Ducks: 10 Things You Need To Know
By Pierre LeBrun
Although it was nice to be back into the postseason after missing it the year before, the first-round loss to the Nashville Predators left the Ducks thoroughly disappointed. A healthy Hiller returns this season and the Ducks hope to return to the playoffs and challenge for the Pacific Division title.
"I think you're seeing this team trying to push back up," Ducks GM Bob Murray told ESPN.com. "And I think we have some younger players that won the Stanley Cup and it's their time now, it's time for them to take the ball. We'll see how they do."
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Atlantic: NJD | NYI | NYR | PHI | PIT
NE: BOS | BUF | MTL | OTT | TOR
SE: CAR | FLA | TMB | WAS | WPG
Central: CHI | CMB | DET | NSH | STL
NW: CGY | COL | EDM | MIN | VAN
Pacific: ANA | DAL | LAK | PHX | SAN
1. What does Perry do for an encore?
The league's only 50-goal man last season, Perry brought his game to a whole new level and deservedly won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP after scoring clutch goal upon clutch goal down the stretch.
Capturing the Hart was "something you definitely dream about," Perry told ESPN.com. "[I will] just continue to grow as a player and as a person. You try to improve on the season before. It was a great season, but you want to improve and do different things. If I don't score 50, as long as we're winning, it doesn't really matter. Team goals come first for me."
2. Does Perry's success rub off on Getzlaf?
Ryan Getzlaf missed 15 games through injury last season and still produced 76 points (19-57), which is impressive. But there's still a sense that he has the kind of potential to win an Art Ross Trophy in this league. Quite frankly, very few people in and around the organization would have ever predicted his buddy Perry would beat him to a Hart Trophy.
Now, it'll be interesting if Getzlaf, who was thrilled for Perry, uses this as friendly motivation to try to go out there and win his own Hart Trophy this season. Nothing but good things can come out of that for the Ducks.
3. Can Hiller stay healthy?
Vertigo-like symptoms shelved Hiller for most of the second half last season, a crushing development for the team and the goalie. He had just appeared in his first All-Star Game, but the symptoms began soon after that.
He has been symptom-free since June and, knock on wood, appears back to full health. The Ducks have to hope it is so; Hiller is a monumental part of their success. The thing is, no doctor was able to tell Hiller how he got it in the first place. That's why everyone is nervous in Anaheim. But so far, so good.
4. Welcome back, Mr. Selanne
Teemu Selanne thought long and hard about his future this summer, especially when his left knee didn't respond well after offseason surgery. But in the end, on the eve of camp, the 41-year-old decided to return for one last season. And everyone in Anaheim exhaled.
"He's just a special person and a special guy," said Murray. "Yes, there's the hockey part and what he brings, but also there's the dressing room. He walks in there and it lights up. Every day is a good day when he comes to play. It's just so important for our hockey team."
The Finnish Flash's importance on the second line is gigantic. There is no second line without him. And without a second line, it allows opposing teams to focus all their energy on stopping the Getzlaf-Perry-Bobby Ryan line. That's why Selanne's 80 points (31-49) were so important for the Ducks last season.
5. Depth moves
No core-busting moves in Anaheim this past offseason, just dressing things up around the core with depth moves. The Ducks added forward Andrew Cogliano, defenseman Kurtis Foster and winger Jean-Francois Jacques (who was later sent down to the minors after a suspension). Cogliano can skate and will be a flexible option for the Ducks since he can play at center or wing on either the second or third line.
"We wanted some speed, we felt we lacked speed around here," said Murray. "Andrew definitely has that. He's coming off a situation which happens a lot, where he is with a group when they started rebuilding Edmonton and now there's a new sheriff in town and a new rebuilding process. So he kind of got stuck in the middle of that. He's going to get an opportunity here."
6. It begins in Europe ... again
Five years after the Ducks played the first edition of the Premiere Games in London, they are overseas again, this time in Finland. And while the Ducks really didn't benefit from the trip in September 2007 (the club was dealing with Scott Niedermayer's temporary retirement and a Cup hangover), Murray sees the positives in it this time.
"The whole Jokerit game for Teemu will be huge," said Murray. "And going to Finland, we've also got Saku [Koivu] and Toni [Lydman], so that will be nice. The Stanley Cup hangover had an effect last time. This time, we're going to use it as a team-building, team-bonding trip to help this group come together and get off to a good start."
7. Can Fowler avoid the sophomore slump?
So many young defensemen fall victim to it.
Fowler, who didn't turn 19 until December last season, put up 40 points (10-30) in a stunning season as he jumped from Canadian junior to the NHL. He was also minus-25, which he'll need to work on. The Ducks are a better group along the blue line compared to a year ago, but can ill-afford a regression in Fowler's game.
"It's very much on our mind and I'm sure it's very much on his mind," said Murray. "I feel our coaching staff can get him through this. There seems to be something about second-year defensemen, especially the good ones, but I trust my coach and Cam to get through this."
8. Toni Lydman
The Ducks didn't get much fanfare in the summer of 2010 when they signed Lydman. Well, it turned out to be one of the most astute free-agent signings of the year. Lydman posted a plus-32 last season, second in the NHL to only Zdeno Chara's plus-33. Partnered with Lubomir Visnovsky on the top pairing, Lydman found his groove in his new home and brought stability to a blue line that needed it.
"The interesting thing is that we struggled so badly early on when he was out last year," said Murray. "And you saw it when he came back -- everything settled down, our whole team settled down. He was a great partner for Vish. He's just got that calming influence on everyone around him and our team began playing better hockey."
9. The offensive machine that is Lubomir Visnovsky
He led all NHL defensemen in points with 68 (18-50) in 81 games last season while also posting a plus-18 rating. But he did not get a Norris Trophy nomination, which was surprising. Visnovsky quarterbacks the Ducks' power play, which ranked third in the NHL last season.
Visnovsky also keys the transition game with smart outlet passes. Getzlaf, Perry and others count on his vision from the back end to ignite their attack. He's a much more important player than most people around the league give him credit for.
10. The GM deserves credit
Murray doesn't seek the spotlight, but his work attracts it because the Ducks GM has done a marvelous job given what he's had to work with. The Ducks enter the season with only the 17th-highest payroll in the NHL, but Murray has found a way to lock up his key players (Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, Hiller, Visnovsky) and follow an internal budget. He was an important asset to former GM Brian Burke when the Ducks won the Cup in 2007 and you're now seeing why the club was wise to hand him the job after Burke left.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
Experience: Entering seventh NHL season
Stanley Cup titles: 1
• Randy Carlyle enters his seventh season behind the Ducks' bench, covering the entire post-lockout era. He's hung in tough as the Ducks went from Cup champs to mini-rebuild to back on the upswing with last season's return to the playoffs.
"No matter what we give him, he finds a way for that team to compete," said Murray. "You look at the last six years and the record in the second half, I don't think there's any coach that's better than he is record-wise. He gets his team ready and they go. I have total trust in him. He's a good coach." -- Pierre LeBrun
Best bet: Corey Perry
Perry took a step forward as an offensive producer and won the Hart Trophy as a result, but expecting closer to 40 goals this season is the kind of progression that should be expected. He still rates as the hands-down best right winger in the game for fantasy purposes and a clear top-10 pick thanks to the bonus of his triple-digit penalty minutes. -- Sean Allen
Risky pick: Jonas Hiller
If he has found a way to combat or eradicate his vertigo issue, he has a No. 1 job waiting for him. The big question will be whether he's regained his form, and there's no certainty the problem won't return. A high-risk, high-reward play in fantasy. -- Tim Kavanagh
Sleeper pick: Kurtis Foster
A power-play specialist, Foster should be relishing his fresh start with the Ducks. After a super-productive season with Tampa Bay, Foster didn't have too good a time of it with the Oilers in 2010-11. In this case, change was necessary. Look for Foster to play a key role on the Ducks' second power-play unit. He won't log a lot of minutes, however. -- Victoria Matiash
Who's On The Move
The offseason signings/acquisitions and departures for the Ducks:
• June 17: Re-signed D Nate Guenin.
• July 1: Acquired D Kurtis Foster from Edmonton for D Andy Sutton.
• July 2: Signed RW Andrew Gordon.
• July 5: Signed D Bryan Rodney.
• July 6: Signed LW Jean-Francois Jacques.
• July 7: Re-signed RW Brian McGrattan.
• July 11: Re-signed RW Dan Sexton.
• July 12: Acquired C Andrew Cogliano from Edmonton for 2013 second-round pick.
• July 12: Signed G Jeff Deslauriers.
• July 14: Signed D Matt Smaby.
• July 15: Re-signed C Nick Bonino.
• July 20: Signed C Mark Bell.
• Sept. 15: Re-signed RW Teemu Selanne.
• C Todd Marchant (retired)
• D Andy Sutton (traded to Edmonton)
• D Andreas Lilja (unrestricted free agent, signed by Philadelphia)
• C Kyle Chipchura (unrestricted free agent, signed by Phoenix)
• G Ray Emery (unrestricted free agent)
• LW Jarkko Ruutu (unrestricted free agent, signed by Finnish club Jokerit)
• LW Brad Winchester (unrestricted free agent, invited to San Jose training camp for tryout)