Is The Rebuild Going In The Wrong Direction?

Photo: NHL

By George Casner

Let’s discuss the rebuild.

A touchy subject, sure, but one that needs to be addressed.

This season hasn’t been the best on record. To be honest, even compared to last year it’s rough. In February of 2022, the Ducks went 2-5-0. This February they are 4-4-2. Granted their games this month aren’t finished. The team still has to play the Hawks on the 27th

But this is still a fair comparison. 7 games in February of last year and 10 so far this year, but the defense was gutted at the trade deadline last year. It still has not recovered but we will delve into that later.

For now, let’s look at last year’s games in February. Anaheim faced:
The Kraken and lost 4-3
The Flames and lost 6-2
The Oilers and lost 7-2
Vancouver and won 7-4
The Sharks and won 4-3
The Kings and lost 4-1
And, lastly, they lost to the Islanders 4-0

The total goals for were 19 and total goals against were 32. Severely outscored.

This year (so far) in February they faced:
Dallas and lost 3-2
Chicago and won 3-2
Pittsburgh and lost 6-3
Vegas and lost 7-2
Buffalo and lost 7-3
Los Angeles and lost 6-3
Florida and lost 4-3 in OT
Tampa Bay and a 6-1 loss

They turned it around for the last two: winning 4-2 against the Capitals and 3-2 against the Canes.

Again, we see a pattern, Anaheim was severely outscored, with 27 goals scored for and 45 goals against.

Does this mean the rebuild is going backwards? Well… it’s complicated.

Comparing these two teams is tough since, as I mentioned above, they traded away key defensive guys at the trade deadline last year. Hence why the defense is so much weaker, as I’ve mentioned in other articles as well as Mike, Eddie, and Thomas mentioning on our show.

However, the offense is interesting. They scored 11 more goals than last year in February while playing three more games.

So clearly it is getting better, right?

Well, yes, and, what’s great is that it’s going to be even better. Here is what I mean:

We have seen our favorite guy, Trevor Zegras take a huge step forward this year. His play has evolved quite a bit and, as Eddie mentions, he’s only getting better. As this year goes on and in the next few seasons, he will continue to get better and better. His awareness will go up, his level of game understanding will elevate, and, I know some bias is showing here but, I think he will become reminiscent of Paul Kariya. He is going to be a superstar, franchise player. No doubt there.

Next is Mason McTavish. He, like Zegras, is really coming into his own. He is putting in a lot of work and it shows. These two are both young, are already playing well, and will only continue to develop into better players.

But rounding out the trio is Troy Terry. You want to talk about a guy who really is coming into his own, it’s Terry. Watching him play is incredible and when him and Zegras are on the same line… (Chef kiss).

These three are the future core of this team. If the organization continurs to train and develop them correctly, the Ducks can really light up the league. Anaheim can take back the West and stand strong against the East.

Bringing up the rear, the Ducks have three outsanding goalies: Lukas Dostal, Anthony Stolarz, and John Gibson. There is nothing to say about these guys that hasn’t already been said. I do believe one of them, probably Stolarz, will be moved at the trade deadline. But for what? We have a solid foundation for offense, what more do we need?

Well, that brings me to my main point here… defense.

As I discussed in my last article, defense is the biggest hole that the Ducks need to fill. I’m not going to go over all the numbers here, as I did there but, it is without a doubt, the thing that’s holding them back; also, it’s the thing that is causing them to lose a lot of these games. For example, the Dallas game could have been reversed if the defense was just a little better.

But that is what’s truly holding this franchise back from greatness and I think they know it, too. I predict that the Ducks will be sellers at the deadline, but not in the way they were last year.

I don’t believe Verbeek is going to blow it all up and be in a perpetual rebuild. I feel that he has a vision for this team and is going down a path that will lead it to greatness.

I am anticipating that one goalie will be moved as well as players that either don’t fit or can be valuable assets to other teams. Examples are: Stolarz, Adam Henrique (sadly), and/or John Klingberg.

I like all three of these guys, especially Henrique; however, at the end of the day, the logo on the front of the jersey matters more than the name on the back. Ergo, if any, or all, of them can be moved to bring this team forward, it would be the right call to make.

Another thing benefiting the Ducks is the Cap situation. According to CapFriendly, the team has roughly $13 million in space.

So, I can see them moving some of the above mentioned players, as well as being in some three way trade deals, and getting young defensive prospects or players back. Honestly, given howany teams are up tight against the cap, Verbeek can easily manipulate the system and get a lot of draft picks in return for retaining some salary in those three way deals. And those draft picks can really deepen their defensive depth or be used to sweeten an even bigger trade!

So, in my opinion, no, the rebuild is not going in the wrong direction. It’s going fantastically well, at least on the offensive side of things. The organization is still dealing woth the effects from last season and also the absence of Getzlaf. His leadership was a key aspect to this team that a lot of people keep forgetting about.

Now I, like Thomas, believe that the rebuild is behind schedule but I don’t blame Verbeek for that. I blame Murray. I know I tend to dunk on him a lot and it may seem like I don’t like him, however, I am very appreciative of what he has done for this organization. Under him, Anaheim was a powerhouse of the west for years. I cannot understate that in any way, shape, or form. That being said, he is not the GM for a rebuild. He just simply doesn’t know how to handle that and we are feeling the after-effects of that today.

Ergo, I say patience. I know it’s tough. It’s not fun seeing our favorite team be horrible but we need to give the new GM time. It’s only been one year and he clearly knows what he is doing, just look at our offensive resurgence!

The thing to focus on this trade deadline and off season is defense. If Verbeek can tackle that beast, the rebuild will be kicked into high gear. Ultimately, the possibilities are all in Verbeek’s hands and he has a lot of options. This clearly isn’t a hammer and nail situation.

I firmly believe that once the defensive holes are taken care of, we will see the Ducks being a tough team to crack and one that will rapidly turn heads.

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February 26th, 2023


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