Steve Konowalchuk, hired on as assistant coach in the summer of 2017, has been relieved of his duties by the Anaheim Ducks, per Eric Stephens of The Athletic.
Assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk has been let go by Ducks, per GM Bob Murray. Position won't necessarily be replaced. Firing was earlier this week.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) June 23, 2018
Konowalchuk was with Ducks for one season. Power play continued to be a major detriment in their game. PP numbers went up for a lot of teams in 2017-18, theirs went down from decidedly average 2016-17.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) June 23, 2018
Konowalchuk, who enjoyed great success as the head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2016-17, was brought on to the Ducks’ staff to inject life into the power play and overall offense.
Clearly, that mandate was not fulfilled.
Although the nature of the firing is not yet known — personal reasons could very well be at play — it is difficult to argue that Konowalchuk had the desired impact on Anaheim’s man advantage.
The Ducks were middle of the road both at generating un-blocked shot attempts and scoring chances on the power play, finishing 13th and 17th in those categories, respectively. As far as goal-scoring is concerned, the Ducks finished 23rd in the league in power play goals per 60 minutes.
Those aren’t eye-catching numbers by any means, but they’re not necessarily abysmal either. The real issue with Anaheim’s power play seemed to be a lack of any type of continuity. When one strategy seemed to be working, such as Brandon Montour one-timers form the off-wing, another strategy would just as quickly be introduced. Continuity is key in that scenario, and the Ducks had very little of it. Given the talent on their roster, one would think they could do a little better.
Again, there’s no way of really knowing if Konowalchuk’s dismissal had anything to do with performance. The details just aren’t available yet. But given how general manager Bob Murray stressed that he wants his team’s style of play to change, the firing can’t come as much of a surprise either.
So where does Anaheim go from here? That much is uncertain. Stephens indicated that there doesn’t seem to be a plan to bring in another body. Perhaps we see Mark Morrison step in behind the bench. Morrison was brought on along with Konowalchuk last summer, and is now the third name listed on the official team site behind Randy Carlyle and the newly-minted Steve Wilford.
If there isn’t an outside replacement, then Morrison feels like the most likely candidate. He’s a well-travelled coach, but it’s hard to get a philosophical read on him. Murray is hell-bent on his team getting faster, so maybe another name from AHL San Diego makes its way to Anaheim.
With one year left on Randy Carlyle’s reported contract, the message appears loud and clear form the front office that the times are changing. Whether that means his job is in any kind of danger is a much different discussion. One thing is for certain: he, along with his players, are being strong-armed into change.