Anaheim Ducks: Miller Time?
By Kevin Wickersham
Note: all ownership totals pertain to Fantrax leagues
Part of a four-way logjam with Colorado, Los Angeles and Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference as the All Star Game break winds down, Anaheim has survived their ridiculous spate of early injuries in decent shape.
Just when all seemed relatively repaired and in order for a playoff push, John Gibson’s injury suffered Thursday night when Blake Wheeler lost his edge and plowed into the netminder’s legs has the Ducks sweating again. While Patrick Eaves, counted on as a major player in the Anaheim offense, has missed all but two contests thus far with Guillain-Barré syndrome, the remainder of the primary crew is back.
It shouldn’t be a surprise given his role with the franchise, but Ryan Getzlaf leads the club with 25 assists and is second in points with 31 in 26 games, slightly less than half the 50 Anaheim has logged thus far. Before his December 11 return the Ducks’ record stood at 12-11-7, ever since Anaheim is 12-6-2. Given a shorter time span, with Ryan Kesler back in the fold beginning December 27, they’ve maintained the same pace with an 8-4-1 record. So they’re catching fire as we near the schedule’s final third.
In addition to providing a reliable option for Gibson’s rest days, Ryan Miller was signed with an eye toward their young number one’s past injury problems. It appears we will now get to see if that works out, perhaps for an extended period of time. Jonathan Bernier excelled in that role last year, as he has in Colorado during Semyon Varlamov’s recent absence.
Miller has performed admirably in limited action this year and presents potentially good value should Gibson’s injury keep him out of the net for a good while. With a .929 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against to go with a 6-2-4 record in 14 appearances, the now 37-year-old legend may have to test his stamina with regular playing time.
On the minus side, he has spent two separate stints on IR this year following a preseason wrist injury and November lower body injury forcing him to miss a few weeks. The positive – accustomed to serving 50-plus games in net with underwhelming Canuck squads the previous two years, and likely fresh after appearing in only 28% of the Ducks’ games this campaign, he might still rack up some good numbers in upcoming weeks with a largely reunited roster. Another potential difference maker – he’s faced an average of 30.27 shots per 60 minutes as a Duck, 32.45 shots per 60 minutes last year as a Canuck with a .914 shot percentage and 2.80 goals against.
Given the scarcity of goalies in many leagues, I was surprised that Miller is available in 64% of leagues – and that’s after a 4% decrease over the last week. If you have a roster spot, and even if Gibson returns at full capacity quickly, strongly consider snapping him up. His ceiling is high.
Other potentially wise Duck pickups include perennial faceoff king Antoine Vermette whose 526 FOW (eighth-most in the league despite averaging just 15:03 in ice time) and 60% success rate rank (second among qualifiers to only Ryan O’Reilly’s 61.4%) belie his 17% ownership. Perhaps there aren’t a great number of multi-category leagues that count faceoff statistics but if yours does, pounce.
While his offensive potency on Anaheim’s early year depleted squad is now nearly gone, and his ice time has dipped to 11:17 in the 20 games since Getzlaf’s return, Chris Wagner’s hit totals have endured as he stands second in the NHL with 164. He’s only owned in 19% of leagues. Teammate Nick Ritchie, having missed six contests, ranks ninth in the league with 140 hits and offers an added penalty minutes, earning 47 thus far, good for top-20 status in the West. He too is quite available, owned in only 37% of leagues.
Finally, you could do worse than picking up Ondrej Kase. A frequent and current line mate of Getzlaf and club scoring leader Rickard Rakell this year, and not far removed from a seven-point, five-game scoring run, his 12 goals and 10 assists in just 34 contests (0.65 points per game) would look good on many squads. Add in a plus-eleven that ties for tops among Duck forwards with Andrew Cogliano, 35% percent ownership, and a low salary cap number ($706,667 AAV) and you have a solid roster candidate.
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