The dawn of a new hockey season breeds optimism for most fanbases. The Ducks, while dealing with some roster question marks and injuries, were no exception.
Anticipation for several highly-touted rookies to make their season debuts. Wondering if Ondrej Kase could repeat his breakout season. The John Gibson Vezina-snub revenge tour. The possibility of seeing a new, faster system that could compete in today’s NHL.
The season got off to an auspicious start with Anaheim rocketing out of the gate to a 6-1 record.
Not everything was rosy, however. The smell of consistently being outshot and the reality of John Gibson stealing games that, quite frankly, the Ducks had no business being in slowly began to permeate its way through the cracks.
Something had to give sooner rather than later. Indeed, that “solid” foundation came crumbling apart in spectacular fashion as Anaheim followed up their 6-1 start with a 1-7-3 free fall heading into Monday’s game.
The locals are now growing restless, as indicated by some of the opinions succinctly shared from observers in our postgame article following the Ducks beatdown at the hands of the Minnesota Wild Friday night.
Unfortunately, the road ahead makes the one just traveled appear tame by comparison. Take a look at Anaheim’s schedule for the rest of the month of November:
11/12 – Nashville Predators
11/14 – Vegas Golden Knights
11/16 – Toronto Maple Leafs
11/18 – Colorado Avalanche
11/21 – Vancouver Canucks
11/23 – Edmonton Oilers
11/25 – Nashville Predators
11/27 – Tampa Bay Lightning
11/28 – Florida Panthers
11/30 – Carolina Hurricanes
That’s 9 different opponents. Seven of those opponents are either among the league leaders in shot attempts or in shot suppression. Because Anaheim obviously needs to take less shots. Two of them have generational talents who only need one shot to steal some games.
The fact that the Ducks have the potential to go the rest of the month winless is, quite frankly, astounding for a team that has Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, John Gibson, and Ryan Miller on the roster.
And this is a team that, outside of Corey Perry and Carter Rowney, should be considered healthy with the potential return of Ondrej Kase as reported by The Athletic’s Eric Stephens.
Small shred of good news coming after Friday's pasting is Ondrej Kase skating on a line with Ryan Kesler and Nick Ritchie. Barring another setback, seems he could be about ready to make season debut tomorrow.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) November 11, 2018
Of the upcoming 9 teams the Ducks will be facing this month, only 2 of them could be considered toss-ups: Edmonton and Vancouver. These are teams with rosters that, on paper, should be worse than the Ducks. Yet, the Oilers are tied in points with the Ducks, and the Canucks sit a surprising 5 points ahead at the top of the Pacific Division.
The rest of the opponents should have relatively comfortable odds in favor of the opposing team. Depending on how the rest of the division plays during this stretch, Anaheim losing most of, if not all, the games this month could very well knock the team out of realistic playoff contention before December.
There is a glimmer of hope, however.
Firstly, the Pacific Division is terrible. Like, really bad. Despite the recent 1-7-3 skid, the Ducks sit just 5 points out of the division lead. Teams in this division seem to be insisting other teams sit atop the lead. Maybe they’re afraid that the Kings are going to send a winged blue shell all the way from the back?
Secondly, this immediate run of opponents in Nashville, Vegas, and Toronto could possibly lead to a coaching change.
Yes, the Wild game probably should have triggered a change behind the bench. A team that conceded 75% of the scoring chances and 93% of the high danger chances in one game should’ve been the catalyst that showed Randy Carlyle the door for a team ranked 4th from last in shot attempts and dead last in both scoring chances and high danger chances since the October 20th loss to Vegas. That’s a span of 11 games.
But this could just be the beginning. The next opponents have rosters and systems that could make games like Friday’s seem close in comparison. Or maybe they win 2 of those 3 as Gibson stops a combined 95 shots with a last second bounce off of John Tavares’s skate past Fredrik Andersen which allows Anaheim to win 1-0. Because hockey is weird like that.
Thirdly, if you’re someone who secretly wishes the “stealth tank” is real, this month could signal the start of a Ducks rebuild as they attempt to reverse the direction of the franchise and land a potential elite scorer in Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko. If you’re one of those people, you might want to start familiarizing yourself with the hashtags #LoseForHughes and #PlayCraapoForKaapo.
Regardless of how you are now approaching this season, there are positives looming behind these doors. It all depends on which one you pick.
In all likelihood, the next few weeks will tell us what the future holds for this franchise. Given the team’s appearance at the present moment, any kind of significant change is a welcome sign.
Shot attempt, scoring chance, and high danger chance stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.