Anaheim Ducks alternate history: What if they drafted Sidney Crosby?

This summer, we’re breaking our flux capacitors to change NHL history. Our first dive into history looks at what could have happened if the Anaheim Ducks won the 2005 draft lottery and drafted Sidney Crosby.

Hockey is a sport that relies quite a bit on a bunch of silly things you can’t control. This offseason at Puck Prose, we’re busting out our flux capacitors, driving our DeLoreans at 88 miles per hour, and going back in time to alter NHL history. This series will go alphabetically, so we’re starting with the Anaheim Ducks and how they nearly missed out on a generational talent in Sidney Crosby.

The Ducks have been one of the most successful teams in the post-2005 lockout era. They’ve won the fourth-most regular season games since the start of the 2005-06 season. Only the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and San Jose Sharks have won more.

Also, the Ducks have a Stanley Cup (2007) on their resume. They’ve won the fifth-most postseason games in the salary cap era (70) as well and have made the playoffs in 11 of their past 14 seasons.

However, the Ducks could have been a dynasty. They were on the verge of greatness. Thanks to a ping-pong ball, their dynasty never got started. Let’s go back to 2005, when the Ducks narrowly missed out on the chance to draft Crosby.

2005 Draft Lottery

The 2005 NHL Draft lottery was an interesting one. Because there was no 2004-05 season, the league came up with a way to determine the draft order. It was surprisingly simple and gave each team a chance to win the lottery.

Each team started off with three ping-pong balls. They lost one for every first-overall pick and one for every postseason appearance in the previous three seasons. The Ducks were left with two ping-pong balls, as they made the 2002-03 postseason.

Overall, 48 balls were left around the league. Commissioner Gary Bettman opened envelopes corresponding to numbers on the balls. The Ducks had a roughly four percent chance of winning the draft lottery. Against all odds, they were one of the two teams remaining after the Carolina Hurricanes got the third overall pick.

The next ball drawn was for the first overall pick, which went to the Penguins. Anaheim lost out on a generational talent to pair with Ryan Getzlaf. Instead of Crosby, the Ducks went with the second-ranked prospect at the time, Bobby Ryan.

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Alternate History

What would have happened if the balls bounced the Ducks way? The first thing we have to do is erase Ryan from franchise history and replace him with Crosby. In 2005-06, the Ducks bounced back, led by a stingy defense that allowed the eight-fewest goals in the league. Teemu Selanne and Andy MacDonald led an offense that finished 15th in goals scored.

The Ducks made it all the way to the Western Conference Final before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. Two of their four losses were by one goal. The other two were each by two goals, but each game featured an empty-net goal for the Oilers towards the end.

Crosby was an incredible rookie, so he probably would have tilted the series in Anaheim’s favor. They likely would have beaten the Hurricanes too, making Crosby a Stanley Cup champion as a rookie.

With Selanne, Perry, Getzlaf, and Crosby as their core, we’ll assume the Ducks still managed to acquire Chris Pronger in after the 2005-06 season. They won the Stanley Cup without Crosby in 2007, so there’s no reason they wouldn’t do it with him.

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The Dynasty

The Ducks would challenge for a third straight Stanley Cup back in 2007-08. With Crosby, Anaheim doesn’t lose to the Dallas Stars. In the second round, the Ducks would have beaten the Sharks. But ultimately, the Detroit Red Wings were stacked as well with five future Hall of Famers and likely would have come out on top.

But, ironically, just like in real life, Crosby would have a chance for revenge the next postseason. The Ducks lost to the Red Wings in seven games in 2008-09 in the Western Conference Semifinal. With Crosby, that doesn’t happen. The Ducks wind up winning their third Stanley Cup after beating the Washington Capitals, who no longer have to worry about the Penguins.

After that, though, Anaheim probably would have faced some cap issues, so they’d take a step back for a few years. But still, having Crosby in his prime is enough to be a serious Stanley Cup contender. Also, if he’s with the Ducks, the events that put his career in jeopardy thanks to concussions never happen.

Anaheim made it to the Western Conference Final in 2015, losing in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Crosby would have led them to a fourth Stanley Cup over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With Sid The Kid, the Ducks would have won no fewer than four Stanley Cups. Potentially more. Imagine trying to stop a trio of Corey Perry, Crosby, and Getzlaf. Not quite as strong as Malkin and Crosby, but still quite formidable. Perry might be a Hall of Famer if he got to play regularly with Crosby.

Outside Thoughts

I asked Ciara Durant, the site expert at FanSided’s Ducks blog Pucks Of A Feather if drafting Crosby would make the Ducks a dynasty. Here’s what she had to say.

If the Ducks would have drafted Sidney Crosby instead of Bobby Ryan, they would likely be a dynasty. I have nothing against Ryan Getzlaf, he’s a great player, but Crosby is on a different level all together, and the proof is in the pudding.

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It’s remarkable how a ping-pong ball changed the landscape of the NHL. A ping-pong ball saved the Penguins, who needed a miracle and got one. The same ping-pong ball could have shifted the balance of the NHL to the Western Conference.

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