Anaheim Ducks need to adapt to faster NHL after Sharks’ sweep

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 14: Corey Perry (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 14: Corey Perry (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

These past few seasons, the Anaheim Ducks have seen the rest of the NHL pass them by. With an early exit from the first round in the 2018 NHL Playoffs, its time to adapt to a faster style of play.

An old, heavy, hard hitting style may have worked in helping the Anaheim Ducks clinch a playoff berth these past six seasons, but it clearly failed them in the playoffs. The Ducks saw their Northern California rival San Jose Sharks quickly skate past them en route to a sweep.

The Sharks’ lineup – full of depth, speed, and “developed youth” (young, homegrown players that have been developed within the organization over several years with NHL exposure & slowly make contributions to the team) – allowed them to play a high pace of play the Ducks simply could not match. The Ducks as a result were unable to stay with Sharks, resulting in numerous penalties throughout the series. Their lack of speed also put a lot of pressure on goaltender John Gibson.

How they lost to the Sharks is a wake-up call that this team needs to evolve to changing times. Almost all teams throughout the NHL – think of team such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs – have developed a fast-paced game built on speed, skill, and youth throughout their lineup. This is the new, modern NHL. Quickness and especially young players with skill and skating ability, are valuable.

The Ducks showed that they lack speed and depth throughout the playoffs. They certainly had “developed youth” on the back end (Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour), but the absence of Cam Fowler due to a shoulder injury immensely hurt. However, the lack of this “developed youth” was certainly shown in the forward corps.

Rickard Rakell was barely visible until the end of series. Wingers Ondrej Kase & Nick Ritchie were invisible; they scored no points in the four playoff games.

Beyond these three, they had several veteran players that did not deliver. Ryan Getzlaf had a horrendous series, Corey Perry was not the scorer we have seen him be as he missed numerous point-blank chances, and Ryan Kesler’s line had a tough time containing Joe Pavelski’s line with Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi. The Ducks’ fourth line of older veterans seemed nonexistent.

Let loose the Anaheim Ducks’ younger players

Its time for the Ducks to start injecting some youth into their lineup, especially on the wings. That can mean the Ducks start them on the third and fourth lines, and work their way up the lineup. Giving them time is the only way they are going to learn and grow. At the same time, they will keep the Ducks competitive in a faster NHL.

I am calling for the Ducks to give more exposure next season to Kevin Roy, Troy Terry, Max Jones, Sam Steel – highly touted prospects currently in AHL San Diego. Only if the Ducks give them time with the big club will they become the “developed youth” the Ducks desperately need. Coupled with the continued development of Andy Welinski, Jacob Larsson, Marcus Petterson, and others on the blueline, the Ducks’ defensemen will slowly become a faster team.

I like Getzlaf as their starting center. Kesler just needs to get healthy. Adam Henrique is a great, undervalued two-way center. Rakell and Kase are seemingly the only “developed youth” the Ducks have on their wings at this point.

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The long-term success and competitiveness of the team will largely depend on giving their young players a chance. Its time to see a more speedy Ducks team that plays with a quicker pace on the ice. I am confident this will be an exciting team to see.