Anaheim Looking To Duck Slow Start, Continue Improvements

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 02: Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau looks on from behind the bench during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Honda Center on December 2, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Anaheim could be heading for some improvements, and may even make the playoffs. Just how much of an upgrade may just be dependent on what type of moves the remainder of the summer yields.

Simply put, the 2011-12 campaign was a major disappointment for the Anaheim Ducks. They spent most of the first half battling to stay out of the overall NHL basement, saw their head coach Randy Carlyle fired, eventually caught fire under new bench boss Bruce Boudreau, only to fizzle out down the stretch and end up out of the postseason for the second time in the last three seasons.

Stretches of 1-6-3 and 0-6-1 buried Anaheim very early on in the season and the Ducks' problems were numerous. There were shortcomings at both ends of the rink -- only five teams in the entire league scored fewer than Anaheim's 204 goals, and just three Western Conference clubs yielded more than the 231 goals Anaheim allowed.

Having scored one goal or less on 21 different occasions -- or more than a quarter of the full regular season -- scoring depth was a crucial deficiency. The Ducks featured just six goals scorers in double digits, and Corey Perry (37), Bobby Ryan (31), and the ageless wonder Teemu Selanne (26) comprised a whopping 46 percent of the team's final offensive total. After those three, Andrew Cogliano (13), Saku Koivu and Ryan Getzlaf (each with 11) were the only other with 10 or more. Left winger Niklas Hagman was next with just eight.

Getzlaf was particularly disappointing, as the captain was able to remain healthy enough to appear in all 82 games for the first time in five seasons, but slumped greatly to what amounted to a career-low goal total of 11 last year.

The lack of size and physicality on the defensive unit was apparent for much of the year. For years, 6' 6", 220-pound Chris Pronger patrolled the Ducks' blue line, clearing traffic from in front of the Anaheim net with punishing hits. Last season, 6' 2", 207-pound Luca Sbisa was the biggest body of all the Ducks' rear guards.

Add in the fact that the team's power play ranked 21st (16.6 percent) and the penalty killing unit finished 16th (82.0 percent), and it's no surprise the club was sitting home watching the playoffs unfold.

Offseason Additions / New Faces

Though not actually a new face, the 42-year-old Selanne was one of the biggest signings of the summer for Anaheim. The "Finnish Flash" was last year's leading Ducks' scorer (66 points) decided to come back for one more season and will be invaluable, especially on the power play. Selanne netted 12 markers while Anaheim was on the man advantage, second on the club only to Perry's 14.

Solid forward Daniel Winnik was signed to a two-year free agent deal in late July. While he isn't the gunning offensive dynamo that could bolster the struggling Ducks' offense, he is very good defensively. The 27-year-old will more than likely skate on the third line, while lending help to the penalty killing unit.

With popular heavyweight winger George Parros signing an UFA contract with the Florida Panthers, Brad Staubitz was inked to fill his vacancy. The 28-year-old split last year between the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens, recording one goal and posting 121 PIMs.

Perhaps the biggest upgrades made by GM Bob Murray thus far over the summer has been to his defensemen, signing two big bodies in Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen. Perennial top-scoring rear guard Lubomir Visnovsky was dealt to the New York Islanders -- though that move is the subject of a grievance by the soon-to-be 36-year-old. Visnovsky's effectiveness was limited by a finger injury that kept him out of 13 contests, but his usual offense could be missed by the Ducks.

But Souray should be a welcome addition, providing a large frame (6'4, 237 pounds) and a booming shot from the point, which should benefit the club's power play unit.

In addition to Souray, Allen -- 6'5, 226 pounds -- should also bring a much-needed physical presence to the Anaheim blue line.

It wasn't all bad news for Anaheim during the 2011-12 campaign, and there were several positives. After sinking to the bottom of the League standings in the first three months, the team did show signs of life after the coaching change, as Boudreau led the Ducks on streaks of 8-0-1 and 8-1-2 in January and February, respectively. The hot skeins brought them back to within contention for the postseason before finally fading in the end.

Although he finished with a sub-.500 record, goaltender Jonas Hiller had another decent campaign. He ended up with a 29-30-12 with a respectable 2.57 GAA and .910 save percentage. Even when his teammates were struggling to score goals and the Ducks fell in the standings, Hiller gave them a chance to win.

For more on the Anaheim Ducks, check in with SB Nation Los Angeles, Ducks blog Anaheim Calling and the always hilarious Battle of California.

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