The Anaheim Ducks are a team in a hellish limbo right now. They’re winless in their last 12 games, but are somehow just two points out of a playoff spot. The issue is that the Ducks team is incredibly flawed and head coach Randy Carlyle’s system is tanking their chances to have success. John Gibson continues to do his best, but it’s impossible for a goaltender to carry that heavy of a load for an entire season.
The Ducks appear to be preparing for a fire sale (once they finish off all their minor lateral moves, perhaps) in an attempt to stockpile assets for an impending rebuild of their aging core.
Andrew Cogliano was sent to Dallas for Devin Shore, and the rumours are swirling that Jakob Silfverberg will be the next player moved. By moving Silfverberg, the team would be signalling that they’re open for business, and Montreal should be knocking on their door to add a missing piece to their roster.
In speaking with our friends at Anaheim Calling, they believe that Lindholm is as close to untouchable on the roster as can be. So that would leave Fowler; a player who had previously been mentioned as a target for Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens.
Fowler himself is an interesting case. His current possession metrics are not favourable in any way, shape, or form. This is due in part to the fact that Carlyle’s defensive system doesn’t seem to involve any defence whatsoever.
That graphic is not just Fowler, that is the Anaheim Ducks as a whole. When a team fails to create any sort of shot suppression through the middle of the ice like this, it’s clearly a systemic issue. It was a problem in Toronto under the same coach, and clearly is becoming a crippling problem in Anaheim. It means Fowler could be a prime candidate to bounce back in a new setting.
As shown above, Fowler’s numbers are not pretty right now, but they obviously require a bit of context. It’s another piece of evidence that shows Carlyle’s system doesn’t work. It does how that Fowler is still a solid offensive player, with a bit of promise for a defensive turnaround that could mesh easily with the up-tempo play of the Canadiens this year.
It’s also worth noting that Fowler has almost exclusively been used as a top-pairing blue-liner against the best players of opposing teams. There’s a reason why he is trusted to do that, and it’s because he has extremely strong parts to his game that are lost on a poor team.
From Andrew Berkshire’s analysis on Sportsnet that ranks the top 20 defenders over the past three years, Fowler lands sixth on the list, trailing John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, and Erik Karlsson. Just a small group of perennial Norris trophy nominees and winners.
In the profile of Fowler, it’s noted that his strength lies in being the lead man on the puck, and the distributor from the back end. His strong skating allows him to join the rush and leads to his team creating more chances that way.
This would make him a great partner for Shea Weber, who, for all of his strengths, is not a puck-moving defencemen. Pairing him with Fowler gives him someone who can lead the breakout and allow Weber to settle in his role as the shooter and defensive stalwart on the pairing.
Over three years, Fowler is in the top percentiles for his transition play, which is an area where Weber doesn’t excel. While this is good news for even-strength play, it might be even better news for a disastrous Montreal power play. Fowler’s ability to move the puck, while also doing a great job creating zone entries could help solve the Canadiens’ issue of not keeping possession while trying to get set up in the opposing zone.
One caveat is that Fowler’s deal pays him $6.5 million a season, for seven more years after this one, and it includes a modified no-trade clause, by which Fowler can pick four teams he’d be willingly to go to. Cap space most certainly isn’t the issue in Montreal right now, given that they have almost $10 million available right now, and that number might only increase depending on Bergevin’s plans at the trade deadline.
It’s a bit frightening in terms of contract length, but the salary cap should keep rising in the next few years, making the money less of an issue.
The Ducks likely want a middle-six NHL forward and a first-round pick for their defender, which is about right for his talents. The thing is, the Ducks are in desperation mode, and as it’s been famously said “when you’re sinking, people only throw you anchors.” Montreal has a glut of middle-six forwards they could use in a trade, anyone from Andrew Shaw to Artturi Lehkonen fits the bill, but it’s hard to see Marc Bergevin surrendering his everyday players for Fowler while they’re playing so well.
Montreal has a hefty stash of picks and prospects as well that could interest Bob Murray too should the Ducks GM be looking at a longer-term solution rather than a quick turnaround.
Cam Fowler, like many Ducks, is having a down year, but he could still be a valuable addition to the Canadiens — for the right price.