I’m not going to contribute to lighting the hockey world on fire and running around like a man on fire with no extinguisher nearby.
I know many in Ducks fandom are currently doing this, or are awaiting breathlessly at our piece to tell them whether they should run around screaming or not (thanks for your confidence in us, by the way, misguided or not).
Sorry to throw water on your outrage, but this is going to be a logical, level-headed breakdown of the trade deadline. Please refrain from lighting your computer or phone on fire.
Bob Murray made one trade and one free agent signing today.
Trade: Jason Chimera for Chris Wagner
Signing: Chris Kelly for pro-rated 1 year, $1.25 million contract
To many, this is a big letdown. And they are not wrong. This is a Ducks team that, for the first time in a long time, is not waltzing its way into the playoffs. Making a Stanley Cup run is the furthest thing from a guarantee at this point.
It would make all the sense in the world to see the other Pacific team deadline deals such as Tomas Tartar to Vegas and Evander Kane to San Jose, and to a lesser extent Nick Shore and Chris Stewart to Calgary, for Murray to try and upgrade his roster to solidify a playoff spot.
But let’s try to get inside Murray’s head here a bit. This is undoubtedly a talented group of forwards, and a talented top-4 on the blue line. At least on paper. A team with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler, and one of the best goaltending tandems in the league in John Gibson and Ryan Miller is a team that can drag a mangled corpse of a bottom 9 and third pairing into the playoffs, and even a good ways into it.
This is pretty much what happened last season when the Getzlaf line steamrolled its way into the Western Conference Finals nearly single-handedly.
While anything can happen if the Ducks get to the playoffs, this year’s Western Conference does not look anything like last year’s. Calgary has gotten better. San Jose is San Jose-ing. Vegas is out-skating everyone. The Jets are finally playing to their potential. Last year’s Western Conference champions in Nashville are even stronger this year. That’s not to mention the juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning and the out-of-nowhere Boston Bruins in the east.
It’s looking to be an all-out line brawl for playoff spots in the West this year. But here’s the good news: despite their recent “struggles”, Anaheim has been the 5th best team in the Western Conference since Christmas. The Ducks rank 7th in the NHL in CF% in the month of February. 7th in scoring chances.
So does this Ducks team sink or swim based on a deadline move? Absolutely not. This is a team with the pieces to get it done. However, did their chances to get it done in the playoffs increase? Probably not.
Shuffling around the 4th line with Chris Kelly and Jason Chimera when Carlyle usually plays them less than 10 minutes per night is not going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things.
There’s a hidden potential upside with Chimera specifically: he’s only one season removed from a 20 goal campaign and, until recently, was considered one of the faster players in the NHL. Yes, he’s 38, but it’s likely Murray is banking on a “change of scenery” benefit for the veteran left winger. Given the lack of production from the 4th line as of late, it can’t hurt to see what happens.
Another thing to think about: it is likely that Troy Terry gets a tryout with Anaheim before the season is out. Recent rumblings from the NCAA indicate that Terry will likely sign with the Ducks as soon as his college season is over. Given his dominating season at the University of Denver and the Olympics, the Ducks may want to see if he’s ready for a taste of NHL action. If DU makes it to the Frozen Four, Terry will play April 5th-7th. This will be after the NHL season has concluded, so he could be available for a potential playoff run, depending on where Anaheim is. If they exit the tournament early, he could get at least one regular season game in.
As for the defense situation, Kevin Bieksa and Francois Beauchemin have cycled through the press box to make room for Marcus Pettersson for the last 6 straight games. While he’s made a few rookie mistakes, he’s also clearly earned some trust from Carlyle, and the eye test has generally backed that up in his limited time with some nice defensive plays and some great first passes to forwards breaking out of the zone. And more importantly, he doesn’t make you nauseous when he gets near the puck.
At least one piece of the blue line has settled, if only for a moment.
The Final Thoughts
I don’t believe that Anaheim increased their chances of getting to the playoffs or making a significant run if they get in after today. Bob Murray told reporters that he wasn’t moving his first-round pick or any other assets that he didn’t want to lose. He added that the players that went for second-round picks in recent seasons were now going for firsts. This makes a lot of sense considering the fact that drafting, specifically in the early rounds, is Murray’s strongest skill as a general manager.
Instead, he did what he’s done several times before: throw subtle shade at his team and publicly challenge them to get it done.
So yes, be disappointed that the Ducks didn’t make any deadline deals. But note that this is a team that has been one of the best Western Conference teams since Christmas. Even with San Jose getting Evander Kane, this team is right in the thick of things and is currently projected to grab a playoff spot at the current point pace.
The core are in the twilight of their primes, but Anaheim has many young assets with bright futures like Sam Steel, Max Jones, Troy Terry, Josh Mahura, and Maxime Comtois, and current younger players with bright futures still to come like Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Ondrej Kase, and Brandon Montour. With these kinds of assets, tanking would be a completely irresponsible thing to do.
It hurts a bit that Murray made no attempt at making his current club better nor his future club better today. But as long as players like Ryan Getzlaf are performing the way they are, this team has no reason to give up just yet.
They’ve got to do it quickly, though, with Father Time creeping in.