by PuckStopsHere on 11/18/08 at 05:31 PM ET
The Anaheim Ducks have been one of the best teams in the NHL for the past couple years. Their peak occurred with their 2007 Stanley Cup victory. One of the main reasons for this has been a strong defence built around former Norris Trophy winners Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. Along with Francois Beauchemin, these three defenceman have played a tremendous amount of minutes for the Ducks. No team depends upon three defencemen as much as the Ducks depend upon these three. In terms of total ice time, Niedermayer is second in the league this season (behind Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames), Pronger is fourth and Beauchemin is 10th (despite having missed a game to injury).
This situation is forced to change now that Francois Beauchemin tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. Beauchemin is expected to be out for the remainder of the season. Does Anaheim have the defensive depth to recover?
For the last couple of years, the Ducks have relied upon this defensive trio. In fact in 2006, I wondered if overplaying them might lead to problems down the road. Clearly it didn’t immediately lead to problems (given their Stanley Cup win) but when they were forced to make due without Scott Niedermayer during his sabbatical at the beginning of last season, the team suffered. Will it be the same without Beauchemin? He is not as valuable as Niedermayer, so it should be less of a negative result, but it will not help the team.
Anaheim will have significant minutes to give out to other defencemen to replace Beauchemin. The leading candidates to take his place are Kent Huskins, Bret Hedican and rookie Brett Festerling or some combination of them. Likely, none will be able to play the minutes that Beauchemin plays with the success he has. Likely this will negatively affect the Anaheim Ducks.
Playing in the same division as the San Jose Sharks, the Ducks are in tough if they want to make a run for the division lead. Likely the Beauchemin injury will be one of the main reasons that they fall short.
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