For the past five seasons the Anaheim Ducks have found consistent success in the regular season. Not only have they made the playoffs in each of those five seasons, but they have also won their Pacific Division in each season as well. For a team that has finished no worse than 4th in the Western Conference in the last five seasons, at least an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals should be expected. But while the Ducks have made two Western Conference Finals, they have yet to get over that hump and into the Cup Finals.
In the team’s defense, being highly competitive for five seasons is a significant accomplishment in the NHL. In addition, of the five teams they lost to in the playoffs, two have won the Stanley Cup and an additional team made it to the Finals. So the Ducks are not typically being upset by worse teams. However, an inability to defeat highly skilled teams is actually an even bigger issue than getting unlucky against lower seeded teams. If the Ducks cannot find a way to get over the hump against talented teams, they how can they expect to win a Stanley Cup with their current core of players?
Although the Ducks have a significant amount of young talent, especially among their defensemen and starting goalie, their forward core has begun to show their age. Ryan Kesler held his own during the regular season, actually putting up his best point total since 2011. But during the playoffs Kesler was simply left behind by the centers he was assigned to defending. His defense was sub-par and his offense dried up, scoring only one goal in 17 games.
The goal scoring ability of Corey Perry was also shown to have slowed. Perry scored 19 goals in 2016/17, the first time he hasn’t scored at least 30 goals in a full season since 2010. In the playoffs he certainly potted some clutch goals, but still only managed four goals in 17 games.
On the flip side, Ryan Getzlaf was dominant. Making up for his mildly disappointing 2015/16 season, Getzlaf posted 73 regular season points and 19 playoff points which were both good for first on the team.
This season’s roster has changed little over last year’s. The Ducks lost Shea Theodore to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, but came out of the summer mostly ahead. The signings of forward Patrick Eaves and goalie Ryan Miller make the team better. Brandon Montour and new veteran Francois Beauchemin can pick up the games lost from Theodore with no issue. The team has not taken any steps backward.
The real concern, however, is whether or not the Ducks taken enough of a step forward to get over the Conference Finals hump. The Predators, Blues, and Wild remain a threat, the Blackhawks certainly cannot be taken lightly, and the Oilers and Flames will be better than last year. The Anaheim Ducks are facing a window that is ever so slowly closing. If they want that Stanley Cup win, they better make a move soon.