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The Anaheim Ducks’ season came to an end about a week and a half ago, with the team missing the playoffs for a fourth year in a row.
It was a really exciting start for the Ducks, who came out of the gate stronger than anyone expected and were very much in the playoff picture through the first half of the year. However, things went downhill in the back half and from the All-Star Break onwards, the Ducks were the worst team in the NHL.
Rather than looking at what went wrong (which I posted an article on already), there’s also the reality that the Ducks were surpassing expectations and their slide in the second half, while disastrous, left the Ducks in a much more realistic overall position by the end of the season.
To look at the positives though, it has to start with how the Ducks’ young talent performed. Troy Terry took a massive step in his game, scoring 37 goals and 67 points in 75 games. It’s a huge increase from prior seasons and his emergence makes a major impact for the top of the Ducks’ forward group going forward. Trevor Zegras was also excellent in his first full NHL season, scoring 23 goals and 61 points in 75 games, with some highlight-reel plays throughout the year. Then on the blue line, Jamie Drysdale already solidified himself as a key member of the defense group and while there’s obviously still room for him to grow his game, there shouldn’t be much doubt about him turning into a legitimate top-pair defenseman down the road.
Isac Lundestrom also looked great, while Sonny Milano produced like nobody expected him to and while both players did cool off as the season went on, they each showed promise. Meanwhile, Simon Benoit was also a nice surprise on the blue line.
Aside from the young talent, we also saw Adam Henrique bounce back to a pace of nearly 60 points-per-82 games (42 points in 58 games), while Kevin Shattenkirk looked a lot better after a pretty rough first year in Anaheim. Cam Fowler was really good for the Ducks overall, Sam Carrick was a great surprise and Anthony Stolarz proved to be a very capable backup goalie as well.
The Ducks also had a good trade deadline, acquiring a number of picks and prospects, while moving Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Rickard Rakell. It was a key step to build for the future and while it leaves them with holes next year, with Ryan Getzlaf retiring as another big loss, it was certainly the right decision to deal them.
That said, Anaheim is far from being a complete team and they’d need to make several additions in order to try to be more competitive next season. There were also players this year who simply didn’t perform.
It’s easy to forget that Max Comtois led the Ducks in both goals and points last year. He made little impact this season, scoring just six goals and 16 points in 52 games and really slid down the team’s offensive depth chart.
I also don’t know what the Ducks can do with John Gibson. He’s now had three straight seasons of subpar performance and despite a great first half of the year, he was disastrous from February onwards. Even if he’s not getting a lot of help from his teammates at times, it’s hard to justify that he’s still a top goaltender in the league and if you need a comparison, just look at how well Stolarz performed for the Ducks this year.
Regardless, I think the Ducks probably finished the year where many would’ve expected them to. While a strong first half of the season may have built up expectations that the Ducks were something they weren’t, Anaheim is still very much a team needing to build for the future rather than the present.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM MAY
Final week of season sees Ducks beat Sharks and EBUG used in loss to Stars
Ducks hire Rob DiMaio as Assistant GM
Ducks sign Calle Clang