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On Anaheim’s defense, and finding ‘that guy’

Aug 5, 2014, 6:54 PM EST

Anaheim Ducks Announce Bruce Boudreau Anaheim Ducks Announce Bruce Boudreau

Over the last few years, winning a Stanley Cup and having a stud d-man have often gone hand-in-hand. Chicago had Duncan Keith, Los Angeles had Drew Doughty, Boston had Zdeno Chara, Detroit had Nicklas Lidstrom and, in 2007, the Ducks had Chris Pronger.

Also, and Scott Niedermayer.

The two Norris winners were instrumental in Anaheim’s dominant campaign — a 110-point regular season, followed by a playoff run in which the Ducks only lost five games total. As such, Pronger and Niedermayer are forever etched in Ducks lore, the anchors of the first and only Cup champion in franchise history.

Which brings us to the modern-day Ducks.

Heading into next season, they project to have a top-six defense of Cam Fowler, Francois Beauchemin, Hampus Lindholm, Bryan Allen, Ben Lovejoy and Sami Vatanen (Sheldon Souray‘s future remains uncertain). It’s a decent group, but one that lacks a true stud blueliner — Fowler may be that guy one day, but he’s not there yet — and it’s something even GM Bob Murray admits is lacking.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray said earlier this summer. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had [Niedermayer and Pronger].

“That’s in the back of my mind all the time. Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

A curious statement.

“Afford” is something worth paying attention to. The Ducks are in win-now mode; Ryan Kesler all but cemented that following his blockbuster move to Anaheim by saying “I’m going to Anaheim to win a championship.” Yet the club must know that, barring remarkable development from Fowler (or Lindholm, I suppose), it doesn’t exactly have the blueline for a championship blueprint.

So…”afford.”

Murray is the reigning GM of the year, and the fruits of his work are currently on display. While questions remain on D and in goal — where the largely inexperienced Frederik Anderson and wunderkind John Gibson will battle for minutes — the Ducks are still one of the West’s elite teams, and doing it nearly $11 million under the salary cap. They’ve got young guys on inexpensive deals contributing significantly and while they won’t be a spend-to-the-cap team, Murray has positioned them well to add salary.

Heck, they could be a prime candidate to obtain a rental at the deadline.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that stud defensemen rarely become available. Most are playing on good teams challenging for the playoffs; ones on bad teams are still deemed far too valuable to trade away. But things change quickly in the NHL — look at the Kesler deal. In October, Kesler was playing tons of minutes on Vancouver’s top line with the Sedins and scored eight goals and 11 points in his first 15 games. Months later, the Canucks are a train wreck and he’s asking out of town.

And eventually ended up in Anaheim.

So, what does it mean for the Ducks moving forward? It’s safe to assume they’ll be on the lookout for defensive improvements throughout the year and even if they’re unable to land “that guy,” they could still find a quality rearguard to bolster what they’ve got.

Defense is clearly issue No. 1 for this squad — just look at our poll results from earlier today.

Poll: What is the biggest concern for the Ducks?

  1. madmaximus86 - Aug 5, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    The Ducks need a number one defender like just about every other team in the league. Even above-average to good defensemen are rare, let alone a true number one. This is why Quincey, Niskanen, and P.K. Subban are being ridiculously overpayed. The way I see it, the only way a team can come up with a high-quality d-man is through their farm system, or giving up an arm and leg.. and their farm… via trade.

  2. soundsofsuccess7 - Aug 5, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    I think you can take Allen out of the top 6 D-Men and put in Stoner. Allen is garbage, lol.

    • areaman714 - Aug 5, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      Brilliant analysis. Allen was probably the most consistently stable D-man the Ducks had in the Kings series.

      • cyggyx1 - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        too many stupid penaltys from Allen though

      • areaman714 - Aug 6, 2014 at 8:51 PM

        Most of those penalties were in the Dallas series where he was the only Duck to answer the rough play. Penalties tend to happen with more aggressive play.

  3. areaman714 - Aug 5, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    Fowler is only 22. I really think BB might unleash the reigns a little bit and let him ad lib al la the crosstown rival Doughty. He is ready I believe. The Ducks had a season ticket holder event a few months back and after the formalities, Murray stuck around like he always does and fielded a few questions as he was making his way out. One of the questions was who on defense was untouchable . . . Murray, without hesitation, replied: “Lindholm . . . maybe Fowler . . .”. Lindholm isn’t going to stay 19 forever. He will be an absolute stud in 2-3 years. His play now belies his youth.

    If the Ducks had a big elite D-man, you might as well give them the Cup now.

    • brysono - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:52 AM

      Doughty was a Norris trophy finalist when he was 19. He didn’t get reigns put on him until he was 22.

  4. infieldhit - Aug 5, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    I dunno if the Ducks are in “win-now” mode. To get Kesler, they gave a spare part in Sbisa, the lower of their two first-round picks, and 26-yr-old Bonino. They kept Lindholm, Vatanen, Etem, and Smith-Pelley. And they’re going with Andersen and Gibson in net.

    • cyggyx1 - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      Smith-Pelley is a beast. I like Emerson’s speed and ability. I’m glad they haven’t been shipped out. Lots of promise those two.

      Drew doughty, aka, the clutch and grab and trip and hold and slash artist. Yeah if thats norris, then it be a shame. Talk about an overrated D man

  5. c9castine - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    im pretty impressed by cam fowler. hes very young for a guy with so much experience and gets better every year.

    i think he close to being a legit no.1 defender for a playoff team. if him and Gibson break out this year id be real worried about anaheim in the west.

  6. skoivu10 - Aug 6, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    What people forget is that the kings took doughty 2nd overall. The ducks haven’t had a top 5 pick in forever and the only time they picked in the top ten with their actual pick in the last few years they took Lindholm. Say what you want about the kings being a great team, but they did it through drafting. The kings were bad for a lot of years (the frolov/cammalleri era) and picked in the top 15 consistantly. Anaheim did bad in 2012 and got lindholm. They missed the playoffs in 10 and got Fowler. They got 10th from the Sens this year and got Richie. Other than that, we’ve been picking in the 20s or high teens of late. Remember Etem fell to us at 29th or something. He was supposed to go in the top 20, even the Kings passed him up lol.

  7. skoivu10 - Aug 6, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Plus, don’t forget that in 2008, Anaheim had the biggest throwaway draft ever as none of the players picked did anything for the Ducks. I mean maybe you could argue McMillan because he did play a couple of games, but nothing spectacular.

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