Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray may have sent coach Bruce Boudreau packing after another Game 7 loss, but made it clear others would be on their way out, too.
Murray ripped his players Friday after he canned Boudreau, notably criticizing their effort early in an opening-round series defeat at the hands of the Nashville Predators. The Ducks dropped the first two games on home ice before winning the next three. They ultimately lost Game 6 in Nashville before falling 2-1 in the decisive affair in Anaheim on Wednesday.
“I’d like to know where the heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that in the next four or five days,” Murray told reporters. “Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was that passion? That controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too.”
Murray saved his biggest tongue-lashing for the Ducks most prominent core players – captain Ryan Getzlaf and right winger Corey Perry. According to Yahoo’s Jen Neale, Murray was asked about their performances in Games 6 and 7 in recent years.
The Ducks have bowed out in a Game 7 in each of the last four post-seasons. Each time they held a 3-2 series lead. Getzlaf had three assists in those eight losses, while Perry – who was added to Canada’s World Championship roster Thursday – had two goals and two assists.
"There are definite concerns in that area," Murray said. "The core has to be held responsible. They have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time.
“Obviously I have some contractual situations that will dictate some things, but it won’t be the same team (next season), that’s for sure.”
Those contractual situations could give Murray a headache as he attempts to change the composition of the roster.
The Ducks adhere to a budget. According to General Fanager, they were $7 million shy of the NHL’s $71.4-million salary cap. They have a slew of players locked up on long-term, high-priced contracts. Getzlaf and Perry are on $8.65- and $8.25-million annual deals until 2021 and center Ryan Kesler is on the books for an yearly cap hit of $6.875 million until 2022. Plus, depth blueliner Kevin Bieksa is scheduled to make $4 million in each of the next two seasons. All have no-movement clauses in their contracts.
Murray also has to make decisions on right winger Rickard Rakell and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. All are restricted free agents who are due for big raises considering Vatanen made the most of three at less than $1.3 million. Rickard, 22, registered 20 goals in the regular season; Lindholm, 22, led all NHL defenseman playing at least 10 games in Corsi relative percentage per Puckalytics.com – a clear indicator of his value to the team at driving play; and Vatanen, 24, had 38 points in 71 games. Goaltender Frederik Andersen is also a restricted free agent, but partner John Gibson, who played in the NHL All-Star Game, is under contract for three more years.
For now, Boudreau was the fall guy. The Ducks allowed the fewest goals against (188), had the best power play (23.1 percent), the best penalty kill (87.2 percent) and won the Pacific Division for the fourth consecutive year – all four full seasons Boudreau has guided the team.
Ultimately, it was the four straight Game 7 losses that did him in. Boudreau’s career NHL coaching record is now 1-7 in winner-take-all outings.
But Murray reiterated others are also to blame.
“I just think that the last four years the way they’ve ended, how very similar, that I didn’t think it would be a good situation to go forward in,” he said. “And in no way shape or form is this pointing a gun at Bruce’s head. Let’s get that perfectly clear.
“But you gotta start somewhere.”