The Ducks have continued their franchise record losing streak by dropping their 10th straight game last night to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This 10th loss was not just an ordinary loss either. The team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in this game. It was a game that the Ducks had an 82% chance of winning after the end of the first period per MoneyPuck.
Needless to say, this was a demoralizing defeat that leads us to the conversation of Randy Carlyle job security. As of right now, Carlyle is still employed by the Ducks organization, but the voices are starting to become louder and louder with people questioning why he is still employed.
You have reporters asking the question to Carlyle, leading to Randy storming off:
Randy Carlyle snapped when asked if he’s worried about his job security and then abruptly ended the interview. Said “dumb question” and then called the reporter a “jerk.”Seat is getting awfully hot with losing streak now at 10 #nhlducks— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) January 12, 2019
You have a TSN analyst and former player for Carlyle with the Ducks questioning his effectiveness:
It is a legit question. Anaheim and Carlyle were on the clock 4 losses ago. Nothing dumb about the question. He appears to be inaffective currently. We’ve passed the hot seat into liquid hot magma. https://t.co/IBdN8oE3nC— Aaron Ward (@NHL_AaronWard) January 12, 2019
And you have members of the media in other markets criticizing the way Carlyle handled the situation:
I can’t even convey how many times I broached the subject with Yeo here. Broached it with chuck fletcher 50 times last year, Bruce Boudreau this season. They never once shot the messenger because they’re pros and get our job— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 12, 2019
Needless to say all eyes have now been placed on the Ducks. This is no longer something only the more critical fans and bloggers are talking about.
A change needs to happen for the organization to move forward into the modern game. Regardless of what Carlyle had said when hired about having changed, bringing him back was without a doubt a step back for the organization. Carlyle has not been able to adapt to the modern day game that relies on quick transitions out of the zone, and in turn, the Ducks have fallen from being a Pacific Division contender to one of the worst teams in the league that is propped up by the best goalie in the league.
So far this season, the Ducks are 28th in the league at generating xGF/60 with 2.15 and 2nd in the league at allowing xGA/60 with 2.76. For those that do not follow these stats that closely, this means that the Ducks struggle to generate chances and shots that lead to goals. They also struggle to stop other teams from generating these same chances and shots. Some of this can definitely be attributed to the injuries the Ducks have endured, but a roster with the talent the Ducks have should not be this bad. If they were middle of the road to below-average with the injuries, it would make sense. But instead, this team would be mentioned in the same breath as the Ottawa Senators and LA Kings if they did not have John Gibson.
To me, the much biggest issue and failure of the coaching staff is with the utilization of the roster- specifically Ryan Kesler. Last night, it was apparent after a few shifts that a hard-match of Kesler against Sidney Crosby would not be a good idea. The Crosby line was having their way with the Kesler line, and instead of making a change in the matchups, Carlyle continued to use this hard-match all game long. This decision allowed the Penguins back in the game with the Crosby line either generating goals or getting extended shifts in the offensive zone to create momentum for the Penguins.
This is just one of many simple trends the coaching staff have failed to recognize and adjust to, which is, quite frankly, unacceptable.
The time is now to replace Carlyle, but with whom? Carlyle has failed as a coach this season and should be let go, but letting him go without a plan is just as bad an idea as the one to keep him. So let me lay out my plan for the Ducks the rest of the season if I was the general manager.
I would let Randy Carlyle go and replace him with Dallas Eakins on an interim basis. This would allow the organization to see what they have in the San Diego Gulls’ head coach. If he impresses and has the Ducks playing well, you then know he is the coach for this team moving forward and you potentially could make a strong playoff push. I don’t believe this roster is as bad as their play or recent record indicates, and it still has the best goaltender in the world.
The logistics are also set up in favor of bringing up Eakins, at least on an interim basis. He is already within the system and being paid by the Ducks. Unless there’s language in his contract we don’t know about, it is likely that the Samuelis would not have to pay any more than they are now with the current coaching setup, since Eakins is currently under contract.
If Eakins can turn things around, this could be an interesting team come playoff time. If he fails, then the Ducks are in no worse of a position than they are now, and you most likely have a high draft pick to help retool. Over the summer you can pursue other options, like Joel Quenneville, Sheldon Keefe, or Alain Vigneault.
Some people might be concerned with this plan for a few reasons. Some want Eakins to stay in the AHL for the season to grow with the kids, and then promote him over summer with a full camp to implement his system. My issue with that is that Eakins has been the Gulls’ head coach since 2015. He has had plenty of time in the AHL and helped to develop a lot of the players on the Ducks, like Ondrej Kase, Brandon Montour, Josh Manson, and Nick Ritchie, for example. These players would already know how he would want to play.
Some might be concerned because of his time in Edmonton. Personally I do not hold this time against him much. The Oilers were a franchise in turmoil at that point in time and Eakins only got a season and a half to attempt to change the culture in Edmonton.
He is the antithesis to Carlyle. He is constantly trying to evolve and change the way he has coached. Some of these ideas have not worked out, like the swarm, which he is on record admitting. But at least he is willing to try something different and admit when he is wrong.
His former players swear by him, like Jordan Samuels-Thomas did on the Full 60 podcast. He has been known to be a fan of analytics and has made many appearances on TSN’s Hockey Analytics show. He deserves a chance to prove his time with the Oilers was more about the circumstances of a terrible roster and toxic management than his ability as a coach, and giving him the reigns the rest of this season would give him that chance.