Addition by Subtraction

ROBBY:
When Shane Doan burninated Ryan Getzlaf's face with a shot on December 28, most Anaheim Ducks fans feared the worst. We all felt terrible for the captain, and we were certain we would miss his nearly point-per-game production (in 40 GP, Getz had 13 goals and 24 assists). But what would happen to the team? Few, if any, of us foresaw the offensive explosion that the Ducks have registered in his absence.

It flies in the face of conventional wisdom to think that losing your captain, and your second-leading scorer, would somehow be a good thing for your team. When Getzlaf last played for the Ducks, Bobby Ryan was mired in a month-long slump, the team was in the midst of a pedestrian 8-9-1 December, and the Ducks were out of the playoff hunt.

In typical Ducks fashion, the team has completely defied our expectations and has proceeded to play some of their best hockey of the season without their captain. Let's take a closer look at the Ducks' performance with and without Getzlaf this year.

With Getzlaf (40 GP)

Without Getzlaf (8 GP)

Record

19-17-4

6-2

Point Percentage

.525

.750

Goals For Per Game

2.52

3.38

Goals Against Per Game

2.9

2.25

Total Goal Differential

-14

+9

Shots For Per Game

28.4

27.9

Shots Against Per Game

34.4

32.6

Shot Differential Per Game

-6.0

-4.7

Here's how Anaheim's Top 6 forwards have fared in Getz's absence:

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Bobby Ryan

7

2

9

-1

Corey Perry

3

4

7

-3

Matt Beleskey

2

3

5

1

Teemu Selanne

4

5

9

3

Saku Koivu

1

4

5

-1

Jason Blake

3

4

7

3

Did you catch that? Production amongst the top two lines is identical over the past eight games in terms of points. The top line produced more goals but the second line has better +/- numbers. While we've all been focused on Bobby Ryan's renewed success, Teemu Selanne has been quietly lighting up the score sheet. What's truly bizarre is each line features a similar construction with a finisher (Bobby and Teemu), a set-up man (Perry and Koivu), and a grinder (Beleskey and Blake).

When I started writing this post, I fully intended to compare this year's set of games without Getz to last year's set. However, Hockey Reference's game logs feature has gone kaput, which greatly limits my ability to get game-by-game stats for each player. Suffice to say, it seemed like the team didn't manage Getz's absence last year the same way they've handled it this year (as the losses would indicate).

And that's the rub. For some reason (or most likely, a combination of reasons), the past eight games without the captain have seen this team thrive in almost all areas of the game. Bobby Ryan has been set ablaze by Corey Perry, and the second line has carried their weight (and additional TOI). Indeed, it seems that losing Getzlaf has forced Carlyle to balance his TOI a little more evenly. Where Corey Perry used to lead the Ducks amongst forwards in TOI, Saku Koivu has taken up that mantle in recent games. Joffrey Lupul has also benefitted, seeing his TOI jump from 12:47 in the game where Getz was injured to 15:05 in the game against Edmonton.

The team as a whole is playing better, and the team as a whole is playing more. While it's great to see Bobby carry his weight as "the guy" on the top line, the forced distribution of minutes has afforded Carlyle's other weapons the ability to shine. All of this leads to the question: What happens when Getzlaf returns?

Personally, I think a few things should happen. Whether or not any of them does is completely up to Carlyle, but here's what I would I think should happen:

  1. Retain the more balanced minutes-Carlyle has long been criticized for his over-reliance on his top players. While it's great for his top guys to get their minutes, this team is stacked with quality forwards amongst its top three lines. Evening the distribution of minutes gives everyone a chance to chip in and saves the top guys some minutes as the season approaches its frantic sprint to the playoffs.

  2. Give Bobby his own line-This has already been discussed by Arthur and Daniel, but I definitely think Bobby has earned the right to anchor his own scoring line. Give Bobby Lupul, one of Sexton or McMillan, and 15-17 minutes a game to raise hell. Bobby has certainly come into his own when he's been relied on to be the man. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than the recent success of the second PP unit.

  3. Keep the top line intact -Even before Getzlaf was hurt, Carlyle had moved Bobby to a third line and had promoted Beleskey up top. It seems strange to reiterate this, but I've seen suggestions in a few different places that somehow Getzlaf should be demoted to the third line when he returns. I just don't think that's a smart idea. Perry and Getzlaf have a special bond and just because Getzlaf doesn't score goals at the rate of a Bobby Ryan doesn't mean he's not getting the job done up top. [Editor's Note: On 66 shots, Getzlaf has 13 goals, good for a team best, frikkin ridiculous and 5th best in the NHL 19.7% shooting percentage]. Getz was the team's second leading scorer when he left and there's no reason to supplant his role as the top-line center.

What do you think? Why has this team played so well without Getzlaf? What do you think should happen when he gets back?

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