The losses are piling up for the Ducks. Anaheim has given up 48 goals in 13 games, and the team's GAA (3.46) ranks 26th in the league.
Arthur, you and I both know that Carlyle values defensive responsibility above all things, but the Ducks have not been a solid defensive team. Part of that can be attributed to the forwards, and part of it can be attributed to missed playing time by James Wisniewski, but the overall ability of the defense to dominate a game has severely dwindled. Is it time for the front office to start thinking of a drastic change to the blue line, or can the team stick it out and expect improved play from the current defensive corps?
I don't think the Ducks should make any changes on the blue line, and I don't think they CAN.
As far as shipping off a rearguard, Whitney hasn't played well enough to attract a team to his graduated salary, and while Wisniewski's stats are impressive, he's arguably overpaid for having already suffered an injury this season. That leaves Niedermayer and whispers of a Niedermayer trade. If Murray moves the captain in November, he'll definitely wake up this team, but he either trades for expensive veterans or affordable second-contract guys. The former won't fill the void left by Nieds, and the latter would shift this team into a rebuilding process before the Olympic break, a serious slap in the face to Selanne and Koivu, who returned to play for a contender.
I suppose he could ship off a forward, like Koivu or Perry, who are both affordable and playing well. But I don't know if we could get an impact defenseman for Koivu, and we'd be sacrificing a lot of future to get an impact defenseman for Perry.
I think there's something to be said here for dancing with the girl you brought. The lack of defense was no secret during the offseason, but this team was supposed to win high scoring contests not sit 20th in the league in GF through 13 games. It's technically the forwards that have let us down.
But I want to say one more thing. We talked about firing Carlyle. Why don't we fire Murray? Everyone has praised the quick turnaround he wheeled and dealed, but let's not forget how he lost his last GM job. The way I see it, he's miscalculated a lot of this rebuilding process. He was so SURE Sbisa would be an NHL contributor this year. Then he sends the kid back to the WHL, and suddenly, we didn't get an 09-10 defenseman in the Pronger deal. He didn't even make an offer to Beauchemin, but he sinks 2.75M into Wisniewski. He signs two guys that weren't considered good since the last time he was a GM (Boynton and McCarthy). If this team can't play defense, and can't approach the stability provided by Pronger and Beauchemin, is it because Carlyle can't get the most out of his new role players, or is it because there's nothing there to get? I call on Bob Murray, who admitted Wendel Clark was a mistake, what mistakes have you made this past offseason?
I agree that this is all Bob Murray's fault, but I don't agree that the Ducks should simply live with the results.
Yes, Murray made a huge mistake in the Chris Pronger deal, but the mistake was not addressing the loss of Pronger. He must have thought that Wisniewski and Whitney would pick up Pronger's physical slack. BIG MISTAKE.
Yeah, I think that's the problem with Murray. He checks things off the grocery list without knowing what he's buying. He picks up guys with hundreds of NHL games played, and he thinks he has responsible veterans. He sinks more money into Wisniewski, and he thinks that will keep the kid healthy and make him the physical guy he was for Chicago AND the offensive guy he was in the AHL. And he gets a large defenseman with a decent shot from the point, and he thinks he's replaced Pronger, even though he has no idea how well the kid will fare in front of the net. He's shopping without reading the labels.
I think Whitney is a product of the East, and he's still adapting to the physical play of the West, but he's proven he can't dominate in front of the net like we need him to right now. And Wisniewski is a roadblock made of glass. He might deter some people for a while, but eventually he's going to break.
Murray's mistake was not getting any blueline muscle this summer, or as you said, assuming he already had it. He's asked Carlyle to defend the net with a smooth skater and passer (Eminger), a below average stay at home guy (Boynton) and a cheap, yet feisty, winger/d-man (Brookbank). Mix in Wisniewski's frequent absences and Whitney's inability to play to his size, and all of the sudden you only have Niedermayer, who can play well in front of the net but can't be a snow plow. Essentially, Murray has forced Carlyle to bring a knife to a gun fight.
The Ducks have to do something. Sbisa will be a great d-man in the future, but we need muscle now. I think we should consider shopping Philadelphia's pick for a solid stay-at-home guy who can clear the front of the net. Obviously, a First Rounder might be too much, but since we have the extra pick, maybe we can shake a good defenseman out of the New Jersey Devils' tree, like a Salvador or an Oduya. Not the best, I know, but potentially solid enough to handle PK and even strength duties, which could take some of the stress off of Whitney and Nieds.
I know there aren't a lot of available guys who fit the mold, but Murray has to find some muscle soon. Our forwards have enough talent; waiting for them to gel won't be a problem. But the defensive corps is different. If Murray waits too long, he might wait us out of playoff contention. With a little more security on the blueline, the Ducks might find themselves on the right side of those 4-3 and 5-4 decisions, rather than wondering how Hiller and Jiggy are going to stop pucks they can't see.