Monday, November 05, 2007

What's Wrong With Anaheim?

Last season, the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup. They were the first elite team in the NHL since the lockout. However, their start this year has not been so great. Currently, they are 6-9 (with two losses counted as regulation ties). Should the season end today they would miss the playoffs.

Under the current CBA, it is hard to keep successful teams together. However, Anaheim came out pretty well in terms of CBA related moves last summer. Their only significant loss was Dustin Penner to the Edmonton Oilers. They also have been hit by the sabbaticals of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne.

The NHL season is a long and hard one and this is especially true for a team that has a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Their off-season is shorter than that of most of the league and that takes a toll on your players. It takes so much of a toll that two key Ducks from last season have chosen not to play yet this season. If you subtract Niedermayer and Selanne from Anaheim, they will be a weaker team. This is especially true when these stars have not been adequately replaced.

Brian Burke attempted to replaced Niedermayer and Selanne via free agency, but it has not turned out to have been very successful yet. He signed Mathieu Schneider, who has been limited to two games so far due to a broken ankle and Todd Bertuzzi, who has been limited to seven games and only two points due to a concussion. This has tested Anaheim's depth. While Anaheim was an elite team last year, the CBA imposed parity kept them from having significant depth. When their stars were out, they were not nearly as strong a team and some of their stars have been out this year (on sabbatical).

On defence, Francois Beauchemin and Chris Pronger have been worked very hard. They are the two leaders in the NHL in ice time per game. When Schneider was out, Anaheim did not have any other defenceman that they had enough faith in to play them a lot. Ice time went to people like Kent Huskins and Sean O'Donnell, but they were not particularly effective.

At forward, the loss of top scorer Teemu Selanne cut into their scoring depth. So far, only four Ducks have scored more than one goal this year (they are Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Getzlaf and Andy McDonald). Clearly the team need better than that.

Goaltending is the only position of depth where both Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov are good enough to be NHL starting goalies. Many rumors have had Anaheim attempting to trade Bryzgalov but it is very hard to trade in the salary capped NHL. In fact, there have been no significant trades made yet this season.

Anaheim is coming off a Stanley Cup victory. This makes them a significant team to play against for any opponent. It is easier for the opponent to be up for the game than it is for the Ducks (where it is just another game in the season). After all the emotions of a Stanley Cup victory it is not uncommon for the defending champs to start slow (a Cup hangover). This was made worse by the NHL schedule that had Anaheim start the season in London, England against the Los Angeles Kings. This further served to increase their travel and shorten their off season (those two games against the Kings were the first two of the season).

Mathieu Schneider is back and playing well. Todd Bertuzzi should be back soon. Scott Niedermayer may decide to play before too long. Even Teemu Selanne could sign. Things will turn around. The Ducks are too good a team to miss the playoffs. They have fought through a short off-season, a couple significant sabbaticals and injuries to their replacements. Most likely, Anaheim will start to climb in the standings before too long. They have won their last two games with Mathieu Schneider in the lineup.

Good piece--pretty much all the main reasons are there. Forward depth has been tested also, with injuries taking Getzlaf, Pahlsson, R. Niedermayer, Moen, and Marchant missing some games. Last season, 8 of Anaheim's top-10 forwards were able to play all season & playoffs without missing a game.

Currently, they are 6-9 (with two losses counted as regulation ties).

I don't like this metric. Why discount shootout losses but not distinguish shootout wins? I might say that they are 5-7-3 (with one tie counted as a win).
There are several ways to record the standings that do a better job of recording the team's records than the NHL's method does. In both our methods .500 is meaningful. In the NHL's it isn't.

I don't see any meaningful difference (at least in most cases) between your method of recording the standings and mine. In your method they are .433. In mine they are .400. That is half a game difference. The benefit to my method is that I can look at the standings and I can immediately work out the numbers, with yours I have to look up which games went to overtime and shootouts that they won. For the sake of laziness, I am happy to do it my way and assume there makes little difference.
Fair enough. I think come playoff time, though, there is a benefit to separating out regulation wins (5-on-5 generated) from OT or shootout wins (4-on-4 or 1-on-0 generated). Being able to score in OTs and shootouts is relevant towards the regular season standings board, but those skills won't be applicable in the postseason.

That's kind of why I'm in favor of regulation standings, but yeah, your method is easier.
I'd also agree for the most part. I think the thing that hurt the Ducks the most is Teemu leaving. The Ducks do not have a high scoring forward that gets the attention of the opposing D. The Ducks have a lot of good forwards, but nobody who shines like Teemu. If you take a look at a lot of the teams that are doing really well right now (The Sens, Wings et al.) you will find that they have one really awesome forward and a great cast of supporting players. The Ducks got Bertuzzi, who has yet to get back fully into the game after the injuries from last season and now the concussion.

If the Ducks can pick up on offense this will take a lot of the pressure of a pretty strong defense (now that Schneider is back). The opposing teams will have to play a lot more time in their zone and protecting their zone. The Ducks will also have the benefit of enhancing their pathetic power play.

Well I could go on and on, but I will stop there.
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