The Anaheim Ducks have been red-hot lately, going 7-2-1 since the calendar hit 2017. Sami Vatanen, however, has been ice-cold, with a healthy scratch on Monday representing a new low for his tough season.
Not seeing him suit up against the Winnipeg Jets is an eyebrow-raiser for those who aren’t hardcore Ducks fans, but all things considered, it might have been inevitable.
For one thing, as the Los Angeles Times’ Curtis Zupke notes, Vatanen suffered a -4 rating in Anaheim’s 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
The bigger picture is actually uglier, though.
Vatanen’s struggles and his situation
The 25-year-old blueliner hasn’t scored a point in his past six games. He has just two assists in his past 13 contests. After scoring nine goals in 2015-16 and 12 in just 67 games in 2014-15, Vatanen has just two goals this season.
One has to wonder if Randy Carlyle should consider changing the way he deploys Vatanen during this time off.
His possession numbers are down considerably this season, and he’s getting more of a defensive role, with 55.7 pecent of his shifts being in the defensive zone. He’s never been higher than 48.9 percent in his career. His offensive zone starts show a similar flip, as he’s only starting 44.3 percent of his shifts in the o-zone vs. a 51.4 percent career average. (Numbers via Hockey Reference.)
In other words, Carlyle’s using him as more of a defensive defenseman than an offensive one, which might not play to Vatanen’s greatest strengths.
Even so, you’d expect the talented blueliner to be able to rise above his situation more than he’s done lately, so maybe spending the night in street clothes will help him turn things around.