With a successful regular season coach in Bruce Boudreau being let go after Anaheim was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Ducks needed a new leader behind the bench. The organization tapped former Stanley Cup-winning coach Randy Carlyle to return to Anaheim and take the helm of the team he was fired from early in the 2011-12 season. The only players left from the previous Carlyle era are veterans Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Cam Fowler.

With notable trade acquisitions David Perron and Jamie McGinn not re-signing in Anaheim, there is a lot of room up front for young forwards in Anaheim. The likes of Nick Ritchie and Stefan Noesen could look to break into the regular Anaheim lineup. Young blue liners Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour had fantastic seasons in San Diego last year and could also make pushes to play games with the big club. And with the trade of Frederik Andersen to Toronto, John Gibson has been given the chance to be the No. 1 guy in the Ducks' crease. Anaheim has a lot of experience up and down its roster, but its season could very much ride on the ability of its young players to step up.

-- JC McDonagh

THREE QUESTIONS

  1. Which young players in the Ducks' system will break through this season and play significant time with the big club?
  2. Will Bob Murray’s faith in John Gibson pay off?
  3. Will Anaheim have another slow start as it did last season?

BEST CASE SCENARIO

by JC McDonagh

The best case scenario for Anaheim continues to be that it can challenge for the Stanley Cup. This team is still very talented, especially on the blue line and down the middle. If Randy Carlyle can get this team to the playoffs and then get the best out of his players, as Bruce Boudreau was unable to do, this Ducks team can do serious damage. Anaheim was the best defensive team in the league last season and will return its entire blue line. Continuing that defensive play will go a long way to getting the Ducks to the playoffs. John Gibson will carry a lot of weight on his shoulders in his first time as the No. 1 guy in goal. If he is able to continue the form he had last season when he stepped in after an Andersen injury, this team will be very hard to beat. 

WORST CASE SCENARIO

by JC McDonagh

The worst case scenario for the Ducks is that they plummet in the standings compared to their play last season. There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Carlyle’s coaching style has evolved since the last time he coached Anaheim. While the Western Conference is still known as a bigger and rougher conference when compared to the East, faster and more skilled play has also been creeping its way onto West rosters (see Calgary, Dallas). If Carlyle still wants to try to out-muscle teams (and Bob Murray builds the roster according to that strategy) then Anaheim could really struggle to secure wins. Last season, we saw Anaheim fail to keep up with fast teams like Tampa Bay. A pre-2011 Carlyle could mean we see a very poor performance from Anaheim this year.