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Examining five theories behind the Anaheim Ducks' success

Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.

If they look like the Ducks, and they quack like the Ducks, are they really the Ducks? Despite showing all the underlying signs of being a middling team, the Anaheim Ducks have performed like the next dynasty, winning the Western Conference regular-season points crown and sweeping the upstart Winnipeg Jets aside in the opening round of the playoffs. Is there a reasonable explanation for this apparent disconnect, and will it continue?

Journalists love building narratives around the results, and one of the main appeals of hockey analytics is being able to examine those theories in an objective fashion, and to help uncover the truth. In this case, are the Ducks simply a clutch team, and has the importance of puck possession been vastly overstated? As far as the playoffs are concerned, was Winnipeg a weak opponent, or was this simply another lesson in the value of experience? Does Anaheim possess an unheralded strength in their depth?

Let's objectively examine each of the popular theories about Anaheim's success, and see which ones can be backed up by the numbers.