When it comes time to select the NHL General Manager of the Year, here’s hoping the voters take into consideration a move that wasn’t made as opposed to the moves that were.
As in, Bob Murray not firing Bruce Boudreau.
It would have been so easy – so predictable – for the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks to fire the coach when the team waddled out of the gate this season.
The Ducks opened the season with a 2-0 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. Hardly alarming losing Game 1 on the road. It was, though, a sign of things to come. Losses. Being shut out.
Game 1: Lose 2-0 to San Jose. Game 3: Lose 4-0 to Arizona. Game 4: Lose 3-0 to Colorado. Game 7: Lose 3-0 to Minnesota. Game 8: Lose 1-0 to Chicago.
Eight games…seven losses…21 goals against…six goals for.
How the hell can a team with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf not score?
The not so mighty Ducks were 1-7-2 in their first 10 games. This was a team that led the NHL in goals with 263 in 2013-14 and had the best record in the Western Conference last season. No team has ever won the Stanley Cup in October, but plenty of teams have lost it at the start of the season. The Ducks were in grave danger of crashing and burning.
You can throw all these numbers into a blender, set the dial to high, press start and nine times out of 10 you will get the same result: Fire the coach.
But Murray did not fire the coach.
With the threat of the season slipping away, Murray stuck with his coach. Stuck with his players.
The panic button was not pressed.
There were those who pointed the finger at Boudreau when Getzlaf started the season with no goals in his first 13 games and just one goal through 29 games. Getzlaf has been one of the NHL’s most productive players for the past decade and suddenly he can’t hit a cow in the rear end with a shovel? Surely that must be Boudreau’s fault, right?
Not according the Murray. After finishing second and 10th in scoring in the NHL, Getzlaf slipped to 17th last season. So perhaps his downward spiral was predictable on some level. Perhaps not to the point of one goal in 29 games, but Getzlaf is 30 years old and it is not unusual for some players to start to slow down a tad at that age – especially with the game picking up speed.
The good news is Getzlaf’s game has picked up. He currently sits 28th in NHL scoring with 11 goals and 53 points through 62 games. He was among the first 16 players named to Team Canada for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey that will be held in Toronto.
Getzlaf’s sidekick, Perry, is also having a less-than-productive season by his own lofty standards. The NHL’s leading goal-scorer in 2010-11 ranks 44th in league scoring with 28 goals and 49 points in 67 games.
Teams tend to lean on their top stars during troubled times, but Boudreau took the opposite approach. Just as he did in February of 2015 when the Ducks went on a 7-1-0 tear, he separated Getzlaf and Perry. The two have worked magic together for the better part of 11 seasons, but something needed to change.
The plan worked. Again.
Perry’s new sidekick, Rickard Rakell, has benefitted most for the change. A nine-goal-scorer last season, Rakell is up to 18 this year and it would seem 25 is not out of the question.
So if Perry had a new running mate, what about Getzlaf? That puzzle was solved when Murray acquired David Perron from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 15. Perron was spinning his wheels with the Penguins with just four goals and 16 points in 43 games. Since joining Getzlaf and the Ducks, Perry has responded with eight goals and 19 points in 24 games.
After a horrible start, the Ducks now rank eighth in the NHL’s overall standings and look very much like a team that will challenge for the Stanley Cup. Considering the Ducks lost in the conference final last season, this should come as no real surprise.
However, given their start to the 2015-16 season, it is a testament to the talent gathering or the organization’s general manager who not only knows when to pull the trigger on a deal, but when not to as well.
Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.