History will be tinged with irony as the Ducks kick off the 2016-17 season. It’s the 10th anniversary of their 2007 Stanley Cup-winning season under Coach Randy Carlyle, who returns in an attempt to guide the franchise back to that pinnacle.
The Ducks believe their championship window is open but, unlike 2007, they are not ready-made for a Cup run and have plenty of questions as training camp begins Friday at Anaheim Ice.
1. What about Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm? The Swedish roommates remain restricted free agents and are not expected to report to camp until they’re under contract.
Neither would be immediately available anyway because Rakell is recovering from surgery and Lindholm is playing in the World Cup. But this could be a distraction until their status is resolved.
Both are due big raises and the Ducks are stretched by an internal budget that typically operates well under the NHL salary cap, set at $73 million this season.
2. Who will provide depth at forward? One of the quietest free agencies in recent Ducks history leaves questions, particularly at wing. Mason Raymond and tough guy Jared Boll were the only significant signings at the position after David Perron and Jamie McGinn signed elsewhere.
Young forwards Nick Ritchie, Chris Wagner, Stefan Noesen and perhaps top draft pick Max Jones have an opportunity. Anaheim is strong at center with the acquisition of Antoine Vermette. Nate Thompson will be sidelined until mid-season because of a torn Achilles.
3. Is this the same Carlyle? Carlyle was known for a dump-and-chase attack for much of his first Ducks stint, but he has spent a lot of time studying the up-tempo offenses of the NHL and said upon his hiring that he has adapted to the modern game.
“I don’t believe that I’m the Neanderthal from the standpoint of wanting knuckles dragging and fighting,” he said.
Carlyle is not an analytics fan, a point of contention when he coached the Toronto Maple Leafs, the coach but believes in a puck-possession game and strong defensive support. Carlyle also is known for rigorous training camps, and the Ducks might get a taste of that in the first few days.
4. How will the goaltending be split up? John Gibson is officially the franchise goalie after the Ducks traded Frederik Andersen, but General Manager Bob Murray said he needed a No. 2 to assume a significant role as Gibson, 23, develops into a full-time NHL goalie.
Enter Jonathan Bernier, a former Kings backup who is expected to share the net with Gibson. How often he’ll play will be determined by Carlyle, who coached Bernier with the Maple Leafs.
Bernier would be a No.1 for a lot of other teams, so it foreshadows another interesting season in goal for the Ducks.
This much is certain: Carlyle is not known for juggling his lines as often as Boudreau. Getzlaf and Perry won’t join the team until after the World Cup, so there will be a small window for experimentation before the season opener Oct.13.