The Anaheim Ducks are among the league's elite teams again, and due in large part to management. The Ducks draft well, trade well, and retain their best assets. And unlike some teams, they understand asset management. Remember Matt Beleskey? The Ducks have won the division four years in a row, and they haven't done so by overpaying free agents left and right; even the Ryan Kesler contract looks okay now.
Let's go back to the middle of the season. The Ducks needed to shake things up, and all signs say they should fire the coach. But they don't. Instead, they make some shrewd moves. Carl Hagelin is a fine player, but didn't fit the role the Ducks were needing. If anything, he was too fast. Coaches and GMs are known to put too much weight on +/-, but a piece needed to be moved and Hag's production wasn't what it needed to be.
Hagelin was moved for David Perron, a guy who has played beside generational talent (and David Backes) in multiple cities. He's had a weird career. The other guy on the bottom left of that graph, Patrick Maroon, was also traded.
Perron isn't as talented as Hagelin, but he fits what the Ducks do better.
None of this will surprise you: the Ducks are big, experienced down the middle, and have a great knack for shooting the puck. Shea Weber & Roman Josi have their work assignments: keep Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf out of the slot.
Both Getzlaf and Perry shoot well more than the league average from the middle-high slot. No surprises there. But here are a pair of stats that may make you raise your eyebrows:
- Perry only played 60% of his TOI this year beside Ryan Getzlaf. From 2011-2015, he played over 3395 of 3952 even strength minutes with Kesler.
- Kesler was the team leader in TOI this year among forwards.
...while taking the harder defensive assignments. Impressive. And he did this AFTER being paid stupid money. Look for Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg to take on the harder assignments, which will allow Perry and his band of merry men to play more offense. Andrew Cogliano rounds out the the Kesler line, and he's right at home at that role.
Much like the Predators, the Ducks have their lines set in tandems with a third piece that can be alternated around. The Ducks seem to be going back to the well of Getzlaf with Perry, with the tenured players back beside each other over the last several games. But who will be the third man?
Ducks practice lines: 57-15-29, 88-67-10, 7-17-33, 16-44-62, 37-22-25. 4-2, 47-42, 24-45, 53-5.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) April 13, 2016
That's implying Perron will be back in the lineup. But... there's more:
Rickard Rakell said he was in the hospital for six days after his appendix ruptured. Said he felt good in all drills.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) April 13, 2016
Rakell is a key piece, and he's shown to be a good player in multiple roles, and the Ducks would love to use him as Perry's center. Perron was very coy about his own health, but those quotes are from Wednesday. For all we know, he's fine by now.
What all of this means:
Nashville will need to pick and choose their defensemen wisely. My suggestion: Weber and Josi will have to play some big minutes against Getzlaf and Perry (not a shock). Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm would be the ideal pairing to support the line that gets matched up against the Kesler line. I trust Ekholm and Ellis to cycle the puck better than the other option. Speaking of, Anthony Bitetto is a key player. Why? He allows Ekholm and Ellis to be reunited. It will probably be the Ribeiro line facing off against the Kesler unit, which sets up the other matchups.
Something to pay close attention to: who plays against the Getzlaf line? History has shown that Mike Fisher has not done great against Getzlaf (other than fighting him). In just under an hour's worth of even-strength time over the last four years:
- Getzlaf has 3 goals, 3 assists
- Over 65% of the shot attempts were by the Ducks while the two were on the ice
- 8 goals for the Ducks, 1 for the Preds
In short, the Preds will need the Ryan Johansen line to get the better of Anaheim's top lines a few times, and depend on some big minutes from their key defensemen. The top line in Nashville is built to play on both ends of the ice, so we can all hope that doesn't lead to an over-exposure of the fourth line.
All stats are from War-On-Ice.com, hockey-analysis.com, and hockeyviz.com.