Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks: Dallas Eakins Takes Over In Southern California

The Anaheim Ducks named former Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins as head coach. He replaces Randy Carlyle, who was fired last season. 

Technically, Bob Murray was coaching the Anaheim Ducks in an interim tag after Carlyle was dismissed. But, most fans in Southern California knew that Murray wasn’t going to be the permanent head coach for the Ducks. Murray was bound to bring in someone else to take over. 

Instead of hiring outside of the organization, he decided to promote Dallas Eakins. Eakins had been the head coach of the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. He had coached the Gulls from 2015 thru 2019. During his four seasons in San Diego, he helped get the Gulls to the playoffs three out of four seasons. In fact, this past season, the Gulls made it all the way to the conference finals, but failed to shut down the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Prior to Eakins’ time in San Diego, he coached the Edmonton Oilers for a season and a half. Plus, he had served as an assistant coach for both the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Maple Leafs. 

Can Eakins Get The Ducks Back To The Glory Days?

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It wasn’t too long ago when fans in Anaheim saw the Ducks in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Carlyle’s coaching strategy failed over the past few seasons and several of the Ducks players weren’t playing up to par. We’ve seen Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Cam Fowler slowly decline over time. Sadly, Carlyle’s system couldn’t get the Ducks back to the glory days. But, perhaps Eakins can.

Eakins has experience coaching a lot of the youth on the Anaheim Ducks roster. He’s coached Ondrej Kase, Max Jones, Sam Steel, Jacob Larsson, Jaycob Megna and Korbinian Holzer. Eakins is quite familiar with these players and has had success with them in the AHL. Since he’s quite familiar with them, he knows how to get them in the best spot possible to succeed. With that being said, Eakins should have an easy transition when getting his youth in form.

In addition, the hire of Eakins is a boost for the Ducks defensive core and his 3rd/4th line forward groups. Eakins was a solid two-way forward during his time in the NHL. While he never played a full season, he was defensive-minded and was always looking for the optimal poke-check. Plus, he had the chance to learn from some of the greatest coaches of all-time including Pat Quinn, who coached the Toronto Maple Leafs.

stats from eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks: Bob Murray Is On The Clock, Who Does He Draft?

The 35-37-10 Anaheim Ducks had a season to forget.

They were ravaged by injuries to Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler (which may be career-ending) among others. The offensive production was nowhere to be found, and they went from one of the best defensive cores in the NHL to one of the worst in a season and a half. John Gibson is a great young goalie, but he’s no Carey Price, and his breaking point was far surpassed this season. But there’s still hope for this team, believe it or not. Sure, they are handcuffed with some awful contracts, but guys like Maxime Comtois, Ondrej Kase, Rickard Rakell and Sam Steel were bright spots. If they can get another high-end prospect in this draft, they could be back in the playoffs in 2 or 3 seasons time. So, who could they take at 9th overall? Here are some options.

Alex Turcotte, Center, USNTDP, USHL

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At this point in the draft, the 5’11, 194 pound Turcotte may already be off the board, as he could go as early as third overall.

The Island Lake, Illinois native dominated the USNTDP junior league, racking up 12 goals and 22 assists (34 points) in only 16 games. His performance with the USNTDP warranted a call-up to the US U18 National Team, where he continued dominating with 27 goals and 35 assists (62 points) in 37 games.

Next season, he is committed to the University of Wisconsin, which means he will not be playing at the NHL level next season regardless of how well he does in rookie camps in the offseason.

Over the last 2 seasons, he has played 14 World Junior Championship games with the US team, recording 6 goals and 8 assists (14 points), for exactly a point per game average.

It’s clear his level of play rises with the competition, and whoever drafts him should keep a close eye on his development in the NCAA. Using PNHLe, which calculates a players potential, Turcotte is very close to having superstar potential, and looks to be well on his way of elite potential.

Trevor Zegras, Center, USNTDP, USHL

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The 6 foot, 168 pound Zegras will likely be available at number 9, or taken a pick or two earlier, as not many people have him going top 5 in this draft.

That’s to no fault of his own, he’s been playing behind the seemingly unanimous first overall pick in Jack Hughes, and the guy named above, Turcotte, on the USNTDP team. But he still showed dominance at this level, putting up 14 goals and 26 assists (40 points) with the USNTDP Juniors before joining the US U18 National team, recording 26 goals and 61 assists (87 points) in 60 games. He played far more games than Turcotte, which allowed him to blow his stats out of the water. He added 9 assists in 5 World Junior Championship games with the US team, his first time playing in the WJC.

Like Turcotte, he already committed to a college, as he’s playing for Boston University next season.

Using PNHLe, he projects to be a top 6 center, although closer to 1st line potential, but isn’t quite in the elite potential yet, as Turcotte is. Like with Turcotte, next season in the NCAA will go a long way to decide who truly is the better prospect.

Victor Söderström, Right Defenseman, Brynas IF, SHL

The 5’11, 187 pound, right-handed defenseman Söderström, has already begun playing against men. He started the season with the Brynas IF U20 team in the SuperElit league, playing 14 games with 1 goal and 8 assists (9 points), before getting brought up to play against the big boys. The Swedish version of the NHL, the SHL boasts a boatload of talent, yet the two-way defenseman Söderström held his own, recording 4 goals and 3 assists (7 points) in 44 games. Söderström played 2 games in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with 1 goal and 1 assist, and in the WJC with Sweden, he played 4 games with 1 assist.

There is one problem, however. Now, this is all analytical and backed by statistics that not everyone uses to evaluate a prospect, but his PNHLe places him with a potential of second line defense, or worse.

Other sites, such as Last Word on Hockey and DobberProspects, projects that he has top 4 potential, however, so take that for what it’s worth. Arguably the second best defenseman in this draft, he has the talent to be a top 10 pick, and would be a good addition for the Ducks at 9th overall.

In Conclusion

If I were Bob Murray, General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, I would look to move up a couple of spots, if possible, to ensure the Alex Turcotte selection.

But, if they are unable to move up, they have to hope he drops into their laps, which is unlikely.

Worst case scenario, they get a great defensive prospect in Söderström or a top forward prospect who may have been overlooked in this draft in Zegras. 

Check out where Turcotte, Zegras and Söderström rank on our top 31 rankings.

We here at Puck77 are in need of an Anaheim Ducks contributor. If you or someone you know is interested in writing for the Ducks, or for any other NHL team, click here.

All stats via dobberprospects

PNHLe projections via dobber prospects

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks: Navigating A Cloudy Off-Season

The Anaheim Ducks Have Many Holes To Fill After A Dreadful 2018-19 National Hockey League Campaign. 

 

It doesn’t rain much in Orange County, home of the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. It just seemed that way for them last season. 

In a year that forever cast a perpetual storm cloud over their franchise, the Ducks were one of the few teams in the NHL that were happy to see their season come to an end in early April.

And while the end of the regular season may have brought a delay to the torrential downpour of bad luck and bad news to the team, the long-range forecast for the Ducks organization still calls for the potential of grey and sullen skies ahead. 

After being in a playoff position as late as mid-January last season, a 12-game losing streak helped knock the Ducks out of the running for the playoffs and led to the eventual firing of head coach Randy Carlyle on February 10th, in his second tenure with the team. General manager Bob Murray went behind the bench and guided the Ducks until the end of the season. 

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What was left after the players left town in April was nothing but questions and a sense of “Where do the Ducks go from here?”. 

So, let’s cover where the Ducks stand now in and what they are facing this summer. 

Head Coaching Vacancy

GM Murray will not be behind the bench once the puck drops in October next season. With literally no previous coaching experience on his resume as an NHL executive, Murray did an admirable job with the Ducks the last 26 games of the season, steering the Ducks to a 14-11-1 record. Maybe more than admirable, as the Ducks used a whopping 49 players last year. If that isn’t a record, it’s got to be close. 

With the NHL Entry Draft less than two months away, you would think there would be some urgency on the Ducks part to hire someone and give them some time to not only become familiar with the current roster, but to help contribute to the Ducks draft strategy. 

Murray stated at the end of the season that he would be conducting interviews for the coaching vacancy, but things seem to have been mostly quiet on that front to date. The general feeling around the league is that Dallas Eakins will be promoted from the Ducks American Hockey League affiliate San Diego Gulls to take the position. The Gulls are just getting ready to begin their second round of the AHL playoffs, which could be the reason no announcement has been made yet should Eakins be the guy. 

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While Murray has been the GM for over 10 years now, he’s only ever had two coaches under his watch, Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau. Both considered “old school” coaches, Carlyle and Boudreau were both succesful at different times during their reign behind the bench with the Ducks, with Carlyle leading the team to a Stanley Cup title in 2007. 

So it would not surprise anyone if Murray wanted to once again venture down the path of a proven, veteran bench boss. But not only has the sport changed on that front (with more younger, analytical-driven coaches leading the way), the pickings are simply quite thin when looking for a seasoned bench boss. 

With the recent hirings across the league of Joel Quenneville, Alain Vignault, and Todd McLellan, the window for Murray to find a worldly mastermind to lead the Ducks has closed quickly. The likes of Guy Boucher and Jacques Martin are out there and rumoured to land in many different spots. But outside the potential firings of Mike Babcock (Anaheim alumni, 2002-04), Paul Maurice or Peter Laviolette, it’s likely that either Eakins has the job or (less likely) Murray goes completely off the map and hires someone like Swedish coach Rikard Gronberg, a sexy favourite right now amongst the Buffalo Sabres fan base. 

Current State Of The Roster / Cap Situation

This is where things get dicey for the Ducks. 

Anaheim currently has eight players on the hook long-term that eats up $53M:

Ryan Getzlaf – $8.25M/year until 2021 (No Movement Clause)

Ryan Kesler – $6.875M/year until 2022 (NMC until 2021)

Adam Henrique – $5.85M/year until 2024 (Modified No Trade Clause)

Corey Perry – $8.625M/year until 2021 (NMC)

Jakob Silfverberg – $5.25M/year until 2024 (Modified NTC)

Cam Fowler – $6.5M/year until 2026 (Modified NTC)

Hampus Lindholm – $5.25M/year until 2022

John Gibson – $6.4M/year until 2028 (Modified NTC starting 2021)

Add to that, another nine players currently on the roster and under contract that combine for an additional $18M, that leaves the Ducks roster obligation at $71M towards 17 players for the upcoming season.

With the salary cap expected to reach $83M before the start of next season, it gives the Ducks about $12M to play with to complete their roster. (Side note: Kesler is looking at potential career-ending hip replacement surgery. Should that happen, you can expect the Ducks to place Kesler on long-term injury reserve, which could help ease the potential cap crunch for the Ducks down the road). 

While the numbers suggest it is possible to fill out the roster with the remaining cap space, it’s the bang for their buck where Anaheim is getting themselves into trouble. 

Getzlaf led the team last season with a paltry 48 points in an injury-plagued campaign that saw him limited to just 67 games. In fact, the entire Ducks roster was littered with injuries. Only two (TWO!) Ducks forwards played over 70 games last year (Henrique 82, Silfverberg 73) and only two defencemen reached 70 games (Lindholm 76, Josh Manson 74). A mess if there ever was one. 

Not surprisingly, a mass collection of lost man-games goes hand-in-hand with player under achievement. And virtually every player on the Ducks roster last season played well below their pay grade. Going forward, a healthy roster should at the very minimum get the Ducks back into the playoff race next season. 

But the Ducks roster as currently constructed isn’t getting any younger. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are all creeping (creaking?) into their mid-30’s. Silfverberg, Henrique, Fowler and Manson are all closer to 30 years old than 25. Building a roster that is younger and faster is of primary importance for Murray heading into the off-season. 

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The trade of defenceman Brandon Montour to the Sabres at the NHL trade deadline in March was initially thought to be a little odd, considering the upside Montour possessed. But the trade did land the Ducks a first-round selection in this year’s entry draft and defensive  prospect Brandon Guhle, who figures to eventually crack the top-four on Anaheim’s depth chart. It also helped alleviate some of the potential cap issues facing the Ducks, if only by $2-3M. 

Prospects On The Rise

While the Ducks prospect cupboard isn’t exactly stocked full of budding stars, it does have some potential. 

Some players expected to contribute to the team next year are Max Comtois, Sam Steel, Jacob Larsson, Josh Mahura, Troy Terry and Guhle. All could crack the opening night roster for the Ducks come October. They got a taste of NHL action last year and represented themselves well. They should have an impact of some sort next year. 

Current Free Agents

With so many players already signed long-term by the Ducks, they have only a handful of pending free agents, and none of real significance. 

Goaltenders Ryan Miller and Chad Johnson are not expected back next season, with current AHL starter Kevin Boyle looking ready to assume back-up duties to Gibson with the parent club next season. 

With a plethora of young defencemen ready to make their mark next season with the Ducks, it’s also likely that both Andrej Sustr and Korbinian Holzer will not be retained. 

Kevin Roy, the only free agent forward on the Ducks roster, could be brought back for depth purposes, likely at league minimum. 

It could be a long summer for Murray, as he tries to upgrade a Ducks roster that has faded into the middle of the pack of the NHL. With heavy, long-term contracts that seem to handcuff the Ducks, it could be awhile before Anaheim is considered a legit Stanley Cup contender. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbradly2928

Statistics provided by hockey-reference, hockeydb and TheScore

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals 

 

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks: What Does Randy Carlyle’s Firing Mean?

With Only Two Wins In The Last Two Months, It Was Time To Let Randy Carlyle Go 

The Anaheim Ducks have fired head coach Randy Carlyle. The Ducks are sitting last in the Western Conference with a 21-26-9 record. Anaheim is currently mired in a seven-game losing streak at the moment so this news doesn’t come as a shock to hockey fans around the world.

Why did Randy Carlyle get fired by Anaheim?

The present losing streak is not the only reason Ducks General Manager Bob Murray decided to let Carlyle go. National Hockey League teams don’t fire coaches just because they are having a rough patch. The Ducks dropped from second place in the Pacific Division to seventh within a matter of weeks.

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Yes, the Ducks have been unlucky with injuries, the biggest of those being Corey Perry, who has just returned to the lineup. But some of it is also Carlyle’s own doing.

Former Duck Pontus Åberg, who at one time was second in scoring on the team, was inexplicably benched earlier in the season. Not long after, Åberg was traded to the Minnesota Wild for center Justin Kloos. Also, playing a clearly declining Ryan Kesler on the second line is a horrible idea.

One of the bigger issues on the Ducks is the defense. They haven’t been able to help goaltender John Gibson at all.  Carlyle has refused to shuffle up the lines, and Ducks management has been leery to call players up from the American Hockey League. Clearly, Carlyle had lost the faith of the team, and the sloppy play of the line-up on a nightly basis was proof of that. Basically, anything that could go wrong with this team, certainly did. 

Who will replace Carlyle in Anaheim?

The Ducks have named GM Murray the interim head  coach, and he will likely stay in that role for the remainder of the season. I find that move intriguing, but I’m more interested in who Murray has in mind to take over behind the bench once this season is over. I would expect one of the assistant coaches (Mark Morrison, Rich Preston or Marty Wilford) to take the head coaching role since they’re familiar with the team. If not, it would great to get a coach who can make this team exciting again.

Overview

This is a good move by the Anaheim Ducks. They should have fired him earlier. Let’s hope they get a better coach so John Gibson doesn’t get injured from carrying 22 players again.

Statistics provided by hockey-reference.com

Featured photo image credit: Nikos Michals

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks: Ducks Still Winless In 2019

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. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbradley2928

Stats provided by nhl.com, hockeydb.com and theScore 

Featured photo image credit: Nikos Michals