The Anaheim Ducks franchise is finding themselves in a difficult situation. Their forward core is aging and the team is currently good enough to reach the playoffs, but not enough to be a factor, which might change as the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes seem stronger than last season.
The Ducks do have a young defense, but experienced forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry dropped off last season through injury or decline, making a Stanley Cup challenge an almost impossible task.
Crazy prediction #1
Ducks miss the playoffs!
The Anaheim Ducks got swept by the San Jose Sharks in the last year's playoffs, even losing one of the games 8-1. After the offseason transactions, the Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Vegas Golden Knights have seemingly left the Ducks behind.
It will be a wildcard battle in Anaheim, and they certainly haven't helped themselves getting players like Andrej Sustr or Chris Gibbons who won't impact the team much.
Teams like the aforementioned Flames have improved significantly as well as teams in the Central Division that will be competing for the same wildcard spots.
This might not be the Ducks' year.
Crazy prediction #2
GM Bob Murray blows up the roster and Ducks go into a rebuild!
To be realistic, the Ducks in their current form with Getzlaf and Perry will not win the Cup. They might get into the playoffs again this year, but they are not truly contending.
If the stars like Getzlaf and Perry were traded for picks and quality prospects, the younger stars like Cam Fowler, Rickard Rakell, and Hampus Lindholm will lead the young stars they would acquire and be ready to actually challenge in three or four years.
Of course, moves like these are rarer than mermaids riding unicorns in the NHL, but Anaheim is not a market like Montreal or Toronto, and the fanbase might be more patient with a team that they remember winning the Stanley Cup.
Crazy prediction #3
John Gibson keeps healthy and becomes one of the league's best goaltenders!
Gibson played 60 games last season, the most in his injury-laden career. He performed well, but still couldn't rely on his body, picking up some injuries.
At his best and healthiest, he is among the best goalies in the league, it's just a matter of his health. Gibson could very well be the difference between Ducks being in or out of the playoffs, so the fans in Anaheim will be hoping that the 25-year-old will be motivated by his new contract and get lucky with injuries.
Crazy prediction #4
Defense carries Ducks into Conference Finals!
With the frontline getting older, the Ducks strongest asset has become their defense, with Gibson in the net and two very strong defensive pairs.
If everything works out for them on the defense, and they get some offense from Perry bouncing back, Getzlaf staying healthy, as well as Rakell and Ondrej Kase continuing to improve, they could get into the playoffs.
The Pacific Division continues to be the most open one, so if the Ducks are in and on-form, winning the division is not out of the question. Beating the Winnipeg Jets or Nashville Predators in four out of seven games is a step too far for the Ducks, but the fans would take a run like that.
Crazy prediction #5
Ducks make a seismic trade to improve their offense!
Despite having a lot of money tied up for the long-term, the Ducks still have more than $6M in cap space. If they decide to really go for it for a season or two, there might be a trade with a really solid forward coming to Anaheim.
Players like Dylan Larkin and Artemi Panarin fit within their cap, and either would make the Ducks a whole lot more dangerous. Somebody like Alex Galchenyuk from the Arizona Coyotes, Vladislav Namestnikov from the New York Rangers or Mikkel Boedker of the Ottawa Senators would be more likely, but still improve the roster.
The Ducks have their big picks for the next few years, so if they want to go for it this year, they have the cap space and the assets.
It is yet to be seen how the Ducks will take this season, but they definitely have some interesting options in front of them.
Do you agree with the predictions made in this article? Where do you think the Anaheim Ducks will finish this season? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to give us a follow on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!