Hockey World Blog

2015-16 Anaheim Ducks Season Preview

Last season Bruce Boudreau advanced past the second round for the first time in his career. They unfortunately ran into a red-hot Chicago team that eventually won the Stanley Cup. The Ducks on paper have one of the most talented offensive units in the league and they only got better heading into the season.

If there’s anything they should worry about, it’s the goaltending situation. Frederik Andersen was the No. 1 goalie all of last season and looked like a legit starting goalie until he was shelled in the Conference Final against Chicago. They brought in Anton Khudobin for some additional experience to put some pressure on Andersen. Anderson was on a bad Carolina team and a new club with better defense should give him some confidence. This leaves John Gibson the odd-man out, leaving him to start the season in San Diego but is an adequate NHL-level backup.

Defense is also a point of concern for Anaheim but they made some improvements as they tried to inject some young players who have room to grow. While he’s not young, Kevin Bieksa was added to replace free agent Francois Beauchemin. He’ll be able to bring physicality as well as a veteran presence in the top six. Hampus Lindholm should take a big step in his progression being paired with Bieksa to develop into top level of NHL defensemen. Cam Fowler should be paired with Simon Despres but as good as Despres is with his offense, he’s a liability with taking bad penalties and pinching in the zone at the wrong time. Sami Vatanen’s offense provides additional depth down the line.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better top-six forward unit than the one Anaheim has. They got better by adding Carl Hagelin to replace Matt Beleskey. You still have the top duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but their window for a second Stanley Cup is shrinking. Ryan Kesler had a big first season in Anaheim but he couldn’t transfer his performance to the Chicago series. Jakob Silfverberg had a career-year last season and he’s set to prove that last season was more of a stepping stone to a solid career versus a fluke. Additions of Shawn Horcoff and Chris Stewart on the lower lines adds toughness and grit to compete against similar lines in the Conference. Stewart is a player to keep an eye on because he’s getting old for his skill set and he needs to prove he can stay in the league and not get replaced by younger cheaper players.

Anaheim has been cursed, as they lost a Game 7 for the third straight season. They haven’t won a Game 7 in any round since beating Calgary in the first round in 2006. Boudreau has gone only one season without winning a division title and that was the year in Washington where he was sacked early in the season. His players cannot afford to come out of the blocks to start this season and one way Boudreau can play a role in that is keeping a short leash on Andersen in goal and make a switch at the first sign of trouble. Expect them to win the Pacific again because the gap between them and the rest of the Division is greater than any other division in the league. But once the playoffs start, they must find a way to end a series in six games of less because not many people would pick them to win a Game 7.

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