Big Line Letdown

 

DANIEL:

This is Anaheim Calling to the hockey world. The Ducks have just come off a very disappointing 0-3-1 road trip, where they had the same amount of power play goals (2) as shorthanded goals surrendered.  Arthur, before this trip we both, essentially, said this was a do-or-die trip, and the Ducks obviously died.  Right before the Detroit game, Carlyle called out his top line for poor play despite their impressive numbers.   He said that the contracts of his top line players justify the pressure being applied to them in these clutch situations.  Since the top line does consist of the Ducks go-to-guys, is it fair to say that the overall poor play of the top line is what led to this poor road trip?

ARTHUR:

It's not fair to say that, and it's not fair to say that because Carlyle decided to run the big line into the ground after the Koivu/Carter injuries. Carlyle is right that this point streak is little more than a streak; the line has lacked consistency all season. But if we're going to lay a knock on them for the failure of this road trip, then we'd have to assume that Sheldon Brookbank didn't sit for an entire period, that Getzlaf wasn't double-shifted at center, that Artyukhin was given a chance before the Pittsburgh game and that Carlyle didn't systematically wear down key players in his TOI management. Not everyone is Scott NIedermayer, no matter how much they get paid.

The mistakes on this road trip were the same mistakes the team has made all season-- no execution, players trying to do too much and a lack of consistent effort. Most of the Ducks team has been guilty of that, including the big line. And I think the proper reaction when you lose your most consistent players (Koivu and Carter) is to let the entire team play. Give everyone a chance to step it up. Don't force ice time on the guys you WANT to step it up.

When we drafted Getzlaf, the scouts flagged him for consistency and attitude, and five years into his career, they weren't wrong. Getzlaf needs to fight sometimes, he needs to wait until he gets into the offensive zone to slash a guy back and he needs to make a host of other bad calls, probably just to stay focused. And I don't know if Perry's ever as effective as when he's needling another player. These guys wear the 'A' because they're superstars, not because they give the workmanlike performances that steady a team. I frankly think Carlyle is trying to pigeonhole them as players that they aren't, and I don't see how they can be effective that way.

If anything, this team needed a blue collar guy on a blue collar paycheck to eat ice time responsibly. Asking the game-breakers to game-dominate is what leads to Ryan or Perry making that extra move, doubling the turnover numbers and leaving this team with the same problems they had before the injuries.

 

DANIEL:

I agree that Carlyle should have been rolling a steady 4 lines instead of double shifting the top line, but these guys are supposed to be able to get it done in high pressure situations.

 

ARTHUR:

You don't think that's pee-wee hockey thinking? That you can just tap your star player on the shoulder and tell him to score five goals so the rest of the team can take the night off? I mean, this is the pros, with neutral zone traps and modern butterfly goaltenders; is it fair to tell any three players that they have to go out there and manufacture a three-goal lead or they're not earning their paychecks?

 

DANIEL:

Well, it's fair to tell them not to turn the puck over in the slot. And it's fair to tell Getzlaf not to take a Fighting Major with Old Man River to open the 3rd when you're only down 2 goals. And it's pretty fair to ask Perry to play the new penalty killing system and eliminate the passing lane to the slot instead of pressuring the point like we used to. I understand what you're saying about Getzlaf, but if he's supposed to be the captain of the future, can't he grow out of some of that?

 

ARTHUR:

Well, I don't know if I want to see Getzlaf outgrow that; I don't trust how competitive or involved he is in a game without it. But, with Perry, are we really nitpicking his defensive play? Because he'll never outgrow that. Selanne's ridiculous turnovers the other night should be proof enough of that. Some forwards are allergic to defense and backchecking.

 

DANIEL:

Maybe. But Perry said he wanted to play the PK. He ASKED to be out there. If you're going to ask to be out there, you should know the system we're using.

All I'm saying is that these guys make some very unacceptable mistakes. I thought that Carlyle should have been rolling 4 lines so as to not wear them out, but at some point, these guys have to look in the mirror and decide to set the best example. I coach college speech. I know it's not hockey, but as a coach you recognize that everyone has a different way of keeping their head in the game. If Getzlaf needs to do something stupid to keep his intensity up, like get in a fight, or take a ridiculous slashing penalty 100 feet away from the play, then he at least has the responsibility to do it at a time that is not detrimental to the team. It's the same thing I tell anyone who competes for me, you have to do what you have to do in order to turn in your best performance, but it can't be detrimental to the needs of your team. If Getzlaf insists on doing things like this, despite what it does to the team, then he's being a little childish. He has to do what he needs to do, but based on his salary, it's not too much to ask him to do it responsibly.

Perry's situation is a little bit different. I think he's been really effective this year without having to be an agitator. He's letting his goals do the talking, but he still needs to be more defensively responsible. Yes, he essentially created our shorthanded goal against the Pens, but he also made the mistake on the kill that put us down 2-0. And his inability to clear the puck from the zone cost us a goal on Monday. He admitted that championship teams start with defense (ibid), which means he needs to do more in terms of making us a solid defensive team.

Our problems this year have been, for the most part, defensive. Part of this stems from line rotation and the inability for anyone to find comfort in their role, part of it is because Bob Murray acquired bad players, and part of it is because no one is standing up and saying, enough is enough. Perry and Getzlaf are supposed to be THE guys. They need to grow up a little and act like it, no matter how tired they are.

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