The Anaheim Ducks entered last season hoping they could push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And it's hard to blame them for having those expectations for themselves. Anaheim finished the 2021-22 season with 76 points. With a core led by Trevor Zegras and breakout star Troy Terry, it made sense that the playoffs would be the next step.
Instead, that never happened. Not only did the Ducks miss the playoffs, they weren't even close. In fact, they went from 76 points the year before to finishing with 58 last season. Anaheim, record-wise, was the worst team in the NHL in 2022-23.
Changes were made this summer, and the Ducks have a new voice in the locker room. Greg Cronin finally receives his chance to lead an NHL team behind the bench after years in pro hockey. He most recently coached the Colorado Eagles in the AHL.
We won't know how the Ducks will fare under Cronin's leadership until the games are played. That said, here is our attempt at making three bold Anaheim Ducks predictions ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season.
The future in net
The Ducks look likely to enter the season with John Gibson and Alex Stalock as their goaltending tandem. However, this is almost certainly going to change throughout the season. Gibson is a prime trade candidate right now, and a solid performance could see him traded by the NHL trade deadline in March.
If that happens, then the Ducks will begin a new era in goal. And fans could see the team's puck-stopper of the future. Lukas Dostal is a promising goaltending prospect who is knocking on the door of the NHL. In 2023-24, he should see some game time.
In fact, he should establish himself as the goalie of the future. Dostal likely won't be a star out of the gate, but he won't need to be. The young netminder will turn in a solid performance and learn from a veteran voice in Stalock. Gibson gets his chance to compete, while the Ducks continue to get younger.
More than a highlight reel
Trevor Zegras is a very promising player. He has the potential to be an elite point producer in the NHL. But we didn't see the recently extended Ducks star make a major improvement in 2022-23. In fact, he improved his point total by just four points.
Zegras was far from the only player to see no major improvement on the Ducks last year. That said, he certainly did himself no favors. With the Ducks bringing in Leo Carlsson, and with Mason McTavish showing immense promise, Zegras may not be the team's focal point moving forward.
This season, the 22-year-old has to prove he's worth more than a sparkling highlight. And I believe he'll do just that. Zegras could find himself flirting with the 80-point mark while establishing himself as the next big thing for the Ducks franchise.
That being said, the Ducks are going to be hard-pressed to make major strides this upcoming season. They shouldn't be worse than last year, but they very well could still finish at the bottom of the league once again.
Anaheim will quickly realize that Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn are majorly overpaid. And sure, Anaheim could stomach it. After all, they needed to reach the salary cap floor somehow. Plus, it's not like Killorn and Gudas are bad players. But it still won't change the fact that it doesn't improve the team all that much.
Furthermore, existing veterans like Jakob Silfverberg and Brock McGinn aren't due for a resurgence. And the team's blueline is not looking all that promising outside of Jamie Drysdale and potentially Cam Fowler. It'll take quite an effort from Greg Cronin and his staff for this team to take a major leap in 2023-24.