The National Hockey League had only six franchises in the late 1960s, and today the sport has expanded to 32 teams across North America—including 7 franchises in Canada. For our next NHL Saturday miniseries, we’re going to look at all NHL organizations and highlight the best teams in those respective histories. Yes, the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights have little to choose from at this point, but that’s okay; we don’t want to wait five more years to do this miniseries!
So, we will go alphabetically, and start with the Anaheim Ducks. Initially known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim after a Disney film series, the team began play with the 1993-1994 season and won its only Stanley Cup in the 2006-2007 season. But with 14 seasons ending up in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Ducks have been a decently successful expansion team, all things considered. Here are the franchises five best seasons, ever, in reverse order.
No. 5: 2007-08 Anaheim Ducks
This was the team’s Cup defense year, and it was good in the sense the team made the postseason again, finishing second in the Pacific Division behind the San Jose Sharks, but it was bad, too, as the Ducks were eliminated in six games by the Dallas Stars in the conference quarterfinals. That had to be a disappointment for Anaheim fans, even though the Ducks posted 102 points in the regular season.
The team’s top scorer was center Ryan Getzlaf (24G, 58A), and rockstar goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere (winner of our Conn Smythe designations in both 2003 and 2007) posted a 35-17-6 record. The fatal flaw on this team, however, was an overall lack of scoring as Getzlaf was the only player to post more than 54 points. The Ducks scored just 13 goals in their six playoff games, after managing 2.75 goals per game in the prior season’s postseason.
This was the final season with this Disney team name, but it was a good showing, overall. The team posted 98 points for a third-place finish in the Pacific Division, and in the playoffs, Anaheim pushed all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the upstart Edmonton Oilers in 5 games. In the first round, the Ducks beat the Calgary Flames in 7 games, and then they swept the Colorado Avalanche. Overall, that had to be considered a good postseason run.
Leading the team in scoring was right wing Teemu Selänne (40G, 50A, 44 PIMs), followed closely by versatile forward Andy McDonald (34G, 51A). The defense got amazing contributions from blueliner Scott Niedermayer (63 points, 96 PIMs), too, while Giguere played in 60 games and won half of them (30-15-11). Backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov also had major contributions in the playoffs (1.46 GAA, .944 S%).
No. 3: 2012-2013 Anaheim Ducks
With 66 points in a 48-game regular season, the Ducks claimed the Pacific Division title by 7 points over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. In the playoffs, though, Anaheim was upset by the Detroit Red Wings, who dropped the Ducks in a 7-game series. Anaheim lost both Game 6 on the road and Game 7 at home by a single goal, respectively, as Detroit had yielded the fifth-fewest goals in the league during the regular season, despite finishing just 24-16-8 on the year.
The Ducks’ offensive leader was Getzlaf (15G, 34A, 41 PIMs) once again, and two different goalies each won 15 times for Anaheim: Viktor Fasth (.921 GAA, 2.18 S%) and Jonas Hiller (.913, 2.36). The true issue in the playoff loss was the overtime session: The Red Wings won Games 2, 4, and 6 in extra time, before winning Game 7 on the road. Overall, Detroit won 4 one-goal games, including the three in OT. This may have just been bad misfortune for the Ducks.
No. 2: 2006-2007 Anaheim Ducks
What are the odds that the season where the team sheds its goofy (see what we did there?) name for the sensible one is also the one where the team breaks through and wins the Stanley Cup? The Ducks lost just 5 times in 4 postseason series on their way to the NHL title: They beat Minnesota in 5, Vancouver in 5, the Red Wings in 6, and the Ottawa Senators in 5. Giguere was our pick for the Conn Smythe, even though Niedermayer was the undeserving vote winner.
In the regular season, Selänne (48G, 46A, 82 PIMs) and Giguere (36-10-8, 2.26 GAA, .918 S%) were the best players on the team as Anaheim claimed the Pacific Division title with 110 points. It was a tough division battle, as both the Dallas Stars and the Sharks posted 107 points, so the closeness of that race may have helped focus the Ducks in the playoffs. Overall, 7 teams in the Western Conference surpassed the 100-point mark in the regular season, so Anaheim truly navigated the rough road to a title.
No. 1: 2013-2014 Anaheim Ducks
With 54 wins and 116 points, this Ducks team set franchise records as it won the Pacific Division by 5 points over the Sharks—and 16 points over the eventual Stanley Cup champs from Los Angeles. In the first round of the postseason, Anaheim eliminated Dallas is 6 games, but in the next matchup, the Kings eliminated their crosstown brethren in seven games. That seventh-game blowout loss was devastating for the Ducks, who now have not made the playoffs since the 2017-2018 season.
Getzlaf (31G, 56A) and RW Corey Perry (43G, 39A, 65 PIMs) were the only two skaters with more than 50 points; meanwhile, two goalies each posted at least 20 wins on the year: youngster Frederik Andersen (20-5-0, 2.29 GAA, .923 S%) and Hiller (29-13-7). Anaheim was second in the NHL for goals scored and tenth overall in goals against; however, L.A. was the best defensive team in the NHL, and that ended up ruling the day in the chase for Lord Stanley’s silver chalice.