One half (and a game) of this shortened 48 game season is now gone and our Anaheim Ducks find themselves sitting pretty in the 2 spot in the Western Conference and first in the Pacific Division. The Ducks have finished first in the division (and second in the conference) only once in franchise history, and let's just say that things ended up pretty damn well that time around. Am I saying that the Ducks are going to win the Stanley Cup? No, of course not, but they are definitely in the conversation (even if the national reporters still like ignoring us), something that is certainly refreshing after the dumpster fire that was the first half of the 2011-12 season.
A LOOK AT THE STANDINGS
Once glance at the standings and you can see why I have a nice little smile on my face whenever I see the 2013 Western Conference standings. The Ducks' position looks good, seems good, and most certainly IS good. It is hard to find anything really negative about the position that Anaheim is in after the first 25 games. THIS TABLE that I created on Google Docs really illustrates what a great position the Ducks are in heading into the final 23 games of this shortened 2013 season. At this point, if the Ducks were to just play .500 hockey the rest of the way, they would end up with 64 points, which is equivalent to about 110 points in a full 82 game season. To make things even more glorious for Ducks fans, if Anaheim were to finish out the season at .500, the Kings (currently in the 4 spot in the conference and 2nd in the division), would have to play .739 hockey just to catch the Ducks. Of course anything can happen throughout the course of a season, but the Ducks at this point are almost assured of a playoff berth at the very least (they have 99.8% chance of making the playoffs according to THIS SITE) and are the prohibitive favorites in the Pacific Division at this point.
A LOOK AT ATTENDANCE
Other that the Ducks' fantastic first half of the season, I have also been pleasantly surprised with the modest uptick in attendance from last year to this year. Going into the season, I figured attendance would have been absolutely atrocious thanks to the lockout and the bad record Anaheim had last year. So far, the Ducks are averaging 15,560 a game (90.6% of Honda Center's 17,174 capacity), up from an average of 14,760 last year. I have also noticed that the Ducks have sold out every weekend game (Saturday/Sunday) so far this season with an average attendance figure of 17,240 (100.38%) and will probably sell out the remaining three weekend games against Detroit, Los Angeles, and Phoenix (fan appreciation day). The Ducks have averaged 15,410 (89.73%) for Friday games and 14,031 (81.7%) for other weekday games. Anaheim has also had 5 sold out crowds, 2 of which had standing-room only tickets distributed—Vancouver on opening night and Los Angeles on Feb 2. To compare, the Ducks only had 9 sell out crowds last season and are more than half way to that mark at the mid point of this shortened season. The way I look at things, Anaheim can expect at least five more sellouts against Chicago (Mar. 20), Detroit (Mar. 22), Detroit (Mar. 24), Los Angeles (Apr. 7), and Phoenix (Apr. 27).
I am happy to see the uptick in attendance, but I believe that this organization is lacking in the marketing department and that with a better marketing strategy, this team could easily be averaging around 17,000 a game instead of being stuck in the mid-15,000s. I am one who can be overly critical about my sports teams' marketing efforts and it is not just the Ducks that I criticize—anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I (and many other Cal fans as well), absolutely despise the University of California's marketing efforts and criticize them at every turn. On the flip side, I often praise the Angels' marketing department and believe Arte Moreno to be a marketing god—I find is absolutely phenomenal that the Angels have drawn 3 million fans the last few years despite the fact that they have not made the playoffs since 2009. All that being said, I am somewhat pleased with the Ducks' modestly higher attendance figures, but there is no reason (in my mind at least), that those numbers could not and should not be higher.
With 25 games down in this truncated 48 game season, I am the most confident in this Anaheim Ducks organization than at any time since the 2006-07 season. Whether or not we are looking at a deep run into the playoffs, getting bounced in the first round, or even going into a tailspin and missing out on postseason play altogether, I cannot say, but I am sure as Hell going to be watching and/or following every game until there are no more games left and I start counting down the days until October.
Oh, and fuck the NHL and its wildly inconsistent disciplinary decisions.