Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing that the Anaheim Ducks are the NHL’s turnaround team this year. But here we are, so let’s do it.
At the outset of training camp in September, many respected hockey experts picked the Anaheim Ducks to make the Conference Final, so even the Stanley Cup Final. Rightfully so, the team had Hagelin, Bieksa and Kesler and many believed they had the tools to compete with LA and Chicago.
20 games into the season, the Ducks were as close to basement dwellers as you can get. Hockey circles, en masse, believed Boudreau would be fired for a start this abysmal. It seems when the going gets tough, the fingers get pointed at the coach. Kudos to Anaheim GM Bob Murray for sticking with Bourdreau, it was clearly the right decision. Every season Boudreaux has started and ended with a team, the team has won a division title, that’s impressive. That’s 8 division titles, so it wasn’t the coaching that was the issue.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf didn’t register a goal until game 14 against Carolina on November 16th. That’s over a month in. He had less than 20 points when December started, and 5 of them were in 1 game against Calgary. Contrast that to February, in which Getzlaf had points in all but one game, and registered 20 points. Getzlaf finished this year with 13 goals, 10 of them in 2016. A total that is not acceptable by his standards.
Corey Perry, a former Rocket Richard Trophy winner, didn’t find the back of the net until November 4th. He had 3 points in October and 7 points in December. He had a better back half of the season registering 35 points in the final 41 games. 62 points is an off season by Perry’s standards as well, considering he had 82 in 13/14 and 55 in 67 games in 14/15.
Ryan Kesler had 2 points in 10 games in October. After 9 points in November, he followed up with 1 point in December. ONE. That is a total of 3 points over 21 games, which doesn’t cut for a guy making 5 million this year, and 6.875 for many seasons after that. Kesler had 12 points in January, 10 in February and 15 points in March. That is more along the lines of a player earning that salary.
So how did the Ducks turn it around? Well, the answer seems to be quite simple. In order to succeed, you need your core players to lead the way. Those 3 had horrible starts, and really turned it around in mid-December. It is no coincidence that the Ducks rocketed up the standings when the core started producing at a more acceptable rate.
Let’s all remember this next time a team looks like its falling apart. It isn’t always the coach. Sometimes the blame does fall squarely on the players. In this case, it certainly did. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anaheim did some damage in the playoffs. They are definitely a team to watch.