Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf’s Hart trophy campaign

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia COmmons.

When Ryan Getzlaf scored 91 points in the 2008-09 season he did so with such dominance and flair that most of us expected he’d continue to finish top five in NHL scoring for years to come, and maybe even win an Art Ross at some point. However, since that awe inspiring season, Getzlaf’s numbers have declined. His worst season was a 57 point performance through 82 games in 2011-12 – a season that saw the Ducks centre score a lowly total of 11 goals. If there were any questions about his decline, they are being answered this season – the Ducks mighty centre is back to top form.

His 48 points this season rank Getzlaf third in league scoring behind Sidney Crosby (63) and Patrick Kane (54). While the top two point producers have substantial leads on the rest of the pack, Getzlaf is the best of the rest.

Between him and Corey Perry, Getzlaf and his line-mate resemble a mid-nineties version of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr; two big men who play keep-away with the puck, typically dominating all opposing units tasked with shutting them down. The Ducks number 15 is a +17 on the campaign because for the majority of his time spent on the ice, it is him or his line who are creating offence with the puck. Conversely, last season’s Hart trophy winner, Alex Ovechkin, is a -17 to this point, and the star of this video on how not to play defence.

Getzlaf is one of the most physically dominant centres in the NHL. He stands six-foot-four, 220-pounds, according to The Ducks captain understands his size advantage and uses it to his benefit, protecting the puck like few others in the league. When he and Perry are in possession down-low, sequences tend to last for lengthy stretches, often resulting in a goal for the Ducks, drawn penalty, or the exhaustion of opposing defensive players who struggle to limit the offensive damage.

Courtesy of Getzlaf’s exceptional play, the Ducks are having a dream season. They currently occupy the number one spot in the most difficult and competitive division in hockey – the Pacific. Their 67 points provide them a cushiony lead over the rest of a pack that includes the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. Despite the stiff competition, the Ducks are beginning to run away with the division lead, which will serve them well if they can hold on and win the Western Conference, setting up a date with a first round opponent of lesser quality; one of the wild card teams. The Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks are tied for first place in the West and overall NHL standings.

It’s easier to win hockey games when your top line consistently destroys the competition, which is exactly what the Ducks are enjoying thus far in 2013-14. Getzlaf has tallied 6 game-winning-goals this season; Perry leads the league with 8. That’s 14 game decisive final strikes between hockey’s best one-two punch. Getzlaf is the centre who carries his line’s two-way work load ensuring his club claim victory far more often than they relinquish it.

The obvious choice to win the Hart trophy this season is Sidney Crosby: he has a 9-point lead on the next highest scorer in the NHL, and a 15-point lead on third place Getzlaf. Crosby will probably win the Hart, the Ted Lindsay, and the Art Ross. That being said, the season is only half over, and Getzlaf is primed to finish in the Hart conversation, and under perfect circumstances, is setting himself up to win the thing.

24 hours from now, Hockey Canada will announce the final men’s roster for the Sochi  Olympic Games. Getzlaf will be on that roster. The way he’s performing this season, he could play a significant role in winning a second straight gold for Canada.