The Anaheim Ducks have a problem. Their roster consists of a few solid, capable centermen. Ryan Getzlaf is among the league’s elite. Ryan Kesler, although plagued by injuries, is a formidable shutdown player. Adam Henrique is clicking well on the third line. But a move that sent William Karlsson away in 2015 has begun to haunt them.
For the Anaheim Ducks, William Karlsson is the Missing Piece
While they may seem to be in good shape in the present, Anaheim has a gaping hole in their future at center ice. As Getzlaf begins to age, the Ducks lack the youth needed to carry them into the future. The Ducks, however, did once have the piece they so desperately need today. Unfortunately for them, they chose to trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015 before anyone had realized his full potential. The Ducks sorely miss him and should regret ever gifting him away.
The Ducks received James Wisniewski and a third round pick from the Blue Jackets in return for William Karlsson, Rene Bourque, and a second-round pick. Wisniewski, while being a great defender at the time, played only 13 times during his stint in Anaheim.
Wisniewski had played in Anaheim before this trade and had proven over the years to be a steady offensive defender who could put up points. But he clearly did not fit into the system the Ducks were running at the time. The move ended up being relatively useless for the Ducks, and they gave up on Wisniewski after the season ended. Looking back, the trade is not memorable at all for anyone but the most diehard of Ducks fans.
Mistakes Were Made: Giving Up on Karlsson
William Karlsson went to Columbus and did very little. He was a consistent fourth-line penalty killer and occasional healthy scratch. He never put up high-end numbers and found himself stuck at the bottom of the Blue Jackets depth chart. In Columbus, as in Anaheim, Karlsson never quite put it together. It made sense then when the Blue Jackets made him available in the 2017 Expansion Draft.
The Vegas Golden Knights saw a young player who had struggled, but still had potential and decided to take the chance on him. After fumbling the Vadim Shipachyov situation, Vegas thrust Karlsson into the role of first-line center. It was here that Karlsson was given his first real chance to shine. He took advantage of his opportunity and sought to prove every doubter wrong.
Karlsson has since bettered his past season total of six goals by scoring 43. He has gone from a 25-point player to a near-80 point scorer in one year. Both the Ducks and Blue Jackets look like fools for giving up on such a talented individual. The Ducks, in particular, are hurting, as an aging team that lacks youthful energy and spark. They are in desperate need of the kind of player that William Karlsson has become.
What Could Have Been
Had the Ducks held onto Karlsson, they would be in a far better position than they exist in today. For the Ducks, the next few drafts must be centered around drafting a franchise centerman. They must search for someone to take the reigns from Getzlaf as he begins to decline. Bob Murray and his team have a lot of work cut out for them, and it is work that could have been avoided. It is surely difficult to watch Karlsson find such success with another Pacific Division franchise.
While the team and it’s fans think about what could have been, Vegas is now pushing onwards in the playoffs, and are poised to be a Pacific Division powerhouse for years to come. William Karlsson and his new team also managed to do something the Ducks could never manage to do. The Vegas Golden Knights completed the sweep of the Los Angeles Kings and started their playoff run looking as dangerous as anyone.
What’s Next for Anaheim
All the Ducks can do now is watch and stare as their one-time prospect plays a lights-out game across the desert. For Ducks fans, there is not too much to fret over. The Ducks have always been a well-managed team and have been one of the most successful expansion teams. But now they have to watch the newer, shinier expansion franchise that is breaking down their door. And William Karlsson is holding the battering ram.
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