John Gibson. Gibson burst onto the national scenes last season for his performance during the World Junior Championships, in which he not only lead the USA to a championship, he was also named MVP. In all likely hood Gibson will start the season in the AHL, but it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine him finishing the season with the Ducks, especially after he turns some heads at the US Olympic evaluation camp. If Fasth or Hiller, go down with an injury Gibson will be ready to step up to the plate. I'm not sure there is a team in the NHL with a better goaltending future than the Anaheim Ducks.
Ducks rode both Fasth and Hiller for various stretches and it worked, plus they both got along great off the ice. Hiller is entering the final year of his contract and Fasth is looking to take over the crease after signing his two-year extension. Both goalies will battle hard and likely split time for the majority of the season. Waiting in the wings is almost NHL ready goaltender
Player to Watch-
After a rough season in 2011-2012, Getlaf bounced back putting up 49 points in 44 games last season. Has Getzlaf re-found his game? Can he lead the Ducks back to the post-season in 2014?
Things are looking bright in Anaheim next season. They have a steady mix of young players who are desperate to prove themselves and veterans who want to prove they've still got game. Riding either Fasth or Hiller throughout the season will help give the defence a little added boost. Look for the Ducks to make another trip to the postseason.