The stars in Anaheim’s locker room were strangely absent after the Ducks’ 4-1 vanquishing of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Guys like Kyle Palmieri, Andrew Cogliano and Nate Thompson had massive media scrums around them asking about beautiful looking scoring plays from their conquest.
This is not normal for Anaheim, a team with Hart Trophy winner (and playoff leading scorer) Corey Perry and star centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. All three have contributed in some form or fashion in Anaheim’s nine playoff wins this season.
Sunday afternoon against Chicago, the Ducks showed their depth with their lower lines leading the way against the stifled Blackhawks.
Right now, the Ducks are healthy, and they’re deep – which as Chicago of the two Stanley Cups since 2010 knows, is a powerful combination in the playoffs.
Yesterday, I got into a conversation over at Lowetide regarding the ridiculous depth on the Anaheim blue line.
The depth on the team is not just confined to the defense but let’s start there.
Beauchemin – Lindholm
Fowler – Despres
Stoner – Vatanen
Holzer – Wisniewski
That’s 8 NHL defensemen, folks and the Ducks have WHL star Shea Theodore right around the corner.
So, how was this D built?
Beauchemin – acquired from Toronto for Joffry Lupul and Jake Gardiner. Lupul was a Ducks 1st round pick in 2002 and Gardiner was a 1st round pick in 2008. There’s a lesson here about not falling in love with your players if a #1D is the return.
Lindholm – 1st round pick 2012
Fowler – 1st round pick 2010
Despres – 1st round pick 2009 (by Pittsburgh). For Ben Lovejoy.
Stoner – UFA signing
Vatanen – 4th round pick 2009 (an absolute steal)
Holzer – From Toronto for Eric Brewer and a 4th round pick.
Wisniewski – From Columbus for Rene Bourque (salary dump), prospect William Karlsson and a 2nd.
Manson – 6th round pick 2011
Fistric – 1st round pick by Dallas in 2004, Acquired by the Ducks after a cup of coffee in Edmonton.
Still to come, of course, is Shea Theodore, the brilliant young D from The Seattle Thunderbirds who was picked in the 1st round in 2013 and scored 13G and 48P in only 43 games this season. (in a brief appearance with Norfolk of the AHL last month Theodore scored 4G and 11P in 9GP…jeebus)
That is just sick depth and I would expect the Ducks will be moving at least Wisniewski and Fistric in the offseason since both are sitting in the press box during the playoffs
I think the lesson here is that identifying and acquiring a #1D is crucial to developing depth since he can provide the shelter (Beauchemin played almost 24 minutes against Chicago) and experience that helps younger D develop.
That is born out by the last 10 cup winners where only the Cinderella Hurricanes didn’t have a stud on the blue line.
It also helps, of course, if you have a scouting department that can identify players like Lindholm, Vatanen, Manson and Theodore.
The Ducks horde of young, talented defensemen doesn’t end with the four in the playoff lineup. Josh Manson, 23, was a solid fill-in for 28 games this season. Shea Theodore, 19, was a first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2013 NHL Draft and is one of the top prospects at the position.
There has been a strong support system in place, with Trent Yawney joining Niedermayer as an assistant coach this season. Yawney coached Vatanen and Lindholm with Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Beauchemin is also able to help mentor them.
Fowler lived with Niedermayer when he joined the Ducks. Despres lived with Beauchemin after the trade. It’s all helped them settle in, and the team has benefitted from it.
More on the Ducks depth on D here.
Before the 3rd round of the playoffs began, I said I thought the Ducks’ depth would allow them to beat Chicago and, as we saw in game 1, Chicago has been forced to play their top 4 almost exclusively with David Rundblad and Kimmo Timmonen hardly leaving the bench.
All Anaheim has to do to win the series IMO is pound Keith, Seabrook, Oduya and Hjalmarsson into submission and that was exactly the strategy they deployed in game 1.
We’ll look at a Anaheim’s forward depth in our next post.