I’m not going to claim to speak for all Ducks fans. In fact, I know from my recent time on social media that there are fans who would prefer the Ducks win and gun for a playoff spot.
But a growing movement of restless fans who are angry about the way the Ducks are playing is taking hold. Just look at Twitter. Look at Facebook comments. Look at Instagram comments. [Disclaimer: look, but don’t spend much time there because your IQ will drop to that of a goldfish if you’re there for more than a few seconds.]
In the year 2019, social media represents enough of a sample size to get a pretty accurate feel for what the pulse of the fanbase is like.
Spoiler alert: It’s not good.
To be honest, we here at Anaheim Calling, as well as most of our readers, no longer are mad about the losses night in and night out. We’re not even mad at the blowouts. Least of all are we mad at the players on the ice.
What we can’t understand is the fact that this team has three separate losing streaks of at least six games and are currently on a tank headed straight for the bottom of the NHL, yet no one in the organization, least of all General Manager Bob Murray, has made any significant change or given any acknowledgement as to what this team will look like the rest of the season.
Will they try to become buyers and make a run at a playoff spot? They’re only four points out of that scenario. Are they planning on selling off major assets in an attempt to gain future ones to become competitive again as quickly as possible? Why exactly is Randy Carlyle still head coach?
We have exactly zero answers.
Now, does the front office have to answer any of these questions? Of course not. They don’t have to do anything. But as we tweeted the other night on the heels of an embarrassing loss against the Winnipeg Jets, not answering at least some of those questions is something you learn not to do in Public Relations 101.
Murray either needs to fire Carlyle after this game or make a statement indicating they’re blowing up the team. Anything else is a giant middle finger to the fans.— Anaheim CaLLLLLLing (@AnaheimCalling) February 3, 2019
The fact of the matter is that the fans are the reason this team exists. This is a game played for entertainment and revenue-generating avenues that fans provide the owners of teams. When you put out a product that is terrible, you need to improve the product. You need to communicate with your customers that you’re making the product better, or risk the financial consequences.
In a sport like hockey where there are very few quick fixes for a terrible product, continuing to ice one with no guidance as to if and how it will get better will lead fans to assume the worst.
If, indeed, management has retained Carlyle and made no impactful changes to the roster to compete either in the short term or in the future (trading for Derek Grant, Devin Shore, and Michael Del Zotto is not an impactful change, don’t even start) in an effort to tank for a lottery pick, then the fans should know.
Of course, the statement shouldn’t be, “Hey we suck. We’re gonna trade a bunch of people and suck even more for the rest of the season so we can draft Hughes or Kakko; please continue to give us money”. That wouldn’t sit well with the fans.
Spinning it into a re-tool message in an appreciative tone could very well ease much of the anger currently simmering across Anaheim.
Look no further than two of the most recent examples of this approach in the New York Rangers and LA Kings.
Kings’ President Luc Robitaille recently sent this letter to season ticket holders and club partners in the wake of their equally disastrous season and the trade of franchise defenseman Jake Muzzin:
This is a great statement. It doesn’t admit to outright tanking, but indicates that they will be doing what they can to acquire and develop talent that will lead them back to a Stanley Cup in as short a period of time as possible.
It also thanks their most valuable fans and their current hockey personnel for what they’ve given to the franchise and for their continued support. This statement shows that Kings management doesn’t take them for granted.
The Rangers released a similar statement last season:
This is an even better statement, in my opinion. It addresses the idea of a rebuild much more directly. And, like the Kings’ statement, it directly states their goal of bringing a Stanley Cup back to the franchise, while thanking those that support the team for their loyalty.
Anaheim, of course, is not the giant markets of LA or New York. But at this point in the season, not addressing the fans directly is leaving a bitter taste in their mouths. It is fostering an environment of mistrust and lack of faith in the true mission of this franchise.
I repeat: without a clear direction, most fans will assume the worst. They will assume that management and the players do not care about icing a competitive team. That they don’t care about bringing a Stanley Cup back to Anaheim. Even if Murray started selling off major assets for draft picks and young talent today, without a statement, many fans will watch their favorite players move on to other teams and think the team is casting them aside with abandon.
This is what the vast majority of Anaheim Ducks fans see as the state of the franchise at the current moment:
- A seven game losing streak in the early part of the season;
- A franchise-record 12-game losing streak in December-January;
- A current six game losing streak;
- Losses to teams actively trying to lose;
- A head coach who has faced no visible repercussions for some of the worst performances in team history;
- Trades of bottom-six players and talk about players “compete-level”, as if these aren’t professional athletes who have only ever known giving it their all;
- A General Manager who has given no indication that he will do anything to put Anaheim back in contention in the near term;
- Players that appear to have lost much of their confidence;
- Career-worst performances from several veterans;
- A sudden, sharp decline from the most successful era in franchise history.
There are some good things here, to be sure. There is excitement for some of the prospects in other leagues like the AHL and CHL. The 25th anniversary celebration has had many bright, warm, and nostalgia-filled moments.
But these bright spots are now being completely overshadowed by the turmoil of the main event, the reason everyone is willing to spend money supporting the organization in the first place.
Releasing a statement may hurt for a bit. But consistent winning and Stanley Cup contention is an easy cure for any ill-feelings towards a rebuilding period.
What isn’t so easy to fix is broken trust between the people running the team and those who make their jobs possible. Continuing down the road of losing constantly with no indication of changes coming to address what is, quite frankly, a disgraceful period of Ducks hockey with a roster that shouldn’t be this bad will undoubtedly lead to a drop in revenue as fans stop spending money on an inferior product.
Every game the Ducks lose, they get closer to a brighter future. Some know this. Many do not. Every loss that is followed up with silence combined with inaction lowers the average fan’s overall opinion of the team.
The #FireCarlyle and now #FireMurray hashtags and chants will only grow stronger with each passing day until the powers that be finally shed light on their plan.
Years of success have bought this franchise a lot of leeway. It’s time to cash some of that goodwill in and respect the people that make your jobs possible by letting them know you want to bring a Cup back to Anaheim.
Anything less is an insult.