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The Big, Bad Losers

The wheels came off last night, and it was a downright embarrassment.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re looking for positive words and light scolding: turn back now. There’s nothing for you here.

Last night the San Jose Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 8-1 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the first round of the playoffs. An absolutely awful result by almost every stretch of the imagination.

To be honest with you, though, the result isn’t really what is bothering me. The problem is the way the game ended.

Down 5-1 in the 3rd period, the wheels began to come off, and the Ducks proceeded to goon it up in about as bad a way you can think, even for this team. Getzlaf took his second and third penalties of the game for slashing Hertl and then roughing Sorensen. The Sharks would proceed to score on the power play.

A few minutes later, the Ducks attempted to stir the pot again. Anaheim leadershipped their way to a Corey Perry cross check and a game misconduct for Getzlaf who would be thrown out of the game. Kesler then took a slashing penalty, and Montour took another slashing penalty at the end of the game.

To drive home the point completely, each one of the Sharks 3rd period goals was scored on the power play as Anaheim believed that the only way to salvage the game was to somehow go all UFC on the ice and flirt with boarder line assault on the San Jose players.

Put simply: the ending of last night’s game was a complete and utter embarrassment for the players, coaches, front office, and, worst of all, the fans.

The difference between dirty and dangerous

Look, I know the Ducks play a hard, gritty game with an edge where they routinely walk the line between being pests and being outright reckless. You will not find many in the fan base who are in denial about this fact. I personally have never had much of a problem with this, as the team has, for the most part, walked the line fairly well outside of the occasional leap to the other side. This is their identity, and quite frankly most of the fan base doesn’t care about it either; they run off the platform “No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care”.

But that fine line between dirty and dangerous is always there. The Ducks are certainly not the only team that employs this style of game, but they are one of the most consistent with it. And games like Monday’s blowout not only hurt the reputation of the team, but also raise questions about player safety.

It’s the playoffs; it’s a long and grueling time of year where playing through all sorts of fatigue and injuries are the norm. But tell me: do you really want to be the team that is so bad at handling defeat that you go out start trying to injure opposing players? Forget about poor hockey. That is just being a bad human being in general.

Watching the Ducks’ captain completely lose his composure and proceed to lead the team in actively attempting to injure opposing players raises questions about Getzlaf’s leadership capabilities. We have often said that, in terms of on-ice play, as Getzlaf goes, so do the Ducks. That also applies here. As Getzlaf plays reckless, so does the team.

None of the Anaheim leadership are exactly known for their clean play. Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler (and Getzlaf to a lesser extent) are some of the poster children for getting under the skin of opponents and playing dirty. Last night looked to me like the core’s frustrations boiling over when San Jose refused to be baited into the antics of the usual pot-stirrers.

When you lead usually respectful and clean players like Brandon Montour, Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase, and Hampus Lindholm into all out brawls when your team is down by six or seven goals, you have much greater issues to iron out.

From the top down

This all starts at the top. No, not Randy Carlyle. Not even Bob Murray. I’m talking about Henry and Susan Samueli.

If you’re not very familiar with the Ducks organization, I will preface this by saying that I believe the Samueli’s are one of the best owners in the National Hockey League. The amount of work they have done in fielding a historically competitive Ducks team for almost an entire decade, their incredible work expanding hockey in Southern California at the grassroots level, and their commitment to upgrading facilities year after year to make the fan experience as good as possible is extremely commendable and something we are all grateful for.

But the organizational tenets and mission have to come from the owners. Since they took over the team, the Samueli’s have obviously been just fine with the reputation of the Big Bad Ducks™. It has worked for a long time. Now they have a decision to make: do they sit by and say, “Oh I understand frustrations boiled over they’ll calm down it’s fine this is fine”, or do they realize what actually happened last night as the players on their team risked knocking out several Sharks for several games due to injuries.

This has been a calling card of the type of roster Bob Murray has built over the years, and especially of Randy Carlyle as a coach. How can you honestly look the fans in the eyes and tell them you signed off on the re-hiring of Carlyle as an attempt to bring “accountability” back to the franchise? The fans are not dumb.

Will the owners claim accountability and demand it of the players and the people running the team? Or will they continue to turn a blind eye and risk becoming known as the team that handles losses worse than a 4-year old throwing a temper tantrum because they had their dessert taken away from them?

Clean it up

Either the team needs to go down with some remaining semblance of professionalism, or they control their tempers, stop playing like complete goons (again, if they’re trying to get under the Sharks skins to throw off their game, it’s not working), and focus on getting back into the series.

It ain’t over till it’s over. This much is true. The fans will be watching and analyzing with the pain and disgust of Monday in their minds. How the team handles game 4 will dictate the fans response of either forgiveness, or calling for the entire organization’s head.

Don’t let us down.