Better Luck Next Year: Anaheim Ducks edition
theScore

As NHL teams are eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, theScore NHL freelance writer Katie Brown looks back at the highs and lows of their seasons, along with the biggest questions ahead of 2018-19. The 17th edition focuses on the Anaheim Ducks.

The Good

Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell. Traded from the New Jersey Devils to Anaheim for defenseman Sami Vatanen, Henrique went on a tear, producing 20 goals and 16 assists in 57 games. Rakell had a breakout season and is arguably Anaheim's most skilled player, as he notched a career-high 34 goals and 69 points.

John Gibson. Though Gibson struggled with injuries at times, he still played 60 games and won a career-high 31. His .926 save percentage was sixth among goaltenders who played in at least 30 contests. The Ducks wouldn't have made the playoffs without Gibson's efforts.

Kariya and Selanne's HOF induction. In November, the Ducks celebrated two of the franchise's biggest stars, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, as they were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame together. Selanne was inducted in his first year of eligibility; Kariya in his fifth.

The Bad

No Patrick Eaves. Eaves played just two regular-season games in 2017-18; he missed most of the season with Guillain-Barre syndrome, and then tore the labrum in his shoulder while rehabbing, which required surgery. He's expected to be recovered by mid-October. Eaves scored 11 goals in 20 games after being traded to Anaheim by the Dallas Stars at the 2017 deadline.

Even-strength scoring. During the regular season, Anaheim's offense ranked 18th in the league. The Ducks then scored only two goals at five-on-five during their playoff series with the San Jose Sharks, in which they were swept in four games. Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jakob Silfverberg, Ondrej Kase, and Henrique combined for seven points in the series; Perry was held off the scoresheet altogether.

Defensive breakdowns. Two-way defenseman Cam Fowler injured his shoulder during the last week of the regular season and was not available for the playoffs. Francois Beauchemin, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and Brandon Montour were left in the lurch and had to deal with the Sharks' speed and quick transitions, which led to many odd-man rushes. With Fowler, the Ducks' defense was fourth in the NHL during the regular season.

The Questions

How can the Ducks get better? During Anaheim's locker clean-out day, general manager Bob Murray was frank about the team needing to get faster to be able to compete in today's NHL. That includes getting younger, too. Unrestricted free agents Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette, Jason Chimera, and Chris Kelly are not expected to return next year, while veteran defenseman Beauchemin announced that he won't be back for another season. It'll be worth keeping an eye on restricted free agents Nick Ritchie, Kase, Montour, and Andy Welinski.

Will there be any front office changes? As of right now, Randy Carlyle will be back as head coach next season. Murray has made that much clear. However, this week the team parted ways with assistant coach Trent Yawney, who oversaw the defense for four seasons The Ducks gave up eight goals in Game 3 of the series against the Sharks.

Will a core player be traded? It's possible. Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler all have no-move clauses in their contracts, so someone would have to be willing to waive theirs. Perhaps a team that misses out on John Tavares could be interested in one of the aforementioned players. It all depends on how any of this fits with Murray's offseason plan.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Better Luck Next Year: Anaheim Ducks edition
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