THE BOTTOM LINE
By Jim Kelley, Special to ESPN.com
The Ducks have a new hockey department headed by the very capable Brian Burke, formerly of Vancouver, the NHL home offices in New York and Hartford. There's also a new coach, a new owner (say good-bye to the Disney Corp.) and a new attitude, brought about by Burke's resume, and the acquisition of coveted free-agent defenseman Scott Niedermayer.
Offense: So here's the question: do the Ducks have an offense that is truly worthy of the pitiful total of 184 goals scored in the 2003-04 season, or is it a reflection of departed coach Mike Babcock's defense-first philosophy? Well, it's a little of both, especially when you throw in the inability to adjust to the departure of Paul Kariya that season, Sergei Fedorov's post-Detroit funk and Disney's unwillingness to prop up the franchise with offensive talent. Whatever -- Burke needs offensive help and it better come in the form of Fedorov, who is still making $6 million annually for the next three seasons while Petr Sykora is due $3.1 million in each of the next two. That's a cap problem, but those are also skilled players who should benefit from Niedermayer's long breakout passes.
Defense: This is also where some of the offense will come from. In addition to Niedermayer, there is also Sandis Ozolinsh, who can throw the puck around very well. There's also a holdover corps of stay-at-home defensemen that should be aided by the emergence of prospect Mark Popovic, who benefited from the lockout with an extra season at the AHL level.
Goaltending: Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the hero of the 2003 run to the Cup finals, but he fell apart the following season. Still, he's technically sound, has good coaching behind him, and with a defense than can move the puck out of harm's way, should rebound smartly even with the scale back in equipment.
WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
YES They have players who can move the puck smartly in what may well be a skater's league again.
BUT They had no chemistry last time out, and with new management, a new coach and a new approach, it may take awhile to come together.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The Ducks have some interesting kids who could make the team out of training camp, but the player to watch is Sergei Fedorov. He's the guy who makes the offense go and it has to go a lot better than last season.
Randy Carlyle will install an up-tempo attack that both he and Brian Burke believe in. He's a former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman who's paid his dues in the minor leagues, and should have an impact and rapport with skilled players, something Babcock never established.
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> BEAMING UP SCOTTY
Short of winning the Sidney Crosby derby (they finished second), the Ducks got the premier free agent available in Scott Niedermayer.
WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> LOST 'D'
The Ducks losing defenseman Martin Skoula to cap problems. He was a top-four defenseman for the Ducks.
Sergei Fedorov, C
Fedorov led the team with 31 goals and 34 assists in 80 games.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G
Giguere struggled in 2003-04 after tasting playoff success a year earlier. He posted a 17-31-6 record with 2.62 goals-against average.
“Playing with Rob, the West Coast, closer to family. A little bit of everything.”
— Scott Niedermayer on why he went to the Ducks.