Anaheim Ducks preview

A lot of teams, players and fans respect the Anaheim Ducks.

But no one seems to like them. Admit it. Unless you live in Anaheim, you can’t stand them. Maybe it’s the rough way they play their game, or the cheap shots they seem to get away with, or the fact that the media (especially TSN) seem to love general manager Brian Burke.

I have known fans of almost every single team over the years, but I have yet to meet a Ducks fan.

Forwards: The Ducks have four guys who can score, and bunch of role players who can bang. They’re led by Teemu Selanne, who will be playing a full season this year, barring injury. He’ll probably get 40 goals and have 90 points this year.

He’ll be helped out by the young trio of Chris Kunitz, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (Kunitz is 28 years old, but he’s only played four seasons in the league, so he’s a young 28). These players have been getting better every year, and they’re starting to have breakout seasons. What’s scary is that none of them have had their career years yet, so the rest of the league has to be on the watch when they play the Ducks.

Brendan Morrison will be looking to get back to the point totals he had while playing for the Vancouver Canucks a few seasons ago, and Bobby Ryan is a promising second-year player.

Defence: One of the strongest defences in the league. They’re led by hall of famer Scott Niedermeyer, and will benefit from him playing a full season. He’s a shut-down defenceman who can score 15 goals and get you 60-plus points.

Chris Pronger is the other all-star defenceman on this team. He’s big, tough, and a little bit of a dirty player (as his many suspensions can attest to). But despite his suspension problems, every single team would like this guy to be playing for them. He makes players think twice about going to the front of the net.

Francois Beauchemin rounds out the top three d-men. He won’t get many points, but he logs a lot of minutes.

That doesn’t leave a lot of ice time for the final three defencemen, whoever they may be on a given night, but with the top three, you don’t need a lot from the others.

Goaltending: The Ducks have one of the top goalies in the league. While Jean-Sebastien Giguere never gets rewarded with a Vezina trophy, he can keep Anaheim in games on nights when they don’t deserve to win. No where was this more evident than back in 2003, when he won the Conn Smythe trophy for getting the Ducks to the finals, and in 2007, when he should have won it. Expect to see Giguere near the top of the leaderboard in most categories again.

Pool picks: Look for Corey Perry to continue his rise as one of the stars on the team. His goals and points have gone up every season since he joined the league. Expect him to have 30 goals and at least that many assists this year. Stay away from: Chris Pronger. He’s not the points machine he used to be, and he only had 43 points last season, his lowest total since the 1997-1998 season (not including 2002-2003, when he only played five games).

Miscellaneous: This team is always flirting around the salary cap. Last year, they had to trade Andy MacDonald to make room for Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermeyer. This year, they had to trade Mathieu Schneider to make room for Selanne and to get back under the cap. Next year though, they should have plenty of cap space, since they’ll have 13 unrestricted free agents to deal with, including five of their defencemen. On the bright side, Selanne is already signed for next season, so there’s little chance of him screwing up their cap.

Expected finish: Third in the Pacific division, fifth in the Western conference.

Overall: The Ducks will be a tough team to contend against once again. They play in a tough division, but have the talent to defeat any team. Despite coming fifth, they’ll be a Stanley Cup contender come springtime. And with their depth, they’ll surely be a favourite.

Even if most people don’t like them.

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