The Ducks were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs last night. And for the first time this season, I can ask for a post mortem without getting the business end of the You're-Being-Too-Negative stick.
So, Daniel, in a season where almost everyone came up short for Anaheim, I'm going to ask you to do the impossible. Pick out a goat. Who, in your opinion, was most egregiously guilty of failing to deliver for the Ducks?
Well, first, in my mind, you have used a twisted form of The Secret to ensure that we didn't make the playoffs. Just kidding . . . maybe.
With so much failure on so many levels, it's hard to pick a single goat. Let's face facts, we failed this year because of games like last night against the Kings. We settled into a defensive system, but the D just wasn't there. For that, I blame Bob Murray. He let Scott Niedermayer's defensive partner, Francois Beauchemin, just walk away, and replaced him with this year's biggest goat in my opinion, James Wisniewski.
Ok, so anyone who's been following this blog knows I hate Wiz with a passion that can only be compared to my hate for all things Red Wings. Anyone looking at the stats will think I'm crazy. Wisniewski's 3+24=27 and -1 rating are pretty good for a guy who spent most of his time with Scotty against the top offensive talents in the league. But Wiz was endemic of the problems that the entire team faced. The guy is inconsistent and unpredictable. One second he's an offensive defenseman with a great wrister from the point, and the next he thinks he's a shot blocker and he's crumpled to the ice. The strong Anaheim teams of the past 4 years had a common feature: players who knew their roles and filled them. Wisniewski's either wasn't clear to him, or he simply refused to fill it. As you've pointed out many times, Arthur, the guy is a small offensive defenseman, and he needed a big year on this trial contract to earn a raise. I mean, I'm glad he thinks he's a tough guy and sticks up for his teammates, but what's the use if the only way you know how to protect people gets you suspended? He's now marked the way players like Chris Pronger and Evgeny Artyukhin are.
James Wisniewski might have put up some good numbers, but his erratic play was a huge contributing factor to our defensive breakdowns. No, he wasn't the only one. But his mistakes, even the ones Hiller saved for him, put a constant strain on the entire team, especially Scotty's ability to get involved in plays. Wiz was whimsical. We never really knew what we were getting from him, only that he was eventually going to go limping off the ice from a blocked shot. It's not that he's worthless, just that too much responsibility was laid at his feet. Murray should have found a better upgrade on the blueline. In the end, it probably cost us just enough games to watch the playoffs from home, instead of the Ponda Center.
I should note that you initially wanted to answer Bob Murray, but you weren't sure if someone who wasn't on the roster was fair game and couldn't get a hold of me in time. Well, not only are they fair game, but Bob Murray lost a narrow race to Randy Carlyle for the goat award in my book. Carlyle wins because he failed to make a U-turn; he failed to actually acknowledge he could get fired for his performance. I mean, the way he's coached this team, you'd think he was on a lifetime appointment.
The vision of this year's team was unrealistic: three scoring lines and abundant blueline offense. Sure, there are franchises that can put that together. The Red Wings have plenty of homegrown talent and the Penguins had the money and the high draft picks to assemble a perennial contender. But Bob Murray, on a shoestring budget and uhh limited GM experience (we'll call it), wasn't going to pull that off. The best he could do was build a rocket ship out of popsicle sticks. I blame him AND Carlyle for trying to launch it, but five months later, Murray discarded Boynton, made what I hope was a laughable offer to Wisniewski and shipped off Ryan Whitney. Meanwhile, Carlyle is still shuffling the ashes and trying to figure out how to get this rocket ship back on re-entry.
Early in the season, it seemed understandable that the coaches were trying new special teams systems and that the lines and rosters were never very stable. It looked like Classic Randy Carlyle. Now, with the players not responding and the heart completely drained from this team, it looks desperate. He looks like a guy trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle by shaking the pieces in the box until they all fit together. He was hoping this team would find its own way, and he was hoping they would do it without the confidence of their coach, or any sense of stability, frankly. And, in his defense, that worked on four rosters for four seasons, but it hasn't worked on this group. Either Carlyle doesn't see that, or he doesn't believe there's any other way to coach.