COACH: Greg Cronin, hired on June 5.
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 14 at Vegas.
DEPARTURES: D Kevin Shattenkirk, F Max Comtois.
ADDITIONS: F Alex Killorn, D Radko Gudas, G Alex Stalock, D Robert Hagg, D Lassi Thomson.
GOALIES: John Gibson (14-31-8, 3.99 goals-against average, 0.899 save percentage) and Lukas Dostal (4-10-0, 3.78 GAA, 0.901).
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK STANLEY CUP ODDS: 200-1.
LAST SEASON: The longest playoff drought in franchise history stretched to five seasons with a fourth straight dismal campaign under coach Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn't renewed after the Ducks managed just 23 wins — this team's fewest ever in an 82-game season. Anaheim seemingly regressed across the board. Leading scorers Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry still don't have well-rounded games, while newcomers Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano made only modest contributions. Anaheim finished with an NHL-low 58 points, but Connor Bedard and the top pick went to Chicago in a draft lottery that infuriated Ducks fans, who still remember losing out on Sidney Crosby under similar circumstances.
STRENGTHS: A theoretically good young core added another top player in No. 2 overall pick Leo Carlsson, although the Ducks haven't decided whether he will play in the NHL this season. The Swedish center joins Zegras, Terry, Mason McTavish, defenseman Jamie Drysdale and several supplementary prospects in forming one of the league's deepest bases of talent. That talent has yet to get the Ducks anywhere near NHL competence, however. Gibson remains a respected netminder, although his numbers haven't reflected that ability in recent years while he played behind some truly execrable defensive teams.
WEAKNESSES: Aside from the obvious talent deficit, an overall lack of urgency and fire under general manager Pat Verbeek, who has been content to undertake a lengthy rebuild during his first 20 months in charge. That patient attitude doesn't fit with the vibrant Cronin, a longtime minor league boss finally getting his first chance to lead an NHL bench at 60 years old. Verbeek also spent much of training camp locked in contract stalemates with Zegras and Drysdale, forcing two of his most vital players to miss their first training camp under Cronin. Zegras finally got a deal Monday.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Cronin seems highly unlikely to allow the Ducks to coast through yet another tepid season with no passion to win now. Verbeek signed the pugnacious Gudas as part of his goal to make the Ducks tougher, while Killorn should provide goals and veteran leadership when he returns from a broken finger. If Carlsson stays in Anaheim this winter and even proves he's good enough to justify Verbeek's risky decision to pick him over Adam Fantilli, the Ducks will be strong up the middle. They still don't look ready to be a playoff team, but a competitive attitude every night and a year of actual growth from their young core would be the first positive signs of Verbeek's tenure.
PLAYER TO WATCH: McTavish had 17 goals and 26 assists in his first full NHL season, but he appeared to hit the rookie wall in its final third, scoring just four goals after Feb. 20. The third overall pick in 2021 has the potential to be a No. 1 or No. 2 center, but he must grow into the role quickly. If Anaheim gets better, McTavish also should get better.