The Floundering Ducks of Anaheim

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you your 2015-16 Stanley Cup champion, the Anaheim Ducks.

That was the consensus around most media outlets leading up to the start of this season, but to the surprise of many the Anaheim Ducks have crashed and burned. Many expected Anaheim take a stranglehold on the Pacific division for the fourth year in a row, but instead they are closer to the cellar-dwelling Edmonton Oilers rather than the Los Angeles Kings, who are perched atop of the division.

The Ducks lack of success has been heralded as one of the biggest disappointments of the season, but should fans really be all that surprised?

On the surface, yes it’s a surprise to see the Ducks flounder through the first quarter of the season, but the underlying statistics show that they were lucky to come first overall in the Conference last season.

The One-Goal Wonders

The Ducks were undoubtedly mighty in one-goal games last season, finishing with a record 33 wins in such games (33-1-7). They set a record for the most wins when trailing at any point in the third period with 18, and also set a record with 12 wins when trailing after two periods.

The same luck hasn’t occurred in Anaheim this season, as the Ducks have one measly win in one-goal games this season. They are 1-3-5 in games decided by a goal and already have more losses in one-goal games then they did all of last season.

Their extraordinary success in one-goal games vaulted them into top spot in the Pacific, even though they had the worst-goal differential of any team to make the playoffs. Their +10 goal differential ranked dead last of all the 16 teams to make the playoffs.

It takes a team with dedication and skill to come back in so many games, but the Ducks were bound to run out of luck when you’re playing catch up in that many hockey games. Despite the fact that Anaheim finished first in the Pacific, they weren’t running many teams out of the building.

Will They Turn It Around?

There are signs that Anaheim is going to turn it around at some point this season. Their special teams have both been solid, with their powerplay clicking at 20% while their penalty kill is currently best in the NHL.

Frederik Andersen was a rock for the team through the first ten games. If the Ducks could muster more than ten goals in their first ten games, then the Ducks would have a few points more in the standings. Andersen has crashed back to earth of late, but his .914 save percentage is right around the league average, and it should be enough to get the Ducks into the playoffs if they can find their scoring touch.

It’s not like they haven’t had their chances. The Ducks are one of the better possession teams in the league with a 52.1 Corsi percentage. They are also tied for the worst PDO in the league at 96.5, mainly thanks to their league worst 4.4 on-ice shooting percentage. If the Ducks can find some chemistry in their line up and start putting the puck in the net with any regularity, they could definitely climb back into the playoffs.

The problem is that many of their forwards have underwhelmed. Ryan Kesler has 9 points and a -11 despite leading all Anaheim forwards in ice time. Captain Ryan Getzlaf has one goal in the first 19 games. Jakob Silfverberg has one goal and four points after putting up more than 40 points last season. New addition Carl Hagelin only has two goals and five points despite skating more than 15 minutes per game.

Jakob Silfverberg
Jakob Silfverberg has struggled with one goal in 23 games, despite skating for more than 17 minutes per game. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

They will need to find consistency at some point. At the beginning of November it looked like the Ducks were going to put their struggles behind them. They reeled off four wins to start the month, but since then they have lost six of their last nine. In their last nine they are 1-1-2 against divisional opponents, including two losses against the Arizona Coyotes, who are three points ahead of Anaheim despite playing two fewer games.

Despite their struggles, they only sit four points back of the Canucks in the ultra-weak Pacific division. They are going to have to figure out how to score and must start winning games within the division if they want to peck their way back into the playoff race.