While last season was one that Anaheim Ducks fans would prefer to forget, there is a reason to have hope for a turnaround in the coming seasons.
It likely will not be this season but Anaheim has a plethora of youth up and down their lineup that their front office intends to have be the core of the next great Ducks team.
This franchise had a fantastic run between 2006 and 2017, but they are paying the price recently as all great runs eventually end and transition to a rebuilding period.
The Ducks are still in theirs, but they hope to be on the back half of the rebuild and this season will reveal a lot about this team moving forward.
|What:||2023/24 NHL Season|
|Where:||US & Canada|
|When:||October 10, 2023 - June 2024|
|How to watch:||ABC, ESPN, TNT & NHL Center Ice|
|Odds:||TOR Maple Leafs +800, COL Avalanche +900, EDM Oilers +900, NJ Devils +900, CAR Hurricanes +900|
The Ducks were a doormat last year, and got beat up on by good teams and bad teams alike.
The salt in the wound was even though they finished with an NHL worst 58 points, they didn’t win the draft lottery which resulted in the coveted Connor Bedard.
While they are more than happy to have 2023 second-overall draft pick Leo Carlsson join their young core, Bedard is certainly the one that got away after they finished dead last in the league.
There were bright spots on the Ducks that should be even brighter with another NHL season under the belt of young key players.
Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry led the team with 65 and 61 points respectively. Those guys are loaded with talent and their best years are ahead of them at ages 22 and 26, respectively.
The Ducks lacked a few things but the glaring issues were depth and physicality. Beyond the top forwards and defenseman, there just wasn’t enough to be competitive against that of other teams.
There is only so much that head coach Dallas Eakins could have done. Although the Ducks have some seriously skilled players, they do not a play in a style preferred by General Manager and former NHL player Pat Verbeek.
Eakins and Verbeek tried to get the team to play a more balanced game and with some more jam. But the message never resonated, so Verbeek brought in Greg Cronin for his first NHL head coaching job. The Ducks really need to build off last season and they intend to in 2023.
There are some matchups that may be key as the season unfolds if the Ducks are able to be competitive enough to be in the wild card discussion. Unfortunately, that just does not appear to be in the cards.
But on the shoulders of Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale, and Leo Carlsson, this team will surely take a step forward.
Just seeing those names as well as the prospect pool the Ducks have acquired should give fans hope for the future. The addition of two-time Stanley Cup winner Alex Killorn will give the core of Ducks players an experienced and versatile forward as a scoring option.
The best case scenario this season is all of those young, talented players play well together, build a rapport, finish low in the league again to obtain another high draft pick, and attract free agent talent to play with this solid, young core of players.
All of that while getting another season of NHL experience under their belts as they approach their career primes will be a major step forward.
Such is the state of Anaheim that no team is listed at bigger odds to win the Stanley Cup than the Ducks themselves at +20000, while they are +10000 to win the Western Conference and +20000 to win the Pacific Division - again, the outsiders in each category.
The absolute ceiling appears to be reaching the playoffs but they are not expected to achieve that goal as they are +1500 to make the postseason, while they are -4000 to miss out.
The Ducks' regular season points line has been set at 67.5 while they are the +300 favorites to finish with the worst regular season record.
The Aneheim Ducks face a brutal start to the 2023/24 season as their opener on October 14 is on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, before they host the Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars in successive home games.
The Freeway Face-Off rivalry games with the Los Angeles Kings could potentially have an impact at the business end of the regular season, with two of the games coming in the last four as the two face off on November 24 and February 24, as well as April 9 and 13.
Games against the next worst team in the Pacific Division, the San Jose Sharks, take place on November 12, January 20 and 31, and February 29, while the season finishes as it started - in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights on April 18.
The Ducks took the decision in the offseason not to renew the contract of Dallas Eakins, who had been their head coach since 2019, and will go into the 2023/24 season with Greg Cronin behind the benches.
Cronin has spent time as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2011-2014) and the New York Islanders (2014-2018) but comes into his first head coach role in the NHL after a five-year spell with the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.
Michael Del Zotto