The Ducks are atop the Pacific Division. Today, I speak with JC from Anaheim Calling about some long contracts, what's going on between the pipes, and how they could let go of Patrick Maroon so easily.
Copper and Blue: The Ducks are currently leading the Pacific Division. When you're winning, there's a bunch of things that are going right. What's the biggest part of your success so far in 2016-17?
Anaheim Calling: I think the biggest contributor to Anaheim’s success this season has been their ability to make Honda Center an extremely difficult building to play in. This was a staple throughout the tenure of Bruce Boudreau as the Anaheim head coach and has carried over during Randy Carlyle’s return to the Anaheim bench. Anaheim’s defense has been especially stellar in Southern California as they are only giving up 2.04 GA/G in Honda Center. This home dominance could be really key come playoff time.
CNB: When Frederik Andersen was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the crease became John Gibson's. Gibson's SV% hovers around .920 every year, and it appears he's taking the reins this year. The Oilers have had some...suspect goaltending over the past decade, but seem to have the ship steered right with Cam Talbot. Was there any doubt about Gibson when Andersen was traded?
AC: There was definitely a lot of doubt in the fan base as many felt Anaheim had moved a proven #1 goaltender in Andersen for nearly nothing. Then you had the organization going all in on a guy who hadn’t spent an entire season at the NHL level yet. Gibson’s early struggles confirmed a lot of these doubts in some people’s minds but I think he has shown in the last month that he’s ready to be the guy. In my opinion, Gibson thrives on being the guy night-in and night-out. When he is starting tons of games in a row, he really seems to find his groove. We saw this last season when Andersen went down with his back injury and we’ve seen it this year when Carlyle seemed to lose faith in Bernier. If Anaheim wants Gibson to continue his great play I think they need to let him play as many games as he wants.
CNB: Tell us about a player this year who's exceeded expectations.
AC: Rickard Rakell has somehow exceeded very high expectations this season. Last season was really a breakout year for the young Swede as he recorded his first 20-goal campaign and he looked poised to repeat that performance. Anyone would have given Rakell the benefit of the doubt if he had started slow this season given he didn’t participate in training camp due to a contract dispute, but his fast start this year has blown everyone away. I will admit, his 22% shooting percentage is way too high and his goal scoring is due to regress a bit, but I honestly believe that Rakell’s future looks more like the play we’ve seen from him this season than what we saw in 2015-2016.
CNB: Looking atop of the roster, there are three players in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler who have no-movement clauses until the end of the 2020-21 season. Fortunately for the Ducks, they're also atop the point totals for Anaheim. How concerning is it for you that these contracts last until this trio's mid to late 30s?
AC: Well, if you look through the mentions on our Anaheim Calling Twitter account from Monday night, you will see I have taken a lot of flak for my thoughts on the Kesler contract over the last few weeks. Kesler has played stellar this season and Getzlaf is still an assist monster, despite everyone still wanting him to shoot the puck more often. And while Perry’s goal scoring is down, he is still producing a lot of points and is due to find the back of the net more often in the tail end of the season. But, when it comes to the contracts of these three players, I am very concerned. They are all due to hit some serious regression in the next few years. And by the time their contracts are due to end, I don’t wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all be getting paid much more than they are worth. The biggest issue is that these contracts could really hamper Anaheim’s ability to build a good team around those three. Players like Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen will be due for new contracts before the 2020-2021 season, and if Anaheim wants to continue to compete they’ll need to bring in some big free agents like they did with Kesler a few years ago. Bob Murray has worked a lot of cap magic over the last few years, but unless one or more of Getzlaf/Perry/Kesler are willing to waive their NMC, Anaheim could be in big trouble.
CNB: Finally, former Duck Patrick Maroon is having fun in Edmonton this year. With 18 goals, he's currently leading the team. In your opinion, what made him expendable in Anaheim?
AC: I think the thing that made Pat expendable in Anaheim was that he was a redundancy. Anaheim has always had a lot of size and grit. And while I have always enjoyed watching Maroon play, I think Anaheim was looking to open up more room in their top 9 for younger and quicker players. Anaheim is still a heavy team without Maroon but I think they have become more skilled and quick in their top 9 with guys like Rakell, Silfverberg, and Kase on the wings.
Edmonton is at the Honda Center to take on the Ducks tonight.
Thanks to JC from Anaheim Calling for his time!