Small sample size. Those are the three words that Ducks fans who have any optimism left should be telling themselves at the moment. That’s because through six games, Anaheim has been downright disappointing, and even awful at times.
After three games, the notion that the early-season rust needed to be shaken off held some validity. Going into the third week of the regular season though, that theorem no longer holds water.
Against Nashville on Thursday night, Bruce Boudreau’s men reached a zenith of futility. Only mustering one measly goal against Pekka Rinne when the game was already long decided, the Ducks looked disorganized in all three zones. Entries into the offensive zone were clumsy at best, the defense remained its charitable self, and the goaltending once again was a question mark.
For a team to lose a few games in a row is one thing. So many minute factors go into the outcome of a hockey game. The luckiest of bounces can undermine even the most well-fortified strategic castle.
Yet the Ducks aren’t losing because they’re unlucky; they’re losing because they can’t do anything right. Things that are totally within their control like putting a pass on a teammate’s tape seem almost impossible at times.
While we certainly could break down the X’s-and-O’s of what exactly is causing the Ducks’ malaise, that’d be almost beside the point. There’s no reason for a team that boasts perhaps the most talent and speed from top to bottom to play this poorly and with this little gumption.
Does part of that fall on the shoulders of Bruce Boudreau? Absolutely. It’s his job to not only his motivate his players to play with passion, but also to devise a game-plan that actually works. As I outlined earlier this week, he’s adopted an ultra-passive defensive strategy, which clearly isn’t working.
To blame everything on the coach would be unfair though, as the players must take some of the blame as well. Ryan Getzlaf’s love-affair with soft backhand passes in dangerous areas goes back to last season, but that casual approach to passing seems to have permeated to the rest of his game.
Give Me Solutions
As bad as things currently are, it’d be foolish to can a historically successful coach because of a short slump. Boudreau, barring his playoff disappointments, has essentially done nothing but win since arriving to Anaheim.
He’s earned this last bit of leash, as history suggests that he can turn this thing around. The Ducks’ struggles are legitimate though, and a management group with championship expectations that already has a frisky relationship with him may not see it that way.
Let’s put one ridiculous rumor to bed though: Randy Carlyle is not the solution here. Sure, he won Anaheim’s only Stanley Cup in 2007, but name me a coach with half a brain who couldn’t win a Cup with a blueline that featured both Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger in their respective primes. Carlyle then was at the helm of a monumentally bad team in Toronto. He’s not, nor will he ever be the answer.
If Boudreau does eventually get the axe, perhaps Paul MacLean could be the answer. He’s shown in the past that he can come in as a bridge coach who can rile up a stagnant group.
The shortcomings of his run-and-gun style are well documented, but they might actually benefit a team like Anaheim that’s loaded with speed and mobility. Plus, he could deliver the solid kick in the ass that this Ducks’ team desperately needs. There are no clear answers for the Ducks right now, but they’ll need to come up with them in a hurry, as time is not on their side in the cut-throat Western Conference.