The new Anaheim Ducks: now without defense

Jonathan Willis' post about the performance of Ryan Getzlaf's line this season brings up the changes that Anaheim has undergone since Brian Burke left the building not quite a year ago. The Ducks have turned over seven out of eight spots on the blue line, and they ditched Burke's favorite shutdown line of Rob Niedermayer, Travis Moen and Sami Pahlsson in favor of more offense in the form of Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul.

In my season preview of the Ducks, I wondered who was going to pick up the slack. The only remaining penalty-killers in Anaheim were Scott Niedermayer and Todd Marchant, unless they wanted to roll Mike Brown and Petteri Nokelainen like they did in last year's playoffs. But they've decided to promote from within - first, on defense, we can see that they're giving big minutes to several players who've never been trusted on the PK before:

4-on-5 Mins/G 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Wisniewski 1.3 2.17 4.93
Niedermayer 4.52 4.39 4.52
Whitney 2.2 1.68 3.51
Eminger 0.33 2.36 3.43

Wisniewski, Eminger and Whitney have generally been no higher than the 5th choice to kill penalties in the past, even on cellar-dwelling teams like the Lightning. The results haven't been encouraging so far, though Anaheim is roughly in the same place overall as they were last season.

At forward, the story is even more extreme:

4-on-5 Mins/G 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Marchant 3.24 3.6 4.31
Koivu 1.26 1.14 3.39
Lupul 1.29 0.26 2.14
Getzlaf 0.59 0.41 2.08

That's an awful lot of offensive firepower to put on the penalty-kill, and it's not a group that any coach has put out there in recent memory. Normally, you'd use Koivu, Lupul and Getzlaf as much as possible on the power-play, but with Selanne, Perry and Ryan also on the roster, Anaheim has too many bodies and too little playing time. So it makes sense to use them elsewhere. But losing a bunch of strong defensive players has certainly complicated matters for those Ducks players who were used to having someone else take care of the defense, and it can't help but reduce the offensive output from their top two lines.

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