The Anaheim Ducks haven’t seen the post-season since 2018 and would love a chance to shake off some rust going into the 2020-2021 season.
The new year presumably gets underway January 1 and the Ducks have their work cut out for them.
Offence has long been an issue and there’s no reason to think the new season will bear new fruit. There are fresh faces, like defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk, but the departure of offensive talents like Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie will sting.
Anyone who has watched Anaheim for any extended period of time knows that shot volume is a struggle. The Ducks finished 27th overall in shots on goal per game last season, averaging just 29.7. They allowed 32.1 against per game, which lent itself to a 25th overall shot attempts differential.
Kase, now a member of the Boston Bruins, led the Ducks in shot attempts differential with a plus-118.
So, where will the shots come from?
Anaheim is hoping to push the next stage of their youth movement, with 22-year-old Max Jones, 22-year-old Sam Steel, and 23-year-old Troy Terry all expected to take a leap. Each played at least 47 games last season, but none of them scored more than 22 points. More time and responsibility could lead to more production.
“I thought we went through the necessary process last year of making sure that certain young players got their reps,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “They were very necessary reps. There was a learning curve to that. I think they’re all going to be better for it. Now we move into the part of the process where the ice time and all those types of things are going to be earned.”
Eakins will have to assess some of the newer hires. Forwards Danton Heinen, David Backes, and Sonny Milano were all brought in prior to the trade deadline but the coronavirus pandemic limited their exposure. The Ducks did not make it to the bubble, finishing with the third-worst points percentage in the Western Conference last season.
That’s going to happen when you finish 29th overall in scoring. Anaheim averaged just 2.56 goals per game last season, but it was a step up from their last-place finish the year prior. Only Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg scored at least 20 goals.
The Ducks will not outscore many teams. But at least they know what their problems are. Fixing an appalling power play (and penalty kill) is on the list and the Stanley Cup-winning Shattenkirk could help along those lines.
Still, it’s hard to shake the idea that these Ducks will be in tough when the puck drops to start the new year.