By Jameson Bradley
For once in a long time the Anaheim Ducks seemed to have a excess of defensemen. Along with that excess of defensemen, the Ducks have seemed to turn around the abysmal record they had before Christmas, going 25-4-2 since returning to the action. They have catapulted themselves into 1st place in the Pacific Division.
So what’s the big change up? Why have the Ducks started winning?
The main reason would obviously be that their offense has finally come alive. Ryan Getzlaf seems to be making strides back to his old self, the David Perron was a great trade, Corey Perry is continuing the magic, and the likes of Rickard Rakell, Ryan Kesler, and Jakob Silfverberg seem to make themselves known at the right times. But with an overpowering offense, the defense usually looses steam and lets off the pedal a bit. Not the case with Anaheim. The blue line has made themselves known particularly in physical games against Boston, LA, Philadelphia, and a huge win against Chicago on this past road trip. Again the blue line has been strong this past week against Arizona, Montreal, and the Kings twice.
In focus of blue line talk seems to be several mentions of Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm, a couple throw-in’s for Kevin Bieksa, and a lot of talk about how Theodore should be the quarterback for the power play. I think Josh Manson deserves to be in there just as much as everyone else, if not more. Manson has stepped up his play, particularly in the games since Christmas. If we want to get even more particular, he seems to bring the best of what he has against physical teams like the ones mentioned above. Manson was drafted by the Ducks in 2011, and signed a 2-year entry level contract in 2014. Now I will admit, I didn’t think he really made himself that much of a presence until this season. Last season he was one of the player I doubted, and when handed the puck in the offensive zone i just assumed it would get turned over. But he has changed everything in his game, and in turn, has changed what I think about him as a player.
Coming in at 6’3 and weighing 215 lbs, Manson is on the bigger end of the defensemen for the Ducks. His totals for the season so far are 4 goals and 7 assists, which is more than double what he clocked in at last year with 0 goals and 3 assists. More so than his numbers say, Manson has adds a certain feel to the team when he hits the ice. He has started to be the enforcing defender, often found in scrums, and often found picking on players twice his size (like Zdeno Chara in the Boston game). With everything that he has improved on over the past year, I think of two things. 1) He is only going to get better. 2) The Ducks finally found Chris Pronger 2.0. He certainly hasn’t reached that point now, but I say give him another 2-3 years and he will be a great asset to the Ducks.
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