The Anaheim Ducks opened training camps just like the other 30 NHL teams on Friday, September 15, 2017. The team has high hopes to not only be in the playoffs once again but to advance further than they have over the last four seasons.
They have some injuries to be concerned about, and some team aging to attempt to overcome the best way they can.
By playing competitive hockey, and hoping they don’t meet the Nashville Predators again in the second round may be their formula for success.
Here’s a list of 5 training camp questions they may need to answer to get that far.
1) Corey Perry’s level of play
Last season Perry didn’t impress even his ardent fans. With just 19 goals, 34 assists he may be slowing down a bit. He is 32-years-old now and expecting him to light the lamp 40 or 50 times in a season is a bit much.
There are obvious signs that Perry is not playing at the level the team expects from him. The last two seasons he had 215 shots on goal, but this last season his shooting percentage dropped seven percentage points from 15.8 to 8.8.
What that does to a good shooter is obvious. His goal production went from 34 in 2015/16 to 19 last season. Although the Ducks’ goal production as a team only dropped from 220 to 215, Perry’s contributions are vital to the team’s success,
The 2011 Hart Trophy winner did step up his play considerably in the playoffs last season. He collected four goals, seven assists in 17 games. His shooting percentage only went up to 9.9%, so he’s getting his chances, but as some players age their accuracy goes down to new depths of mediocrity.
If Perry can step up, the Ducks will have a much better chance of going to not only the Western Conference Finals but also the Stanley Cup Finals.
No pressure, right Corey?
2) Injured players status
Will Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Ryan Kesler be recovered enough from injuries to allow them to return and help the team?
Good question. Of the three perhaps the closest to recovering in time may be Lindholm. His surgically repaired left shoulder is still not allowing him to shoot the puck at full strength.
Likewise, Vatanen who had his right shoulder worked on, doesn’t even think he will be ready until sometime in November.
The biggest loss may be Kesler. He and Perry are a powerhouse duo who dominates in size and offensive ability. Losing one or both of them would be devastating. Kesler had troubles late last season when his hip was bothering him, but still managed 22 goals and 58 points.
3) Rickard Rakell – wing or center
It seems with Rakell’s success last season this is a logical choice. He scored 33 goals on the right wing last season and moving from that position doesn’t make sense just because his normal position has been at center ice.
He actually had an outstanding 18.6 shooting percentage on the wing, so it seems that is where Randy Carlyle will play him again this season.
This could all be dependent upon Kesler’s recovery status. Rakell may need to slot in there until Kesler is 100% again.
Still, with his stats, the guy has got to feel more comfortable on the wing where his defensive responsibilities decrease, and he doesn’t need to take as many faceoffs.
4) Jacob Larsson or Sam Steel
The injury bug may leave one spot open for either young prospect. With Lindholm and Vatanen both injured, Larsson may have the inside track to making the Duck’s final roster before their opening game at home against the Arizona Coyotes on October 4, 2017.
Sam Steel (what a great hockey name) is a 19-year-old center with exceptional playmaking ability while being one of the best players in the Western Hockey League competition last season with 131 points (50 goals, 81 assists). He’s impressed during the recent Prospect Showcase tournament in San Jose.
5) Ducks playoff blues
The Ducks made it to the Western Conference Finals last season only to lose to the upstart Nashville Predators, who also eliminated them the previous season in the first round.
So, the question becomes what do the Anaheim Ducks need to do to get past the Predators? Perhaps draw a different team? Their lack of success against the Preds will haunt them again if they wind playing against them once more.
In the last four seasons, despite finishing on top in the Pacific Division, they have lost in the first, second and Conference Finals twice. It’s got to leave a nasty taste in their mouths.
The Ducks are not getting any younger. Their average age is 28.38-years-old, which makes them the third oldest team in the NHL per eliteprospects.com
Whether or not that signifies they are starting to digress, or that they are experienced NHL team with good results to get to the playoffs, without bringing home Lord Stanley’s Cup… is yet to be determined.
That will begin to become more apparent as the Ducks begin play in 19 days.
What do you think of the Ducks’ training camp thus far and their chances this upcoming season? Let us know in the comments section below.
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