ANAHEIM – Now and in the immediate future, the Ducks will continue to be held up by their three pillars – Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler.
It is heavy lifting, especially when it’s a franchise that challenges for the Stanley Cup and sees itself continuing to do so. The Ducks have been on the doorstep of playing for it in two of the last three years, with Chicago moving on to hoist the Cup and Nashville now getting its first crack at it.
The pain of this latest Western Conference finals loss hasn’t subsided much among the Ducks as they gathered to clean out their lockers and have their exit meetings before separating for the summer. Losses will still sting. Missed opportunities will be lamented.
But the final gathering also served as an initial look forward. Lifting the franchise to its elusive second Cup might come on the backs of The Big Three but better structural support is needed for those pillars as they continue to age.
It is time for the twentysomethings to take more of the load off the thirtysomethings. And that means Jakob Silfverberg, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson have to take on more leading roles. Franchise goalie John Gibson is in that mix.
“I told three of them this morning, ‘Hey, you made great strides this year. But it’s got to be even more next year if you want this team to go anywhere,’” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “Some of our young people have to take an even bigger jump than they made this year.
“And it’s not something that they’re incapable of, by the way. All of these guys are talented and capable.”
Does that mean some of them have to become the front-line players for the Ducks? Maybe. Some, such as Fowler, Lindholm and Silfverberg, are already that or will soon become such. Others, such as Rakell, Manson and Vatanen, have been around long enough to be considered core players.
Signs of wear and tear began to appear on The Big Three against…