Will these young guns fill holes in the lineup?

Posted: 04/24/2012 by bc in Uncategorized

It’s no secret that our Ducks are challenged across the blue line and down the middle. In many ways primary responsibility for the FUBAR of 2011-12 is on Ryan Getzlaf, Lubomir Visnovsky and Toni Lydman. OCR’s Eric Stephens has sounded like a defense counsel offering up the injury excuse for the defenders. While paying through an injury is usually admirable, most often it’s not the best decision. Professional hockey isn’t about excuses. It’s about winning.
Either Getzlaf or his apologists have any excuse for his off-year. He just flat-out sucked. San Jose, a team that also attempted to build its offense around a perimeter player also gets a fail.  Teams built around perimeter or one-dimensional players, like these Sharks, our Ducks, the Pavel Bure led Vancouver Canucks and the Marcel Dionne era L.A. Kings consistently come up short.
Ducks were unable to find anybody to pick up the slack for Visnovsky and Lydman. By season end it looked like AHL journeyman Nate Guenin had passed Lydman on the depth chart. I also wonder if Mat Clark might have if given the chance.
Mat Clark is a great place to start to see if we have the horses within the org to plug the holes in the lineup. At 6’3″ 203#’s Mat qualifies as a light heavyweight by NHL standards today. In two NHL games….

Clark, “Didn’t put us in trouble,” noted Coach Boudreau. He assignment back to Syracuse was not so much a demotion as it was a chance to give him some playoff push experience. Look for Clark to make the show in camp. His stay@home strong positional game is exactly what’s needed on the back line.

Luca Sbisa took steps forward and one step backward down the stretch. Look for the step backward to be not so severe as Luca puts the finishing touches on his game in his upcoming 4th & 5th NHL campaigns.

Cam Fowler is a year behind Sbisa on the learning curve and man did it show last season. Decision making without the puck and less reliance on skill when defending one on one. Look for Cam to show less reliance on the poke check and more willingness to play the man first next season. Fowler isn’t a big man but some grad school lessons with Scot Niedermayer on how to use leverage against bigger opponents should give him the confidence to engage opponents physically. Nieds dazzled us with his skating but among my fave memories was watching him dump big guys like Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen on their butts.
If Lubo and Lydman’s best days are in the rear view mirror and Brookbank maybe going UFA, Ducks first priority this financial season has to be the blue line. Don’t get me wrong, Francois Beauchemin is a legit top 4 NHL player but when’s your #1 guy you need an upgrade.
Most likely outcome is that Lubo & Lydman bounce most of the way back while  Sbisa, Fowler, Clark and Guenin improve enough to pick up the slack. Touch wood though because it’s another non-playoff year if that doesn’t happen.
If Clark isn’t ready there are some affordable UFA’s who can fill the role of a physical stay@home D-man. Willie Mitchell, Hal Gill, Niklas Grossman, Johnny Boychuk, Adrian Aucoin, Brad Stuart, Bryan Allen to name most of the top guys.

Eric Stephens trolled the wreckage that is the UFA market for centers. Ice looks at available second line centers and proves there’s no there there. Yeah you can make an argument for bringing in a checking line match up center like Paul Gaustad. But he’s the best available. Somebody will overpay. Other than a specialist like Gaustad, nobody represents a significant improvement on Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino. Add Peter Holland and Ryan O’Marra to the mix and Ducks might waive bye-bye to Rod Pelley and possibly Saku Koivu.
I trulyhate to see a quality guy like Saku Koivu leave under these circumstances. Fact is though, we need to get bigger and put some snarl down the middle.  This is especially critical if we lose Brookbank and Parros. We have 3 young big guys in Bonino, Holland and O’Marra. Do you commit to youth without having some veteran insurance like a Koivu or Gaustad? At the same time we have to recognize that Saku Koivu is more role player than a top six forward.

The alternative of course is to trade but usually that’s about as effective as rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Are we really a better team a year after Lupul & Gardiner for Beauchemin?

My gut instinct is that our Ducks are likely 2-3 years away from solidifying themselves as a perennial playoff team. That time could be shortened if DSP, Etem and Palmieri can provide consistent complimentary scoring that we didn’t quite get from the vets. We need 15+ goals from each of those guns next season.

What say you, roll the dice with the kids or bring back the vets?

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Comments
  1. czhokej says:

    I had higher hopes for the young guys this season, and they were still not quite ready. Hockey these days is a very physical game, and as you pointed out, we do not have size and toughness. Our D was full of holes, most of the time. Even if Lubo and Toni are OK and back to perfect health, we still need, as I like to call it, one big mean SOB on the blue line. Koivu is still a valuable player, and I would hate to lose him. His size and age are the impeding factors (3rd line center?). As you said – it will take 2-3 years to rebuild. My answer to the headline question is unfortunately NO. There were several rookies scoring around 20 goals this season, and it was painful to watch Getz and his hopelessly inept play. With him as a leader, we will have another mediocre season.

    • Getzlaf withered in the face of adversity rather than rising to the challenge. My gut sense is that his role will be reduced and his responsibility spread around. By that I mean less TOI as Coach employs four lines.
      The young guys, Fowler, Sbisa, Bonino, DSP, Palmieri must all live up to their billing.
      I’m told Ryan is thrilled to get his own line and anxious to prove Gabby’s faith in him. The quote I got is Ryan asking rhetorically, “Do you know how good I’m going to be under Coach Boudreau?” Bobby shared that Boudreau set anything less than 40 goals from Ryan is unacceptable. No doubt Coach will give Ryan the opportunity to score 40, even by his anchoring the 2nd PP unit.
      In selecting Boudreau, Bob Murray has gone counter trend. He brought in a offensive guy at a time when the shut down teams (St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Nashville) are beating the power houses (Chicago, Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose) in the Western Conference playoffs.
      The scary part is there’s no evidence supporting the fact that Murray knows he’s operating counter cyclical. Maybe by dumb luck we wake up in September and discover that the 80’s Oilers and Flying Frenchmen have been reincarnated as the 2012-13 Anaheim Ducks?

  2. bbdux93 says:

    You and CZ have pointed all of the reasons why the answer to the headline is No.

    • You gotta love bb, eh cz. How much time did we put into our posts? 2 or more hours? I know mine went through a couple-3 drafts and spell check. Jeez, I really thought I was posting positive. Apparently not 😉
      One question bb, are we better off turning it over to the young guys and suffer the pangs for a year or two?

  3. bbdux93 says:

    Answer to your question – BC – No. I would like to see our young players brought along and I think that’s done best with the help of some strong vets.

    As CZ said, I’d like to see a guy with a nasty attitude brought in to improve our defense. I have faith that Fowler and Sbisa will improve their game – but they need help & Beau just isn’t enough. Vish and Lydman – who knows. If Vish can’t improve he’s too expensive to keep

    I hope they’ll keep Saku for another year. All year I watched him “coaching” young guys on the bench. For me – you can’t replace that kind of mentoring. Yes the coaching staff directs the overall play – but guys like Saku and before him Todd Marchant – go beyond what “the boss” says.

    I look forward to Bobby centering his own line and challenging the Getzlaugh line for the number 1 position. We may need to replace some of our smaller O. That said, Andy Mac is small and he still has it.

    • Lubo is in an interesting situation bb. His cap tab is $5.3million but he’ll be paid only $3million. To the extent he bounces back, Lubo could be a real bargain.

  4. ffe155 says:

    Before we ask the Young Guns to step it up I think we need to get the guys earning the big dollars to justify their contracts and produce in 2013.

    Going into this season I thought the RPG line would produce 100+ goals. In 2011 they put up 103 with Getz missing 15 games. I didn’t think Perry would bag 50 again, but I thought 40 was a realistic expectation for him. I thought Ryan should be around 35 and Getz around 25. Instead they ended up with a total of 79, a drop of 24 from 2011. That’s 70% of the total team drop-off of 34 GS (235 in 2011, 201 in 2012). It’s even more troubling since Getz played 15 more games this year. Our Big Three needs to match or surpass the 100 goal total for the Ducks to be a play-off contender in 2013. I think Perry and Ryan will do their part, Getz is the big question mark.

    BB also needs to figure out how to regain our PP mojo. We dropped from second in the league in PP% in 2011 to 21st in 2012. In our playoff series with Nashville last year the PP was clicking at an amazing 36.4%. Getz wants to be the playmaker, but his PP assists dropped from 20 in 2011 to 19 this year despite the increase in 15 games played. The biggest drop in PP productivity came from our pointmen. In 2011, Lubo and Cam had 43 PP assists and 18 PP goals between them. This year that pair fell off to a total off 21 PP assists and 3 PP goals. Lubo played 12 less games and no one stepped up in his absence. Did the league solve the Duck’s PP? We need to get back in the top 10 in PP% in 2013. If Lubo is done, then finding a new PP QB is a must.

    • Good points ffe155. Toward the end of the season Lubo was letting it rip but his accuracy was F Troop quality. Who knows about Getz. He’s never shown any willingness or ability to use all of his skills.

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