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Where do the Ducks go from here?

February 6, 2023, 9:18 PM ET [1 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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The Anaheim Ducks return from the All-Star Break tonight, as they face the Dallas Stars in the first half of a back-to-back set.

The Ducks are coming off a pretty strong stretch of games prior to the break, where they won four of their last five matchups. While their quality of competition wasn’t overly high for that stretch, they did notably pick up a road win over the Colorado Avalanche and other than that one victory, they weren’t necessarily relying on goaltending like they have for many of their wins this year.

One key is that Anaheim’s top players are upping their game, with Troy Terry bouncing back after slowing down a bit in December and early January. Then Trevor Zegras has been dominant in 2023 as well, only failing to register a point in two of his 13 games of the calendar year. In that stretch of 13 games, he’s scored eight goals and 15 points. Meanwhile, Adam Henrique has scored in six of his last eight games and Cam Fowler has chipped in from the blue line, with seven points in his last five games. Special teams battles are still an issue, but the Ducks were managing a lot more offense before the break. Essentially, the team did have a bit of momentum, and could look to build on their stronger play this week.

That all said, we’re now under a month away from the trade deadline, and given where the Ducks are at, that’s going to be the focus for now. There are only 32 games left for Anaheim this season and no matter how well they perform through that stretch, they won’t be getting to the postseason.

If they have a pending UFA they’re able to get assets for, they shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity. The main focus will be on John Klingberg (despite the down year), but Dmitry Kulikov, Kevin Shattenkirk and Anthony Stolarz could all potentially fetch some future assets, even if they’re minimal. In terms of non-UFAs, you have to imagine retaining salary on Adam Henrique could make him tradeable after his bounce back year as well, while the Ducks could also be looking to move on from Max Comtois.

The organization has already done a good job accumulating draft picks: they notably have three second-round picks and two third-round picks this year, along with an extra second-round pick in 2024 as well. At the same time, building for the future has to continue to be the team’s priority, and moving out some roster players can help them to get there.

On the ice, the focus just needs to be on making sure young talent is being used efficiently. Mason McTavish should keep a large role with decent linemates and Trevor Zegras should probably be used consistently down the middle. Ideally, we see some chemistry form between different lines and pairings that could potentially carry into next season.

Looking ahead, this summer, it'll be a matter of re-evaluating and looking to improve. In terms of re-evaluating, it likely starts with head coach Dallas Eakins. Set to miss the playoffs for his fourth year in a row as coach of the Ducks, he holds just a .431 points percentage with the team. With questionable lineup decisions and the team taking a step back this season despite quite a few offseason additions, you have to think the organization takes a look to determine whether or not Eakins is the right person to lead the team into the future.

When it comes to improving, we can probably expect the Ducks to be active again in the offseason. Drafting well is key, obviously, but the organization had the right idea last summer with trying to add some talent through free agency, even if some of the moves didn’t work out. Anaheim has cap space and should be using it this summer.

Two other pieces of business that will become larger stories as the season ends are contract extensions for Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras. The two forwards will both be restricted free agents this summer and getting both players locked up long-term is going to be crucial.

There are still a lot of games remaining this season, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the team closes out the year. Not only that, but who Anaheim ends up moving prior to the deadline (and for what) will also be a major focus.

We'll see how the rest of the year plays out.

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