To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: Anaheim Ducks
2014-15 record: 51-24-7, 1st in the Pacific
How they finished: Lost in seven games to Chicago in the Western Conference Finals
Coach: Bruce Boudreau (5th season)
Notable additions: G Anton Khudobin, LW Carl Hagelin, D Kevin Bieksa, C Shawn Horcoff, RW Chris Stewart, assistant coach Paul MacLean
Notable subtractions: RW Kyle Palmieri, D Francois Beauchemin, LW Matt Beleskey, G Jason LaBarbera, assistant coach Brad Lauder
Schedule against the Capitals: Fri. Jan. 22 at Washington, Mon. March 7 at Anaheim
Outlook: For the first time in his NHL head coaching career, Bruce Boudreau finally took a team past the second round of the playoffs last season. The Ducks came within one win of defeating eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the Western Conference Finals. Rather than ease the pressure, however, the scrutiny of Boudreau was higher than ever after the season and it wasn’t clear whether he would even keep his job until assistant coach Brad Lauder was fired at the beginning of June.
Not surprisingly, this team’s strength is its offense. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are as dynamic a pair as you can find in the NHL. Ryan Kesler also had a huge impact in his first season with Anaheim, though he was badly outmatched by Jonathan Toews in the playoffs.
The loss of Matt Beleskey hurts offensively, but his 22 goals last season are more than he scored in his previous three seasons combined. At 27, there is a strong chance that last season was an anomaly and that he will fail to produce similar numbers next season. Carl Hagelin is a much more consistent player and a strong penalty killer who should fit in nicely in Anaheim.
Goaltending was a question mark heading into the playoffs, but Frederik Andersen silenced the critics...initially. He looked very good against the overmatched Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, but he was not up to the task against Chicago, failing to record a save percentage higher than .900 in any of the last four games of the series.
At 25, Andersen most likely has not reached his ceiling yet as a player, but he will need to be better if he hopes to lead Anaheim to the Stanley Cup.
If you cannot upgrade your starting goalie, you need to upgrade your defense. While the Ducks did add Kevin Bieksa to replace free agent Francois Beauchemin, they did nothing else to improve defensively. The question for this team will be just how far they can go with an average defense and average goaltending.
Expectations: The only potential stumbling block for Anaheim is if they get off to a slow start. Given the very real possibility that Boudreau could have been fired at the end of last season, if the Ducks get off to a bad start in the fall the team could start collapsing as the players wait for the other shoe to drop on Boudreau.
But that’s not likely to happen.
The gap between the Ducks and the rest of the Pacific is wider than in any other Division in the NHL. This is a very good team that, although they may not have the greatest goaltending, has enough defensively to supplement a world-class offense. If Chicago’s new-look lineup takes a significant step back this season, Anaheim will be one of the top contender to win the West and the Cup.
See more team previews:
Arizona Coyotes 8/2
Calgary Flames 8/3
Edmonton Oilers 8/4
Los Angeles Kings 8/5
San Jose Sharks 8/6
Vancouver Canucks 8/7
Chicago Blackhawks 8/8
Colorado Avalanche 8/9
Dallas Stars 8/10
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13
Winnipeg Jets 8/14
Boston Bruins 8/15
Buffalo Sabres 8/16
Detroit Red Wings 8/17
Florida Panthers 8/18
Montreal Canadiens 8/19
Ottawa Senators 8/20<
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30