This isn’t the first time people have wondered if Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle might get fired, but fans are being pretty loud about it on Saturday.
And, really, can you blame them? The Winnipeg Jets had more goals (six) than the Ducks managed shots on goal (four) during a disastrous first period, and it didn’t get a lot better from there, as the Jets humiliated the Ducks to the tune of a 9-3 drubbing.
To put things mildly, fans are unhappy, and the Ducks might be reaching a point of no return. Consider this the “PG” version of a lot of the calls for Carlyle’s head:
The “bright sides” of this game were basically limited to “not allowing double-digits in goals” and “not getting shut out.”
After the game, Carlyle chalked up some of Anaheim’s struggles to the All-Star break.
“Our personnel has to understand what happened tonight is unacceptable and we’re going to hold some people accountable to the way that they’re playing,” Carlyle said, via PHT’s Scott Billeck. “With ice time, they’re going to sit in the stands. There are various ways to do it but it’s one of those things that I never expected us to perform like we did tonight with the group that we have coming off of a nine-day break.
If you want more insight on how dire things are for the Ducks, consider this: I’m not totally certain that this ranks as the worst moment of 2018-19.
It’s an epic, flat-out historic beatdown, there’s no denying that. Yet Ducks GM Bob Murray has already stood by Carlyle through some downright dark times. As you likely remember, Murray released a statement asserting his support for Carlyle on Jan. 13, even though Anaheim was mired in a bruising 11-game losing streak.
“At this time, I am not considering a coaching change,” Murray said in that Jan. 13 statement. “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.”
That wasn’t the only time Carlyle was put under the microscope. PHT made the argument that Anaheim should part ways with the embattled coach in November, and also posited that 2018-19 might have been an ideal “soft rebuild” season with injuries stacking up during training camp. So this isn’t exactly a new thing.
Sometimes an especially embarrassing loss can erode that support.
While they claim the decision was made long before it, the Oilers fired GM Peter Chiarelli during a dispiriting loss to the Detroit Red Wings. An ugly performance seemed to push Dave Hakstol out of Philly faster than truly planned. And even players sometimes have those last straw moments in blowout losses, most famously when Patrick Roy whispered his way out of Montreal.
(Carlyle, himself, was fired as head coach of the Maple Leafs after a 5-1 loss to [wait for it] the Winnipeg Jets.)
So, will the sheer rubbernecking nature of this debacle end up being the end for Carlyle?
Murray’s in an awkward situation either way. If he continues to put these failures on the players, then isn’t that an indictment of his team-building? On the other hand, firing Carlyle again wouldn’t be the greatest look for the long-time Ducks executive.
One way or another, the Ducks need to change course, and fast. Anaheim’s now on a three-game losing streak, and have only won two games since Dec. 17 (2-11-5). As weak as the competition is amid the Western Conference’s playoff bubble teams, the Ducks are risking even falling behind that sad-sack pack.
Oh yeah, and Corey Perry made his season debut on Saturday. Yeah, that might get lost in the shuffle just a bit.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.