Given the way the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim dealt away many of
their veterans throughout the 2005-06 season, it would have been easy to assume
the team was rebuilding, but first-year General Manager Brian Burke and company
insisted they wanted to win and win they did. The Mighty Ducks had one of the
best records in the league down the stretch, going 22-10-2 over their last 34
games. Their hot play helped them set
club records in wins (43) and points (98) and more importantly allowed them to
steal a playoff spot from Burke’s former team the Vancouver Canucks and their
cross-town rivals, the LA Kings.
The future certainly looks bright for the Ducks organization
as the team owes much of their recent success to the outstanding play of their
young players who played regularly and contributed consistently.
Acquired in the trade that sent Sergei Fedorov to the
Columbus Blue Jackets, the trade was largely seen as a salary dump. At the time of his acquisition, Beauchemin
had just two points in 11 games and was playing less than 17 minutes per
game. Upon his arrival though,
Beauchemin was told that he wouldn’t crack the line-up until he got into better
shape. Four games later, the defenseman
responded to the challenge. He shed a
few extra pounds, got in better condition and the rest is, as they say,
“Well, Bob Murray deserves the credit for that trade,” said
GM Burke. “My right-hand man, Bob
Murray said don’t make this deal without him and he’s been outstanding. He’s reliable defensively. He’s good offensively and he can shoot the
puck and he can fight. He gives us a
physical element you don’t see very often but he can fight too.”
While Beachemin’s fists haven’t been put to much use while
in Anaheim, his hands have turned heads as the rookie blueliner has scored 34
points in 61 regular season games with Anaheim. Beauchemin’s been paired with Scott Niedermayer and is now
averaging close to 24 minutes per game.
He attributes his increased production to the opportunity that Anaheim
gave him as well as playing with a defenseman that compliments his own
“Just getting the opportunity to play [has helped]. I’m
getting some time on the power play and just my overall game getting the chance
to play gives you a lot of confidence and makes it easier,” said Beauchemin.
Perry, RW & Ryan Getzlaf, C
Both first-round draft picks were expected to make the
Anaheim roster at the start of the season.
Perry enjoyed a hot start with a four-game point streak but quickly
cooled after a concussion forced him out of the line-up. He and Getzlaf were sent down to the Ducks
AHL affiliate the Portland Pirates at the end of November to get playing time
and help develop their game.
Both players took the demotion in stride and dominated in
their short time there. Perry scored 16
goals and 34 points in 19 games while Getzlaf scored eight goals and 33 points
in 17 games. They shared the AHL Rookie
of the Month award for December as a result of their play.
Being sent down was perhaps one of the best things for Perry
and Getzlaf at the time as it allowed both players to find their game and
According to Ducks Senior Advisor to the GM, Al Coates, “I think it was good that they were able to conquer that
league in a very short amount of time at least temporarily and that they used
it to their advantage. I think the good
thing about them is that they are willing to learn, they realize that there is
a lot of ahead of them still.”
“Definitely going down there was definitely was
a confidence booster and now we want to do the same thing up here,” said Perry.
At the NHL level, Getzlaf was placed at the point as the
quarterback of the power play. His big
shot has helped the Anaheim power play and has also helped the forward set a
new club record for power-play goals by a rookie (10). Getzlaf ended the season tied for ninth
among all rookies in power-play goals.
Perry has also been successful since his recall, scoring 18 points in
his last 32 games.
Both players have benefited from spending the year together
both in Anaheim and Portland.
“We’re the same age so it’s been helpful
especially here in Anaheim, going down to Portland we both went down there with
the same attitude,” said Perry. “We both had the same mindset. It’s nice talking to somebody who is going
through the same thing as you are when that’s going on. It’s nice because you
can talk to them and they can ask you something so it’s pretty good.”
Added Coates, “I think there’s a little bit of a
friendly healthy competition also between the two guys. I think that it’s good that there’s two of
them and have somebody else to hang out with not that there aren’t a lot of
good young players to hang out with because we have a lot of them, but it’s
been a good healthy competition.”
Konopka is by all accounts a role player. He was called up twice this season to
provide a physical presence and was always willing to do so. He appeared in 23
games and accrued 48 penalty minutes.
While Konopka did not make a big impact on the scoreboard, he did score
a couple of timely goals for the Ducks.
“Well, I think he is a role player but a great
role player and a role player that is a key member of Portland’s team,” said
Coates. “He’s come here and played
exactly the same way. So the one thing
you know about him…by his own admission he’s not the most gifted guy, but he’s
a terrific character player and wears his heart on his sleeve. Whatever’s asked
of him you’re going to get it from him.”
Konopka has also improved his offensive
production. Last season he scored 46
points in 75 AHL games, while this season he has scored 44 points in just 34
games and leads the Pirates in playoff scoring with nine points in five games
played. With his improved play, it’s no
doubt that he earn another look next season.
According to the Ducks VP of Player Development,
Chuck Fletcher, “the big thing for Zenon will be his foot speed. Right now, he’s an extremely hard-working
player. He plays with a lot of
character and a lot of grit and a lot of effort every night. For him to be a full-time NHL player he’s
probably going to have to get a little bit quicker, improve his foot speed and
if he can do that then he has a very good chance of playing regularly in the
NHL and injecting energy in the line-up.”
The Ducks have been very pleased with the
development of Dustin Penner. The 6’4
forward has improved dramatically over the past year. In his first professional season in 2004-05, Penner scored 28 pts
in 77 AHL games. This season he’s
posted big numbers at the AHL level, scoring 84 points in 57 games.
“I think his improvement has been very quick and
very sudden,” said Fletcher. “Now he’s already been an elite offensive player
at the American League level, he’s had a taste of NHL action had a little bit
of success at this level, so I would say his development is accelerated over
what we thought it would.”
His size and his play earned him a call-up in
which he earned seven points in 19 games.
The Ducks like Penner’s size and think it’s only a matter of time before
his earned a regular roster spot.
According to Fletcher, “The two things that are
key for Dustin are his quickness [and playing physical]. He’s going to have to
get a little bit quicker, on his change in direction when the puck goes quickly
the other way it takes him a while to turn and get going and consistently
playing physical, consistently finishing his checks.”
After failing to earn a spot on the Anaheim roster, Kunitz
was being sent down to the AHL but was snatched off waivers by Atlanta. Kunitz didn’t break out with Atlanta and
after playing just two games they tried to send him to the AHL, but it was
Anaheim that snatched him back off waivers this time.
“I think early in the year he didn’t have a very
good training camp,” said Coates. “It
was up to him to show the new people what he could bring to the table…maybe I
don’t to call it a wake-up call, but it’s a realization that there’s things
missing from your game.”
Kunitz responded to adversity and since his reacquisition,
the forward has flourished. He has
played consistently on Anaheim’s top line alongside Andy McDonald and Teemu
Selanne, finishing third in rookie plus/minus and breaking the rookie club
record for goals in a season (previously held by Paul Kariya). Kunitz has also
provided a physical element to the top line and hasn’t been afraid to stand up
for Selanne and McDonald when needed.
“He’s a good skater and he is willing to play
physical,” said Coates. “So
consequently he’s able to create a little time and space for two other
guys. You see that a lot on a line
where there’s a two on one relationship it’s not always three skill guys
playing together although he has a terrific skill level and a terrific shot,
but it’s quite often the two on one…so together the three of them have found
some chemistry and put up good numbers. I wouldn’t mind playing with those two
guys either, but on the other hand I give him credit for making the most of the
According to Burke, “Well, he’s real solid and
he’s a good skater. That’s a good
combination that means he can get to the puck right when the opposing player [does]
and it means you get chances to hit.
He’s been physical and he’s using his skating ability to get into
position to hit. All the big hitters
skate away from the puck to make their hit and he’s done that well.”
were looking for Bryzgalov to step in and fill the No. 2 spot in net after
dealing away Martin Gerber during the offseason. Bryzgalov got an unexpected chance to display his skills early in
the season after Giguere was sidelined with a lower-body injury.
“Earlier in the year when Jiggy got hurt, Bryz
really carried us,” said Burke. “He’s
had a really good year. He’s really athletic and he works hard so he’s had a
really good year.”
Bryzgalov has proven to be a solid backup
goaltender. He finished the regular
season second among NHL rookies in GAA and fourth in rookie save
percentage. He has won six of his last
ten starts and came to the Ducks’ rescue most recently in the playoffs. He earned a surprise start in the playoffs
and helped the Ducks to force Game 7 in their first-round series against
Despite Bryzgalov’s heroics, Giguere is still
the man in Anaheim and according to Fletcher, Bryzgalov will need to develop
his consistency if he hopes to compete for the starting job next year.
“A player like Giguere has been consistently good, year
after year for several years. That’s
what separates the starting goalies from the backup goalies. There are a lot of goalies that can step in
and play well for a game or even five or 10 games, but can you do night after
night, year after year. And that’s the
key to being a good starting goalie and allowing your team a chance to win
every night. So that’s going to be Bryzgalov’s next challenge is consistency
and earning the right to be a starting goalie.”
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