What Went Wrong: Anaheim Ducks

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Welcome to What Went Wrong where we’ll look at each team that failed to make the playoffs. We’ll also end each article by highlighting some players of particular interest on the squad. Those are players who either left something to be desired during the 2021-22 campaign, have significant untapped upside, or have some big underlining questions surrounding them going into the offseason.

We’ve already covered the Montreal Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres. Today we’re looking at the Anaheim Ducks.

The Anaheim Ducks have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for four straight seasons, which is the longest drought in franchise history. The team finished with a mark of 31-37-14 to place 23rd overall in the NHL standings.

Anaheim was not able to maintain what was a surprisingly strong start to the 2021-22 campaign. The Ducks led the Pacific Division in mid-December with a record of 17-9-6 and were 23-16-9 at the end of January, but stumbled mightily in the second half of the year. The Ducks had the worst record in the league from February until the end of April, while winning just eight times (8-21-5) and posting 21 points. That includes an 11-game winless skid in March (0-8-3).

During the team’s second-half struggles, the power play dipped to 17.6% after being eighth (25.0%) until the end of January. The penalty kill also slipped from seventh (83.5%) to 26th (76.9%) from February until the end of the season. Additionally, Anaheim’s goals for per game played dropped from 2.88 over the first 48 contests to 2.65, which ranked 29th overall, during the 34-game slide. The shots per game played for the Ducks also dried up to 28.1 (31st overall).

Ducks netminder John Gibson was excellent out of the gate, while posting a 15-10-8 record with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Unfortunately, his play fell off a cliff after the All-Star break and he ended up with the worst goals-against average (3.19) of his NHL career. He posted a mark of 3-16-3 with a 4.32 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in his final 23 appearances of the season. The Ducks’ goals against per game played ballooned to 3.91 in the final 34 matches of the season.

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The team was open for business prior to the trade deadline. Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek made it known that players who weren’t going to be re-signed where available. The team ended up moving Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Rickard Rakell and Nicolas Deslauriers in exchange for a bevy of draft picks and some other young players. It will also be a changing of the guard for the Ducks in a leadership capacity because the team will be without the services of longtime captain Ryan Getzlaf when the 2022-23 season begins. Getzlaf, who is franchise leader in points, assists, playoff scoring and games played, announced his retirement prior to the end of the year.

Despite the changes in personnel, Anaheim already has the makings of a talented and exciting core group. Trevor Zegras was a human highlight reel during his first full NHL season, while producing 23 goals and 61 points in 75 games. Troy Terry had a breakout year, while leading the team in scoring with 37 goals and 67 points in 75 contests. Mason McTavish, Isac Lundestrom, Max Comtois, Jamie Drysdale, Urho Vaakaninen, Drew Helleson and Lukas Dostal should see their roles expand, as they become key players for the organization moving forward

Anaheim probably is not be ready to compete for a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference next year. There are question marks on the back end and holes that need to be filled, but it might not be long before the organization is able to turn things around. The team’s encouraging start to the 2021-22 campaign suggests that progress is already being made and with more consistency a return to the postseason should not be that far away.

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Players to Watch:

John Gibson - Gibson is signed for the next four seasons with a cap hit of $6.4 million. His statistics have all been trending in the wrong direction over the past three seasons. Gibson has 47 victories, a 3.07 goals-against average, a .904 save percentage and five shutouts across 142 games played during that span. As previously mentioned, he struggled mightily in the second half of the 2021-22 season. He was outperformed by backup Anthony Stolarz, especially in the final three months of the year. The Ducks also gave Dostal a few starts. Gibson has been mentioned in trade rumors, but he hasn’t requested to be moved. Still, it could be an interesting situation to monitor.

Max Comtois - Comtois led the Ducks with 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games during the 2020-21 season. He had all the makings of a breakout player going into the year, but he only posted one assist in his first 13 outings. Comtois had surgery to remove a small bone in his right hand shortly afterward. He continued to struggled once he returned, while supplying just two goals and six points over 31 contests. Comtois also went through a bout of COVID-19. He ended up with six goals, 10 assists, 72 shots and 111 hits in 52 appearances. Comtois managed to conclude the year with three goals and one assist during a three-game point streak and then he generated seven points (three goals, four assists) in 10 games for Canada at the IIHF World Championship. The 23-year-old forward has plenty of bounce-back appeal going into next season.

Sonny Milano - Milano accounted for eight goals and 20 points in his first 22 matches, but he wasn’t able to maintain that level of production. He only registered 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 44 matches following his impressive start. That includes a mere five points (three goals, two assists) in his final 24 outings of the year. Milano will be an intriguing player to watch if he gets another shot at top-six forward minutes as well first-combination power-play time. He could face some competition for those roles, though, from players like Comtois or Adam Henrique.

Mason McTavish - McTavish had an eventful 2021-22, while playing for six different teams. He produced two goals and one assist in nine games with the Anaheim Ducks after earning a spot with the team out of training camp. He also had one goal and one assist in three outings for San Diego of the AHL during a conditioning loan after was injured. McTavish was loaned back to the OHL’s Peterborough Petes where he had six goals and one assist in five appearances prior to being traded to the Hamilton Bulldogs. He had 14 goals and 40 points in 24 regular-season matches with his new OHL squad along with 16 goals and 29 points in 19 playoff contests. Additionally, McTavish represented Canada at the 2022 World Juniors and the Winter Olympics. He is poised to play in the upcoming Memorial Cup. McTavish could be a regular for the Ducks next season and stands a good chance to claim the team’s second-line center spot following Getzlaf’s departure.