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A Slumping Playoff Team

The Ducks are playing better than their reputation seems to indicate, but there are definitely holes to fill

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Anaheim Ducks v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Take a deep breath.

That’s it. Just breathe. Would you like some hot tea?

There has been a collective freakout from Ducks fandom over the team’s recent stretch of games. And the thing is, I don’t really blame them. 5 straight years of relatively easy roads to the playoffs has spoiled fans. There is even a good chunk of new fans that have yet to experience missing the playoffs. Now, for the first time in half a decade, that stability is threatened.

Anaheim is currently on the outside looking in at a playoff spot with the teams above them having at least one game in hand. They are 3-3-2 in their last 8 games played. And there are 7 Western Conference teams battling for approximately 4 (maybe 5) playoff spots up for grabs. In the Pacific alone, 3 points separate 2nd from 5th place.

In short, this is the tightest playoff race the West has seen in years.

Given the Ducks recent inconsistency in the game results section, it’s not surprising that many are starting to think that the season is over.

However, I’m here to help you pump the breaks. This team has played better than their record indicates as far as underlying numbers are concerned.

Let’s take a look at those last 8 games:

55.20 CF% (3rd in the NHL)

53.78 SCF% (7th in the NHL)

54.29 HDCF% (7th in the NHL)

.995 PDO (21st in the NHL)

6.13 SH% (25th in the NHL)

What do these numbers tell us? It is likely two things.

The first is that the Ducks are down on their luck somewhat. Those shot attempt numbers are those of a cup contending team that should be winning more. The PDO and SH% indicate that things just aren’t quite going the right way for the team.

However, in those 8 games, the Ducks have a -4 goal differential. Despite getting the better of most of their recent opponents in shot and scoring chance generation, they have been making critical mistakes on defense that teams have been executing against. The eye test certainly lines up with this, as the Ducks blue line has been revealing some glaring holes lately that Bob Murray absolutely has to address if the Ducks want to remain in the hunt.

There’s good news though. While the Ducks haven’t gotten the results they have wanted, neither have their competitors in the playoff race. In their last 8 games, the playoff contenders in the Pacific have records of:

Sharks 4-3-1

Flames 4-4-0

Kings 5-3-0

Ducks 3-3-2

Yes, the Ducks have the worst record of those four, but they’re not exactly being left in the dust. Now it’s up to the team to tighten up the loose ends and take advantage of the Pacific’s mediocrity.

This illustrates why the Ducks should be buyers and not sellers. That they should buy now, not wait until the deadline.

Craig Custance’s interview with Bob Murray for The Athletic (paywall) was admittedly disheartening to say the least. Murray indicated that he’s frustrated with the team’s recent play and seemed to imply that it’s up to the team and coaching staff to decide if he is going to buy or sell. There’s also a noticeable lack of accepting blame on his part for the actual holes in the roster construction.

If the team has issues that can be solved through the trade market (defense) and are on the cusp of a playoff berth with 2 months remaining in the regular season, why wouldn’t you be doing everything in your power right now to get a team with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry over the hill instead of waiting for 2 weeks and giving yourself a chance to drop out?

The Ducks General Manager just indicated that he is paralyzed with indecision. This close to a playoff spot this team has to make a move now with an open cup window. Now is not the time for indifference when your opponents are giving you a chance to leapfrog them. And it’s certainly not in the best interests of the club to just count on the other Pacific teams to continue to play poorly.

Recency bias can take over relatively easily. The fanbase and, unfortunately, the General Manager seem to be plagued by it. The Ducks have generally played well through this slump and are one or two roster additions away from getting back on track to lock up a spot for the playoffs. There are holes in the roster, but none that aren’t fixable; especially on the blue line.

Take a breath and realize that the season is not over yet. Give the team a chance to address their issues. The team may be starting to run out of race track, but there is still time. Murray may not know what to do right now, but history has shown he can be aggressive and quick when he wants to be (see Henrique, Eaves, Wizniewski, Perron, etc).

Put down your torches and pitchforks, but, given Murray’s recent comments, keep them close by.