There are plenty of teams that seem unpredictable heading into the 2011-12 season, but the Anaheim Ducks might be the toughest to gauge.
On one hand, they have the best trio of power forwards in the league: 2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, outstanding center Ryan Getzlaf and still-improving American winger Bobby Ryan. The Ducks also have explosive offensive defensemen in Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler (who just completed an impressive rookie season).
The problem is that the Ducks’ question marks are just as big as their burly, high-scoring forwards. Their defense ranged from mediocre to awful last season and it didn’t get much better during the summer. (In fact, hard-shooting defenseman Kurtis Foster might be a downgrade from Andy Sutton – at least in the Ducks’ end.) Of course, the biggest problem is that goalie Jonas Hiller’s vertigo issues seem unresolved. If you ask me, Hiller deserves consideration among the NHL’s most valuable goalies because of all the leaks he plugs with his leg pads. The Ducks might also have even more trouble providing secondary scoring if Teemu Selanne retires.
In other words, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has his hands full. On the bright side, contract worries won’t be at the top of his mind, though; the team handed him a contract extension that runs through the 2013-14 season today. It’s technically a three-year extension, although the 2011-12 season will be part of the deal. Financial terms haven’t been disclosed.
Carlyle has enjoyed a great run behind the Ducks’ bench, which you can see from this summary from the team.
Carlyle, 55 (4/19/56), was named the seventh head coach in team history on Aug. 1, 2005 and has since led the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship (2007), Pacific Division championship (2007) and five playoff appearances in six seasons (2005-09, 2011). Only one NHL coach has won more postseason games than Carlyle’s 36 since 2005-06 (Mike Babcock). Carlyle has the most wins and highest winning percentage in Ducks history, compiling a 266-169-57 record in 492 regular season contests (.599 winning percentage).
There were some who were calling for Carlyle’s head early last season when the team got off to a very slow start, but the Ducks stood by him and it paid off with a breathtaking run to the playoffs. The Ducks have provided him with some nice talent over the years, but his track record is still very impressive considering the rigors of the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
That being said, the 2011-12 season could be his toughest test yet. If he can get this talented but deeply flawed Ducks team to the playoffs again, then he deserves every undisclosed penny he’ll receive.