Bob Murray

Carlyle out, Murray in as Ducks finally make coaching change

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Everyone saw this coming — we just didn’t know when.

After losing their seventh straight game on Saturday and 19th in their past 21, the Anaheim Ducks finally made the choice to remove Randy Carlyle from his post as head coach on Sunday.

The team’s executive vice-president and general manager Bob Murray will assume the controls behind the bench with an interim title attached. Murray said the team will begin its search for Carlyle’s successor after their season is put out of its misery in April.

“We thank Randy for everything he has done for the organization,” Murray said in a release from the club on Sunday. “Leading the team to a Stanley Cup and three conference final appearances, he has accomplished so much in Anaheim. Difficult decisions need to be made when times are tough, and our play has clearly been unacceptable. We have a tradition of success in Anaheim and we need to get back to that.”

The Ducks got dusted by the surging Philadelphia Flyers 6-2 on Saturday, just another link in a chain of embarrassing losses during their recent seven-game skid.

Just look at some of these scores:

  • 4-0 loss to Ottawa
  • 4-1 loss to Montreal
  • 6-1 loss to Toronto
  • 9-3 loss to Winnipeg
  • 5-1 loss to St. Louis
  • 3-0 loss to New York Islanders

And this doesn’t even begin to delve into the team’s franchise record 12-game losing streak earlier this season. The Ducks managed a brief reprieve with back to back wins against the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils before returning to regular, losing proceedings.

Carlyle was given a vote of confidence during that 12-game slide after showing signs of life in a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in January.

As LeBrun notes in the tweet above, former Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins is considered the frontrunner to replace Carlyle. He’s already coaching the team’s future with San Diego of the American Hockey League, so the move makes sense from that angle.

Eakins wasn’t a world beater in Edmonton, however, and you wonder if Murray wouldn’t rather kick the tires with Joel Quenneville first than hand an unproven NHL head coach the reins.

Anaheim’s season only got worse last week when John Gibson got injured, forcing him to not dress in Saturday’s laugher.

Gibson has been the sole bright spot in Anaheim, despite all of the losing and deserves to be in the conversation for the Vezina.

But his grip on that trophy has lessened over the past couple of months, but it hasn’t really been any fault of his own. He has given the Ducks plenty of opportunities to win, only to watch the team in front of him fall apart on most nights. He got lit up for six goals in the first period last week against the Winnipeg Jets. The team in front of him did little to stop the onslaught. And that’s just one example of many during this horrid stretch.

The Ducks have just 127 goals for this season, lowest amongst NHL teams. They’ve given up the third-most number of shots and tied for the third-most goals allowed. And yet the Ducks are somehow still only six points out of a playoff spot.

Given their current play, however, that six points is akin to scaling Mount Everest without crampons. It just isn’t happening.

Carlyle leaves the Ducks (for the second time) as their winningest coach with 384 wins and led the team to the playoffs in seven of eight full seasons with the team, including the 2007 Stanley Cup. In his second tour of duty as bench boss in Orange County, Carlyle was 111-74-35. He’s bound to find a new home eventually.

You have to believe that Murray’s job will be in the crosshairs as the team moves forward. He’s been in his role for over a decade now and the Ducks have only reached the Western Conference Final under Murray’s guidance since winning the Cup under Brian Burke.

The team still has two more seasons of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry making a combined $17-million-plus and another three years of Ryan Kesler making close to $7 million. That’s a quarter of their salary cap and they need to find money for Jakob Silfverberg this offseason (unless he’s shipped out at the trade deadline). Gibson’s new contract kicks in next year, too, with another $4 million being added to his AAV.

All of this has happened while other teams in the Pacific Division have strengthened their rosters. From Erik Karlsson going to the San Jose Sharks to Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny heading to Vegas. The emergence of the Calgary Flames has also taken the Ducks down a notch and it’s looking like the Central Division will be sending five teams to the playoffs to the Pacific’s three. It’s a tough conference as it is, and having a few contracts handcuffing the additions of better talent isn’t helping.

And the problem is you can’t really blow it up. Who’s going to want any of those contracts?


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Ducks’ nightmare continues

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Things are getting so bad for the Anaheim Ducks, people might start feeling bad for Corey Perry.

OK, that’s extreme, but the point is that the Ducks just keep getting creamed. It says a lot, really, that a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens was almost a … relief? Just consider how many embarrassing defeats this team has endured lately, testing GM Bob Murray’s remarkable patience with coach Randy Carlyle with each passing day.

Jan. 20: 3-0 loss to Islanders
Jan. 23: 5-1 loss to Blues
Feb. 2: 9-3 loss to Jets
Feb. 4: 6-1 loss to Maple Leafs
Feb. 5: 4-1 loss to the Canadiens

That’s five losses in a row, and this Ducks team only has two wins since Dec. 18. After that 9-1 loss to Winnipeg this weekend, Carlyle seemed to attribute that drubbing to the rust that came from the All-Star break, but now what’s the excuse?

[9-3 loss increases criticisms; Huge losing streak doesn’t cost Carlyle his job]

Montreal fired off to a 3-0 lead in the first period alone, allowing the Habs to cruise through the rest of the game. In a lot of cases, “score effects” will help a trailing team to at least dominate the shot count, yet that hasn’t happened all that often for Anaheim. Tuesday fell into that pattern, as despite that cushy Habs lead, Montreal won the shots on goal battle to the tune of 32-25.

Someone might even wonder if the coach has “lost the room” when you look at not just results, but efforts like these.

This five-game losing streak leaves the Ducks at 51 points in 54 games (20-24-9), with the saving grace of the West bubble’s “turtle derby” only going so far for Anaheim. You know things are getting grim when the best argument for Carlyle staying behind the bench revolves around tanking.

Woof. (Anaheim Calling has your tank-related tweets covered, if you need them, Ducks fans. Extra woof.)

Will another painful, flat loss force Carlyle out? Will Murray do something, even if it just means changing the date on his statement standing by Carlyle?

None of that is clear, but the problems aren’t exactly just working themselves out right now.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ducks fans call for Carlyle’s firing after 9-3 debacle

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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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ducks are a mess and most obvious fix is also most painful

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On Wednesday night, the Vegas Golden Knights absolutely throttled the Anaheim Ducks. The score was 5-0, but it felt like Vegas could name its score, and they really took their foot off the accelerator during the third period.

Between injuries and Ryan Getzlaf‘s tendency to “ease into” some regular seasons, it’s likely tempting for the Ducks to explain their struggles away as the usual growing pains of a veteran-heavy team. After all, the Ducks’ mediocre record (8-9-3 for 19 points in 20 games) isn’t all that different from last season, when they were a fairly lousy 7-7-3 for 17 points in 17 games.

Those arguments provide a smokescreen for something that seems pretty clear if you’ve watched the team with any regularity: the Anaheim Ducks stink right now.

[Gibson was saving the day, until he couldn’t as often.]

Bottom of the barrel

Toggle through Natural Stat Tricks’ various team stats and you’ll see the Ducks rank in the basement in a ton of telling categories. Only the Islanders rank lower in Corsi For Percentage. Want to eliminate blocked shots from the equation? Oops, they fall all the way to last place.

Don’t try to use the “Well, they just give you the low-quality chances while taking away the high-price real estate,” as the Ducks generate 38.37 of the high-danger chances in their games, easily the worst rate in the NHL.

Too much jargon for you? They’re also the NHL’s worst team at even-strength when it comes to scoring chance percentage.

John Gibson looks like he was sent from some other hockey-playing planet like an NHL take on “Space Jam” lately, but even he can’t bail out the Ducks every night. That much was clear as he was pulled from Wednesday’s drubbing against Vegas.

Now, could you attribute some struggles to injuries? In the short term, sure.

Mounting evidence of an overmatched coach

The excuses start to melt away when you consider Randy Carlyle’s larger track record as a frequently – justifiably – criticized NHL head coach. Via Corsica Hockey, the Ducks have been the 11th-worst team in the NHL from a Corsi perspective since Carlyle took over in 2016-17. Carlyle’s previous work with the Toronto Maple Leafs provided ghastly results (second worst in Corsi during his run, also via Corsica), casting the veteran head coach as someone bandied about during ugly-funny analytics debates.

The Ducks have problems that are rooted deeper than Carlyle’s system. They had issues stemming from Boudreau’s days, and to some extent, they’re getting the bill for going all-in on the present and whiffing on their big chances.

That said, it doesn’t seem like the Ducks are going into liquidation mode, so the easiest (and potentially most effective) fix would be to admit that Carlyle’s ways simply don’t work in the NHL any longer. We could argue until our faces are blue about how long they haven’t worked, but the evidence is building that the Ducks are nearing a minor crisis.

You could almost imagine literal wheels of realization slowly turning for Carlyle and GM Bob Murray after the Ducks were brusquely swept from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the San Jose Sharks. Consider what Murray said about the Sharks playing “faster” than the Ducks:

“Are Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski really fast skaters? Are they?” Murray asked, via Eric Stephens, then of the OC Register. “I had one of them in Team Canada. No. They’re good hockey players. But if your team plays fast, you can make players faster. And that’s the first thing that has to be addressed around here.”

Hmmm, the Sharks played too fast for the Ducks, yet Murray himself admitted that San Jose might not inherently feature faster players? You almost wonder if that might come down to the style of play, and the coach’s scheme? Nah …

This internal struggle has spilled out multiple times, even if you can mix the moments of at least acknowledging reality with exhibits of old-school, possibly out-of-date views on the game. For instance, earlier this season, Carlyle spoke about the Ducks playing “too cute” and needing to be dirtier.

Now, some of that boils down to inane hockey buzzwords, but any objective observer can see that the game is shifting away from grunting, grinding, low-talent work to puck-moving defensemen, smaller players, and speed mixed with skill.

The good news is that the Ducks actually possess quite a few players who can play that game, although it does hurt their transition game to lose Cam Fowler for some time. That’s particularly true on defense, as Anaheim has some very solid defenseman, with Hampus Lindholm standing tall as the most underrated piece of the bunch. And, while Getzlaf has never been known for being fast, Murray’s done a decent job of supplementing this roster with some skaters, from Ondrej Kase and Pontus Aberg to an aging speedster like Andrew Cogliano.

Is it a perfect group? No, but if Murray doesn’t want to aim for a soft-reboot, he must think long and hard about pulling the plug on Carlyle. Even if that means powering up the, uh, hot-take factory?

Firing a head coach is always easier said than done, yet that’s especially true in this case.

Fool me once, shame on you …

After all, if Murray were to do this, he would essentially admit that he was wrong to hire Carlyle … twice. Murray stuck his neck out for the guy who was bend the bench for the Ducks’ Stanley Cup win, and this quote from hiring Carlyle shows how personal the decision was:

“Everything came back to Randy in the end,” Murray said in June 2016, according to The Globe & Mail. “I know in my heart that this is the right move at this time for this hockey team.”

This situation is another reminder that, as analytical as GM moves can often feel, things can get messy when you’re so close to decisions. Frankly, one can openly speculate that many other head coaches could’ve guided a Ducks team featuring Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger to a Stanley Cup at that time; in Murray’s eyes, though, Carlyle brought him to that summit.

It wouldn’t be one bit surprising to see Murray and the Ducks doubling down on this decision, and considering how putrid the Pacific Division is, Anaheim could easily squeeze into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Is that really the goal for this aging team? Murray himself wondered if the Ducks would have been better off missing the postseason altogether last season, so you probably don’t need to visit the hot-take factory to realize that it might be wise to be proactive rather than throwing away another season with a questionable ceiling.

Yes, we’re just 20 games into the Ducks’ season, but these aren’t exactly new problems, and it’s tough to imagine all but the most modest improvements.

We’re easily at the point where Murray might need to make an “agonizing” decision once again. If not, Murray runs a serious risk of going down with what looks like a sinking ship, and the coach who’s left them adrift.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Under Pressure: Anaheim’s goaltenders

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While GM Bob Murray went and made upgrades to his blue line (Kevin Bieksa) and forward group (Chris Stewart, Carl Hagelin & Shawn Horcoff) during the offseason, one area of concern heading into the 2015-16 season is the Ducks’ goaltending situation.

Anaheim did acquire Anton Khudobin from the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL Draft, but it’s hard to say the 29-year-old is the solution to the Ducks’ problem of inexperience in goal. Khudobin, who made 34 appearances with the Canes’ last season going 8-17-6, has never played a Stanley Cup playoff game.

Khudobin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season.

Frederik Andersen, who was the Ducks’ starter in 2014-15, looked great in the playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, but against an experienced Blackhawks team, he faltered down the stretch.

The 25-year-old was 35-12-5 in 54 regular season games posting a 2.38 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. He appeared in all 16 playoff games posting an 11-5 record. After a sweep of the Jets and a five-game series win over the Flames, he struggled against the Blackhawks.

Andersen failed to register a save percentage higher than .875 in any of the last four games of the Western Conference Final – the Ducks won just one of those games.

Given that it was just his second full season in the league, it’s clear Andersen’s career is trending in the right direction, but with a core group of forwards that includes Ryan Getzlaf (30), Corey Perry (30) and Ryan Kesler (turning 31 on Aug. 31), do the Ducks have time to wait for the Dane to gain the necessary playoff experience to help them win a Stanley Cup?

Andersen is a restricted free agent next summer.

John Gibson is the third goaltender in the fold with the Ducks heading into the 2015-16 season.

The 22-year-old was the Ducks’ opening night starter last October dropping a 6-3 decision in his native Pittsburgh. Gibson was sidelined by a groin injury in early November allowing Andersen to take the reins.

Once healthy, Gibson found himself in the American Hockey League. He made 23 appearances with the Ducks last season posting a 13-8-0 record to go along with a 2.60 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. He also played 11 games with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals going 6-3-2.

“I’ve got to believe Gibby, now that he’s healthy, he wants to play,” said Boudreau during his year-end media availability. “He’s not used to sitting on the bench. And I think Freddie has gotten a taste of what it’s like to be No. 1 and he won’t let it up. I would venture to guess it would be a pretty good battle.”

Gibson is heading into the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer.

With a combined 27 games of playoff experience under their belt, the Ducks goaltenders are under pressure heading into the 2015-16 season.