If calls for Randy Carlyle’s job were loud entering the weekend, they were deafening by the time the Anaheim Ducks left the ice Sunday night. Riding a nine-game losing streak entering Friday’s action against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Ducks went winless on the weekend, blowing early three- and two-goal leads en route to consecutive losses that stretched the losing streak to 11 games.
But despite Carlyle’s already-hot seat hitting what most would have considered a boiling point, Anaheim GM Bob Murray came out post-game Sunday to announce that the Ducks are sticking by their bench boss.
“While it’s not my preference to make comments on this topic during the season, our recent play has led to many questions. Our fans are frustrated, rightfully so, and deserve a response from me,” Murray said in a statement. “At this time, I am not considering a coaching change. I am more focused on our players, specifically with who is going to step up in this situation. The way we played tonight was a step in the right direction, but we need much, much more. We have higher expectations for this group, and they should expect more from themselves.”
For a relatively brief comment on Anaheim’s coaching situation, there’s a lot to digest there. So, let’s start at the top: the clear-cut, no-bones-about-it statement that Carlyle will remain the Ducks’ bench boss.
One needs only look briefly at the responses Murray’s statement garnered on social media to gauge the fan response, but the reality is that a coaching change likely wouldn’t fix what ails Anaheim and, truth be told, it’s not as though the Ducks are so far gone this season under Carlyle that this season can’t be saved. Waking up Monday, the Ducks remain tied for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with the Minnesota Wild, who have two games in hand on Anaheim, and one point back of the Colorado Avalanche, who have one game in hand. The Ducks, as baffling as it may be, remain in the mix for a playoff spot despite dropping a franchise-record 11 consecutive games.
It should also be noted, too, that it isn’t as though Anaheim is out-and-out playing poorly throughout this run. Across their 11-game slump, which dates back to Dec. 18, the Ducks actually boast some stellar underlying numbers. Adjusted for score and venue at 5-on-5, Anaheim ranks 10th in the NHL in Corsi percentage (51.5) across their 11-game drought and 14th in shots percentage (50.2), according to NaturalStatTrick. Additionally, of the Ducks’ 11 losses, five have been by a single goal, including four overtime losses. Two more have been two-goal losses that included an empty-netter. There is one two-goal loss in there, too, which means only three of the losses have been by a truly significant margin. It’s not as though Anaheim has been dominated night in and night out, and the results would likely be coming if it wasn’t for the Ducks’ absolutely brutal shooting percentage, 5.5 percent, over the past 11 games. That’s something Carlyle can do little about.
That said, one area the Ducks are struggling — and this absolutely reflects on Carlyle — is in generation and suppression of scoring chances. That has been a year-long issue. While the possession and shot percentages have risen, Anaheim has remained one of the league’s poorest scoring and high-danger chance clubs. On the season, the Ducks rank 30th in the NHL in scoring chance percentage (44.6) and dead-last in high-danger chance percentage (42.9). Over their past 11 games, the same issues have risen to the fore as they have the fifth-worst marks in the entire NHL in both categories since Dec. 18 with respective 46.2 and 42.9 percentages.
And while changing course behind the bench right now might be one way to reverse courses and iron out those scoring chance rates, there’s no guarantee that’s going to be the case, nor is it any assurance of an in-season turnaround that spurs this team to greater success. There is evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, that would suggest a coaching change isn’t going to fix what ails the Ducks over the back half of this season. No team that has changed coaches this season — not the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers or Philadelphia Flyers — is in any better position now than they were with their prior bench boss. Anaheim is better served to play out this season, see what comes of it with Carlyle and pursue their options in the off-season if they decide to execute a coaching change at that time. Odds are, too, there’s likely one in the cards in Anaheim come the summer regardless of the outcome.
The other notable message Murray sent in his statement, though, was one of holding his roster accountable, and he drove that home Monday by executing an early morning deal that sent long-tenured winger Andrew Cogliano, 31, to the Dallas Stars in exchange for 24-year-old pivot Devin Shore.
Cogliano, who signed a three-year, $9.75-million extension last January, has spent the past seven and a half seasons in Anaheim, where he’s cracked the 15-goal plateau three times and was a four-time 30-point player while skating middle-six minutes. Shore, meanwhile, is in his third big-league season and has scored 29 goals and 82 points in his 206 games with the Stars. He inked a two-year, $4.6-million extension in the off-season. They’re similar players, similar producers, and it appears this is a move by the Ducks to get younger.
There’s a fair chance that pulling the trigger on moving out Cogliano, who was underperforming, will be the precursor to further action for Murray, too. Anaheim frees up nearly $1 million in cap space in the swap, and while the vast majority of the cap space available will be eaten up by impending returns from injury, the additional spending room could aid other moves. The Ducks’ forward group has a heavy veteran presence, particularly in the top six, and it might be time that Murray starts to refresh his top-six with younger talent. If the slide continues, free agent-to-be Jakob Silfverberg could be potential trade bait, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Murray were to at least listen on other notable pieces as he attempts to shake this club out of its slump.
Anaheim will get its opportunity to stop the losing streak short of a dozen Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings. But win or lose, don’t expect the Ducks to remain quiet the rest of the campaign.