This is Anaheim Calling to the Hockey World. As a Dodgers fan, I'm loathe to title a post after the sayings of a Yankee. Still, the words seem somewhat prophetic to an Anaheim fan base that must be experiencing deja vu. The Ducks have fallen to 5-5-1 after starting the season with a 4-1-0 surge. For those of you playing the at home, the Ducks are 1-4-1 in their last 6. We can call it Jekyll and Hyde, inconsistency, or a huge P value, but the fact remains, the Ducks aren't getting it done.
The biggest reason the Ducks have been struggling is that they simply can't find the back of the net on a consistent basis. Anaheim has potted 21 goals in 11 games for an appalling 1.91 G/G average. To add insult to injury, 15 of those 21 goals have been scored by the big 4 forwards (Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry), and one of them came from a guy, Nate Guenin, who is now playing in Syracuse. It doesn't take an advanced degree to see where I'm going with this. The Ducks have no scoring depth.
Cogliano was supposed to provide offensive depth, but is on pace for his worst offensive season of his career. The Ducks bottom 6 has combined for 9 points; their leading scorer, Selanne, has 10. Despite stretches of very solid play, the bottom 6 hasn't produced. This has, in turn, forced Randy Carlyle to do what he does best, rely too much on the top 2 lines and the PP. When Jason Blake went down, set-off Carlyle's juggling act. The Twins have been channeling their inner Hugh Hefner and using left wings only to never call the next day. This means that the Ducks have been moving forwards all over the depth chart to get the scoring going, but have experienced on overall drought.
This problem can be examined from a couple of angles. First, it's possible that Carlyle doesn't allow his bottom 6 to gel into complete lines, because he doesn't lean on them when the going gets tough. Second, GM Bob Murray can be blamed for never assembling the proper personnel. No matter your preference, it's hard to deny that this is the exact problem that faced the Ducks last year. There are supposed to be more players in the system to solve this problem, but the Ducks seem content to cycle through every player on this roster to find scoring before looking to the likes of Kyle Palmieri, Dan Sexton, Peter Holland and Nicolas Deschamps in Syracuse. No matter the reason, the Ducks haven't had scoring depth for a few seasons now, and we are all becoming familiar with what that means in the standings. As go the scoring whims of the top players, so go the Ducks.
Speaking of the whims of the top players, the Ducks continue to be a team that can't put in consistent stretches of effort. They seem to be a perpetual .500 team that manages to excel in clutch situations. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but for the long course of the season, one has to wonder if the stress of an up and down season leaves the tank a little empty for the playoffs. A team that isn't ready to play every night is one that is suffering from a lack of leadership. Simply, the Ducks aren't mentally tough. The make up in the locker room clearly lacks the ability to stay on task. That lack of focus is what leads to the inevitable ups and downs of the season.
Now, before this digresses into me complaining about the many failings of Bob Murray, I'd like to point out that GMs have full power over personnel. All GMs, no matter what team, are in charge of doing the maintenance on the team, making sure the appropriate culture is being cultivated and making sure the proper personnel are available for the coach to operate his system. Whether I agree with all of Murray's moves or not, that doesn't change the fact that he's primarily responsible for the product on the ice. Paul Holmgren proved that a GM can take full control by moving star players, when he shipped out Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. While the practicalities of the salary cap can be a hindrance to moves, there is always a market for quality players.
I'm not saying that Murray should ship out one of the big 3, but I am saying that if leadership is found to be insufficient, these types of moves can be made. A general manager has full authority to make the types of moves that Holmgren did. The Ducks have enabled the erratic behavior of the star players. Murray's empty threats to trade players before he got rid of the coach have demonstrated the the inmates are in fact running the asylum. Culture permeates throughout a locker room and is adopted. It always happens from the top down; be it the GM or the star players. The Ducks now have a culture of inconsistency. The team probably needs a major shake up in locker room chemistry.
I'll let all of you imagine how that needs to happen. The only thing that's apparent is that the Ducks need to break themselves out of this cycle. Right now, it's the same thing every year. The Ducks rely too much on the top line, and hope for the offensive depth to click at the right time. This team needs an identity that doesn't revolve around the big line, otherwise it will never be able to sustain itself when they aren't playing well.
[Ed. Note: Ducks have assigned JF Jacques back to Syracuse, and have called up Nick Bonino.]