Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Anaheim Ducks.
35-37-10, 80 pts. (6th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Chase De Leo
Head coach – Dallas Eakins
2018-19 SEASON SUMMARY
Hockey seasons don’t get much more disastrous as they did for the Ducks in 2018-19.
Even one of the best goalies in the NHL couldn’t stop the barrage of shots that came his way every night. With no defensive help to speak of, John Gibson was left to fend for himself on most nights. If there was one highlight of last season, it was his spectacular play at times, even in losses where his team gave up, it was Gibson who was putting in remarkable efforts only to be left in the shadows of another tick in the bad column.
It took until February for Bob Murray to finally pull the trigger on Randy Carlyle’s time as bench boss, a move that should have come much, much sooner.
Never had the Ducks gone on such a dismal stretch. A total of 21 games were played in the heart of the season and the Ducks managed just two wins, including a franchise-record 12-game losing streak following closely by a seven-game slump that mercifully ended with Carlyle’s firing.
The 12-game losing streak brought changes in the lineup as the Ducks tried to re-tool with the additions of Devin Shore, Derek Grant and Michael Del Zotto. Not superstars by any means, but when nothing is working, Murray had no choice by to throw a wrench into the room.
Of course, it didn’t work, with the subsequent seven-game losing streak as proof.
The Ducks ended the season with an NHL-low 196 goals, three fewer than the similarly abysmal Los Angeles Kings.
Goalscoring, of particular importance in the NHL, was simply non-existant on the roster. No player had over 25 and only one had over 20. No player hit the 50-point mark either, and only four had 40 points or more.
And Gibson felt the full brunt of the lackluster offense.
Among starters, Gibson saw the seventh most shots against per 60 minutes and yet somehow still managed a .929 save percentage in five-on-five situations.
No goalie in the NHL saw more high-danger shots against per 60 and yet Gibson’s .852 save percentage when facing hockey’s toughest shots to save was fourth-best. This year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Andrei Vasilevskiy, by comparison, was a .815 or 17th best.
Gibson saw the third-most rush attempts against per 60 and the closest average shot distance. The list goes on and on.
Gibson should have been in the Vezina running and likely would have won it on any other team not nicknamed the Kings or Senators.
It looks like Gibson is going to have to play as good, if not better, this season if the Ducks are not to be embarrassed again.
Anaheim hasn’t done much to improve their lack of offense and Del Zotto isn’t going to rectify that atrocious team defense, either. Instead, they will look to the farm for help, hoping the development has been sound in AHL San Diego. They lost Corey Perry after the team bought out their former talisman and they will be without Ryan Kesler, who is likely to miss the entire season after hip surgery.
It’s up to Dallas Eakins now.
His second stint as an NHL head coach couldn’t come under harsher circumstances, but he’s familiar with the kids coming up, having served as coach of their AHL affiliate since 2015 .
The Ducks do have promising futures in Max Comtois and Sam Steel up front and Brendan Guhle on the back end. It’s tough to ask them to turn around Anaheim’s fortunes this season, however.