5 Risky Predictions : Anaheim Ducks
1) Dany Heatley scores 30 goals
Yep, you read that right. The low-risk player Anaheim signed this summer will play a significant role on their roster. Although I doubt he will start the season beside Getzlaf and Perry, he will eventually find his way onto that line and reunite with his old Team Canada buddies. Being brought onto a roster like this could very well be the exact spark the former “all-star” needs to get his career back on track. Look for the sniper to find the net much more than we’ve gotten used to over the last few seasons.
2) John Gibson steals the starting job
Ok, “steals” may be pushing it. He definitely earned the job in the 2014 playoffs. However, Frederik Andersen also had a phenomenal year between the pipes which begs the question who gets the starting job in Anaheim? Although Andersen has a little more NHL experience playing second fiddle to Jonas Hiller, I think you will see him stay in that role next year. John Gibson will impress coaches, and stump other teams, making a name for himself as the Ducks clear-cut number one goaltender.
3) 1st Round Draft Pick Nick Ritchie cracks the lineup
Often, when a player is drafted to an already successful team, they do not expect to make the team in their first year. Instead, they are sent back to the OHL (or WHL, QMJHL… etc.), and play a few AHL years to gain experience before finally being put on the team. The situation with 10th overall draft pick Nick Ritchie could be different. Although Anaheim already has a very deep and talented roster, with Nick Ritchie they received an NHL-ready player with extraordinary versatility. He has the offensive capabilities to be a 1st line winger, mixed with the size and toughness to play on the fourth line. For these reasons, Anaheim could choose to keep Ritchie with the big boys in order to help him gain experience.
4) Finishes highest in the standings amongst California teams
It’s no secret that Anaheim is very good. But, are they better than the reigning Stanley Cup Champions and the always dangerous San Jose Sharks? Maybe not, but standings are not always indicative of the best team. Despite all 3 teams being very good, this year, like last, Anaheim will emerge as the best in California. Their mixture of speed and grit will help them dominate the Eastern conference teams, more so than LA, or San Jose, and will be the difference in accumulating the most points amongst these 3 teams. This home ice advantage could prove vital in the playoffs where they are bound to meet up with at least one of their in state rivals.
5) Eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
This seems very contradictory to everything positive I have said about the Anaheim Ducks thus far but hear me out. As always, the Western conference is going to be hotly contested meaning the gap from 1st to 8th will be miniscule. Well, I do not see Anaheim winning the west this season meaning the gap between them and their first round opponent will be even smaller. The main reason I say they will be eliminated is inexperienced goaltending. Even though Gibson and Andersen both took turns in the playoffs this year, with some success, Gibson was brought in on short term notice giving him little time to think too much and psyche himself out. This year will be different and he will be a lot more nervous to play in the games that matter. Furthermore, with teams being able to play a full season against these goaltenders they will know their tendencies more by years end and will therefore be able to produce goals a little more consistently against them. For this reason, it is my belief that the Anaheim Ducks will not make it past the first round of the 2015 playoffs.