The Anaheim Ducks and head coach Bruce Boudreau went from worst to first last season but that didn't mean the team was averse to making a bold move this summer.
Last year's Pacific Division champions shook up their offense by finally trading away high-scoring winger Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators. In return for Ryan, who had been the subject of constant trade rumors over his last few years in Anaheim, the Ducks acquired 22-year-old winger Jakob Silfverberg, a youngster with tremendous upside. The deal also landed Anaheim a first-round pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and another forward prospect in Stefan Noesen.
Although Ryan is gone, Boudreau's core group looks very similar to the one he had in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are still the big stars on offense and 43-year-old winger Teemu Selanne is back for one more year.
Although Anaheim entered last spring's postseason as the second-seeded team in the West, the Ducks bowed out in the opening round to the Detroit Red Wings. Getting back to the playoffs is once again the goal for Anaheim, but Boudreau, a coach who often has been criticized for coming up small in the postseason, has to also prove he can get the job done once the regular season ends.
FORWARDS - In an ideal world the Ducks would have liked to hang onto Ryan, who at 26 years of age has already reached the 30-goal mark four times.
However, when Ducks general manager Bob Murray inked both Getzlaf and Perry to lucrative eight-year contract extensions last March it seemed like something had to give and that something was Ryan. Out the door went Ryan and his $5.1 million a year cap hit and in came Silfverberg, who is entering the final year of his entry-level contract before he is scheduled to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014.
With a cap hit of $900,000 in 2013-14, Silfverberg could wind up being one of the NHL's best bargains this season. The highly-skilled Swede expects to join Getzlaf and Perry on the club's top line and should have plenty of opportunities to fill the score sheet.
As a rookie with the Senators last season, Silfverberg notched 10 goals and nine assists over 48 games. Those numbers could increase dramatically over a full 82-game season playing alongside Getzlaf and Perry.
In Getzlaf, the Ducks boast one of the top playmaking centermen in the NHL. The 28-year-old had a solid rebound season in 2013, registering 49 points (15G, 34A) in 44 games after recording just 57 points in 82 games during the 2011-12 campaign.
Getzlaf led Anaheim in points in 2013 and also tied Perry for the team lead in goals. A pure sniping winger, Perry had 50 goals in 82 games for the Ducks in 2010-11, but has managed 52 markers in 124 regular-season tilts over the past two seasons.
With Ryan in tow the Ducks were ranked eighth in the NHL in offense last season with an average of 2.79 goals per game. Even if Silfverberg experiences some growing pains they should still be in the top-half of the league in offense in 2013-14.
Selanne announced in late August he was returning for one final season and he still figures to be the top gun on Anaheim's second line. The future Hall of Famer notched 12 goals and 12 assists in 46 games with the Ducks last season and will enter this campaign with 675 career goals, placing him 11th on the NHL's all-time list. Selanne is six goals behind Jaromir Jagr, another ageless wonder who is set to play for the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14.
Like Selanne, centerman Saku Koivu also was re-signed to a one-year deal this summer and he expects to anchor the second line along with his Finnish compatriot. Koivu, 38, impressed with 27 points (8G, 19A) over 47 games last season -- his fourth in Anaheim after spending over a decade with the Montreal Canadiens.
Dustin Penner is a new/old face for the Ducks this year, re-joining the club he helped win a Stanley Cup in 2006-07. Penner, who also won a title with crosstown rival Los Angeles in the spring of 2012, inked a one-year, $2 million deal with Anaheim this offseason. The veteran winger only had two goals and 12 assists in 33 games with the Kings in 2013, but he could play a bigger offensive role with Anaheim this season.
The Ducks also hope some of their younger forwards continue to develop this season. That group includes Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri, who had 13 and 10 goals, respectively, for Anaheim during last year's shortened campaign.
DEFENSE - One of the biggest blows to Anaheim's playoff fortunes last spring was an injury to Francois Beauchemin, who played the final month of the season with a torn ligament in his right knee. While the subsequent knee surgery could keep Beauchemin from starting this season on time, another defensive injury could loom even larger for Anaheim this season.
Sheldon Souray needed surgery after tearing a ligament in his wrist while working out in July and is expected to miss 4-to-6 months of action. Souray, who boasts one of the world's deadliest slap shots from the blue line, led Anaheim's defense with seven goals during the regular season and only Beauchemin averaged more minutes per game for the Ducks in 2013.
Beauchemin had six goals and 18 assists in 48 games for Anaheim last year and added two goals and four assists despite playing on an injured knee in his team's seven-game loss to Detroit in the playoffs. Shortly after dropping Game 7 on home ice, the 33-year-old blueliner underwent surgery, but he did recently return to game action in the preseason.
The Ducks expect bigger things from Cam Fowler this season. After posting 10 goals and 30 assists while playing 76 games as a rookie for Anaheim in 2010-11, Fowler dipped to 29 points (5G, 24A) in 82 games during the 2011-12 campaign. The former first-round pick only managed one goal and 10 assists in 37 games a year ago, but the good news is he is still only 21 years old and capable of a breakout season in 2013-14.
Although Toni Lydman announced his retirement in the offseason the Ducks will return Luca Sbisa, Bryan Allen and Ben Lovejoy to the blue line this season. Shortly after Souray's injury in July the club also signed veteran defenseman Mark Fistric to provide further depth at the back end.
GOALTENDING - As expected, the Ducks received superb goaltending in 2013 from starter Jonas Hiller. The surprising thing was he wasn't even Anaheim's best goaltender last season.
Hiller went 15-6-4 for the Ducks last season and his goals against average of 2.36 was his best showing since breaking into the league as a rookie in 2007-08.
However, Viktor Fasth, who entered last season as a 30-year-old NHL rookie, matched Hiller in wins with a 15-6-2 record in 2013 while also leading the Ducks in GAA (2.18), save percentage (.921) and shutouts (4).
Despite having never seen action in an NHL game prior to the start of last season, the Swedish Fasth has a shot at supplanting Hiller as the team's No. 1 goaltender in 2013-14. After all, Hiller is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season and the Ducks may opt to trade him at some point during the 2013-14 campaign, especially if Fasth can show early on that last season was no fluke.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE - Due to the NHL's realignment the Ducks will have to repeat as division champions in what will be a new-look Pacific Division. In addition to Anaheim's old foes in L.A., San Jose, and Phoenix, the Ducks also will compete with Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary for the division crown. Expect the Ducks to make the playoffs in 2013-14 but with depth issues at both the forward and defensive positions there is a good chance it will be another brief postseason for Boudreau and Co.