If you're not first, your last. So, that means we're in second place?
If you haven't heard, Columbus won in a shootout on Tuesday night. With those two points, they leapfrogged the Ducks in the standings, leaving Anaheim in the cellar of the NHL. I partially blame myself for the Ducks being in last place. I became entirely too used to winning with the post-lockout iteration of Anaheim's hockey team. A club, up to this point, that had missed only one playoff series since their re-birth.
In my mind, it's like the Mighty Ducks were only a movie, not an expansion franchise that struggled on and off for years. I distinctly remember several times in high school where a teenage, brooding Jen would stomp downstairs only to be greeted by her dad's question of, "How'd they do?" It seemed like night after night I would answer, "They lost - again." I thought those days were gone like Disney and my teenage years. The team had a new name, a new look, and an owner that was committed to do what it takes to win. After that 2005-2006 season, I expected this team to win, and had no reason to believe that they couldn't.
What the hell happened? Why did everything go so incredibly wrong?
The loss of Brian Burke to Toronto was - and is - still felt throughout the organization. I remain to this day semi-obsessed with Brian Burke. Of course I loved Burkie for his ability to put together a Stanley Cup winning team, but it wasn't until after he was gone did I realize how much more he meant to the franchise as a whole. He built a team with a clear identity. He injected the word "truculence" into our regular vocabulary. He was vocal and brought a spotlight to Anaheim that wasn't shaded by mouse ears. Later we found out he would literally fight for the franchise.
Most importantly though was the voodoo Burke had over the Samuelis. He got them to open their wallets and fund this team to the max. In the Cup year, the salary cap was $44M and the Ducks spent between $40M - $42M. Perhaps spending $42M is tolerable but spending close to $64M (current cap) is unthinkable? I am not a billionaire and can't begin to fathom that thought process.
What is curious though is that Henry Samueli isn't making any money without the Ducks making it far into the playoffs. In business school they taught us to make money you need to smartly spend money. Does setting an internal cap of $54M help to give the Ducks the best shot at making the playoffs, let alone setup a deep enough run to break even? Corey Perry isn't going to be HeMan every year. So to be able to compete with the big boys, the Ducks have to spend the money to bulk up the team. Prospects will continue to be key in the franchise's growth, but we can't reasonably expect that another Kid Line full of future super stars (Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Dustin Penner) are going to strike twice in the near future.
Even if the Samueli's spend to the cap, do we have enough faith in Bob Murray to make the right decisions? He let Beauchemin walk only to get him back at a higher cost. Then again, he did trade-off major bust Ryan Whitney for Lubomir Visnovsky. When most of us were certain that he wouldn't fire Randy Carlyle, he did, and replaced him with Bruce Boudreau. Bob Murray certainly isn't Brian Burke. He is quiet and shies away from the spotlight, only speaking when absolutely necessary. We don't know what he's thinking, and we sure as hell have no idea what his plan is now that absolutely rock bottom - so low they could send us to the AHL - has been reached.
Does he go back to the market and start to listen to offers again on Bobby Ryan? With the exception of a few, the idea of that gave most of us heart palpitations the first time around, but instead the coach was fired. What now? I think it would be a monumental mistake to send off someone that all 29 other teams are slobbering to get their hands on. If you trade Bobby, who is going to take his place that will get the Ducks out of this hole (assuming that's the goal)? Kyle Palmieri, the AHL stud that can't find the net in the NHL? Is there anyone out there that can even help the Ducks NOW? I can't believe I'm saying this, but I don't think my favorite non-Duck Zach Parise could help us without Ryan.
I don't want to believe that all is lost. It will take a Tim Tebow-like miracle to get the Ducks to 8th in the west; however, getting to 8th should be the Ducks only focus right now. This upcoming off season is going to be a s@#t storm that will ultimately define the franchise for the next few years. There is no sense in starting to prep for the hysteria halfway through this season. They need to do what they can to make Anaheim an attractive option to the upcoming free agent class, and that starts with getting ahead of Columbus.