Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Ducks Preview: John Gibson Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

The Anaheim Ducks' rebuild is taking longer than expected because the likes of Sam Steel, Max Jones and Troy Terry have been unable to have enough of an impact at the NHL level to steal ice time away from Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Rickard Rackell and Jakob Silfverberg, and the team's nucleus remained at the 40-point mark; the team's overall offense ranked at the bottom-three of the NHL in most categories for the third year in a row.

What makes their odds look good:
John Gibson is one goalie who can give Connor Hellebuyck a run for his money as the best goaltender in the world. Trevor Zegras (thirs in NCAA rookie points), Maxime Comtois (second on the San Diego Gulls in points per game), and Jamie Drysdale (point-per-game defenseman in the OHL at 17 years old) look like solid prospects.

Question marks:
Is GM Bob Murray too close to his players and too committed to keeping them? Is Dallas Eakins an NHL-level head coach? Is Kevin Shattenkirk going to be able to be the guy in Anaheim when he couldn't be with the New York Rangers?

Whether they want to admit it or not, the Ducks have been rebuilding since 2015, trading veterans for younger talent, and either missing the playoffs altogether (2018-19, 2019-20) or getting ousted in the first round(2015-16, 2017-18). They just haven't been able to develop their young talent into elite players the way other teams have.

Seventh in the West Division.

Last season notwithstanding because of injuries and Covid-19, Gibson has been one of the best goalies in the NHL since joining the league full-time in 2015-16, with elite save percentages (.920, .924, .926, .917) despite playing in 3000 minutes in three of those seasons, the 2017-18 season being particularly brutal on that front, posting a 2.43 goals-against average and a 25.3 goals saved above average mark in 60 starts, for 1733 saves and a .926 save percentage to show for it. His 31-18-7 record that year was mind-boggling and he should have finished third in Hart voting, behind Nathan MacKinnon (who should have won) and Taylor Hall (who actually did). He also should have been in the running for the Vezina, with Hellebuyck and Marc-André Fleury (Pekka Rinne won it).

I believe he will be the reason Anaheim doesn't linger in the Western Division cellar, probably with a save percentage around .925 and some 20 wins and maybe 3 or 4 shutouts in the shortened season. He's simply that good. Here he is wearing the Ducks' black (home) uniform, on card #46 (Red Rainbow Jersey Parallel) from Upper Deck's 2019-20 Allure collection, featuring a matching game-worn jersey swatch:
I got it on Ebay for less than $10.

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