Ducks Need a Getzlaf Succession Plan
For the Anaheim Ducks, life without Ryan Getzlaf will be a reality sooner rather than later. With one year left on his contract, it’s time for them to at least start thinking about moving on, if they haven’t already.
Granted, the Ducks could theoretically re-sign the 35-year-old Getzlaf, who was drafted by the organization all the way back in 2003. Keep in mind, this is the same team that bought Corey Perry out after a few seasons of sub-par scoring. Not only was Perry a year younger at the time of the buy-out and drafted in 2003 as well, but he had a Hart Memorial Trophy to his name as a Duck (2011), which Getzlaf does not.
Furthermore, the Ducks don’t need to be nearly as pro-active with Getzlaf. They can choose to just run out the clock on his deal, if they so choose. In other words, it’s very realistic they opt to move on from him too, especially if his scoring continues to decrease as it has over the last few seasons.
So, what will life after Getzlaf look like? Probably something like this:
Ducks’ New Top Scorer Instead of Getzlaf
It may be a surprise to some, but Getzlaf hasn’t actually led the Ducks in scoring in two of the last three seasons, with the Ducks having a different top scorer each year in that span (Adam Henrique, Rickard Rakell). Prior to that stretch, he had been the top dog every campaign since 2012-13.
In Getzlaf’s 15 total seasons with the Ducks, he’s led them in scoring eight times, so over half the time. So, if it’s only been once in the last the three seasons, it’s clear there’s already somewhat of a changing of the guard taking place. The question is who is in the better position to take on Getzlaf’s top-scoring role?
Logically speaking, it’s probably Rakell at least in the short term. He’s only 27 and in the two seasons of the last three when he didn’t lead the Ducks in scoring, he finished tied for second. The issue is that Rakell may not be a long-term solution from a scoring perspective, as he only has two years left on his deal after this one.
In contrast, Henrique is under contract until 2024, but he’s already 30. To put that number into perspective, Rakell will only be 29 when his contract expires. In theory, Henrique can continue to keep his scoring up for a few seasons, like Getzlaf did into his early 30s. However, Henrique’s 43-point effort this past season was one of the better statistical campaigns of his career. Rakell simply has a higher ceiling.
Winger Jakob Silfverberg has an outside chance at usurping Getzlaf, but he’s been most productive during the playoffs, not the regular season. Unlike Henrique he hasn’t so much as hit 50 in a single campaign. Like, Henrique he’s on the verge of turning 30, reinforcing the need for general manager Bob Murray to extend Rakell when the time comes. Looking more long-term though, 2019-first-round-pick Trevor Zegras projects as a game-changing talent.
Ducks’ New No. 1 Center Instead of Getzlaf
While Zegras may pan out on the wing instead, he is technically a center and will hopefully become the team’s No. 1 pivot of the future.
Nevertheless, at age 19, Zegras is probably some time away from making a significant impact. For example, Getzlaf was 23 the first time he led the Ducks in scoring, which is four years away for Zegras. Considering Getzlaf’s accomplishments, it’s hard to imagine more of a realistic better-case scenario than for Zegras to follow his career trajectory.
Assuming Getzlaf doesn’t re-sign in a year, the easy selection would be for Henrique to take over as the Ducks’ new No. 1 center, especially since “Elite 1C” Derek Grant has since been traded. However, in spite of how Henrique was arguably the Ducks’ first star this past season and the fact that he led them in scoring, he fits in more as a No. 2 guy, based on how he’s only scored more than 50 points once (51 in 2011-12).
Sam Steel, who centered an emerging new top line for the Ducks between Max Jones and the since-departed Ondrej Kase, is a legitimate darkhorse. Selected No. 30 overall in 2016, Steel doesn’t have the same upside as Zegras, but he does of an in-his-prime Henrique at least. He’s also just 22 and could make further strides in his game after playing an entire season in the NHL in 2019-20 (22 points in 65 games).
Ducks’ New Captain Instead of Getzlaf
Leadership is one area in which the Ducks are thankfully far from lacking. Both Silfverberg and defenseman Josh Manson have the inside track to the captaincy as the two were named alternates this season to replace Perry and Ryan Kesler, who had been an alternate since 2015.
If Kesler chooses not to return from his hip surgery, one of the former two is likely to get the “C.” Silfverberg, a penalty-killing specialist, has been with the Ducks one more season since 2013. Not to be outdone, Manson is a homegrown talent, and arguably espouses qualities such as determination and grit to an even greater degree, making the show despite having been a sixth-round pick back in 2011 as a 19-year-old.
The Ducks really can’t go wrong with either selection. From a practical standpoint though, Silfverberg is under contract for two more years relative to Manson. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know they also have options like Rakell and defenseman Hampus Lindholm, each of whom also wore letters last preseason to further symbolize the aforementioned changing of the guard from a leadership perspective. Even Henrique has previously worn a letter for the Ducks.
With so much talent in that regard, it’s almost easy to forget the Ducks still have Getzlaf for one more season… at least. The two sides can still decide to make the relationship last longer, but you have to believe, without a playoff-game victory since 2017, it’s almost critical that the Ducks rebound significantly for it to be worthwhile. It’s clear they at least have the talent to, starting at the top.
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