Third Period Breakdowns Continue To Haunt The Ducks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the 1976 National Football League’s season as the newest expansion franchise. John McKay, after a succesful run as head coach at the University of Southern California, was hired as the Buccaneers first coach. Whatever secrets to success McKay had gathered at USC, it quickly became apparent he left them in California.
The Bucs ended their first season in the NFL with an 0-14 record, and many of those games were blowouts. The slide continued into the 1977 season, as the Bucs lost their first 12 games of that season as well, marking 26 straight losses for the embattled organization.
After one of those many losses, coach McKay, in a post game media scrum, was asked, “What do you think of your team’s execution, Coach?” Without missing a beat, McKay replied, “I’m in favor of it.”
The Anaheim Ducks are currently mired in a streak that Coach McKay could relate to. After Tuesday nights 3-1 loss in Detroit to the Red Wings, the Ducks find themselves in the midst of a 12-game winless streak, a free fall that has seen the team drop to sixth place in the Pacific Division, two points out of a wild card spot.
Streaks are obviously a part of sports. Streaks are often a mask that teams wear, camouflage for what a team truly is. Teams that go on long winning streaks are often said to be “playing above their heads”. Team that go on long losing streaks, are “playing below their level”. While both assessments tend to be true, there is no arguing that streaks of any prominent length help determine a teams place on either side of post-season participation.
All Downhill After 40
While a 12-game winless streak is not unique in the National Hockey League (according to nhl.com, its the 94th time a team has gone winless in 12 or more games, dating back to 1925), the way the Ducks have gone about their streak is certainly unusual.
During this 12-game slide, the Ducks have only been outscored through 40 minutes by a 21-18 margin. During the third period and overtime, however, Anaheim has been outscored an astonishing 20-2. Third periods and lack of offence have certainly gone hand-in-hand the last month for the Ducks.
To this point of the season, Anaheim has used 23 forwards in their line-up. Injuries have clearly been an issue to the forward core, with the likes of Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, Pontus Aberg, Ondrej Kase and Rickard Rakell all missing significant amounts of time, with former league MVP Perry having missed the entire season.
However, when a team goes nearly a month without a win (the Ducks last win was December 17th, 2018 against the Pittsburgh Penguins), people will still start to point fingers.
After Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, General Manager Bob Murray issued a statement directed to the Ducks angst-ridden fan base. In it, he said he was “not considering a coaching change. I am more focused on our players, specifically with who is going to step up in this situation”. It was no doubt a message for the offence to get going.
Center Adam Henrique is currently second amongst forwards on the team in scoring, with just 22 points. On many teams in the NHL, it’s a total would place him seventh or eighth on many other roster throughout the league.
Just hours after Murray issued his statement, he traded veteran forward Andrew Cogliano to the Dallas Stars for winger Devin Shore. While not exactly a blockbuster (Cogliano had three goals this season, Shore five), it was enough of a move for Murray to show the team that the knife is out.
Carlyle On Thin Ice?
While the knife was pointed at the players, it would be no surprise if Murray turned and pointed it elsewhere. Even though Murray issued the dreaded vote of confidence/stay of execution to head coach Randy Carlyle, it’s certainly no time for Carlyle to crack a smile.
This is Carlyle’s second tour of duty with the Ducks, having coached the team previously from 2005 until 2011. During that tenure, Carlyle and the Ducks won a Stanley Cup in 2007, a remarkable playoff run that seen the team go 16-5 in the playoffs. So it was understandable that Murray would once again turn to the man who led them to their greatest success when looking for someone to lead the team once again in 2016.
But coaches that return for a second tenure with one team rarely find the good fortune that blessed them on their initial voyage. Ken Hitchcock attempted it with the Dallas. Michel Therrien before that with the Montreal Canadians. The return did not pan out for either coach in their second term.
Carlyle’s job appears safe for now. But every coach has a shelf life. Especially those that go back to the same team where some of the same players that tuned them out the first time still reside.
It’s true that a one-legged duck swims in a circle. Here is hoping for a frustrated fan base in Anaheim that the Ducks can find their footing in time for the team to take part in the post-season dance come April.
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Stats provided by nhl.com, hockeydb.com and theScore
Featured photo image credit: Nikos Michals