By Brian Hayward FOX Sports West and Prime Ticket ARCHIVE
November 8, 2010
When you really think about it, it’s not all that surprising that it has taken the Ducks this long to sort out what kind of identity they must adopt to be successful.
After all, six of the seven defensemen on the current roster were not even here to start the 2009-10 season, and there has been some serious strategic experimentation going on with the roster. Bobby Ryan has seen time at center and has been playing the point on the power play. Corey Perry has joined the penalty killing unit and GM Bob Murray has had to call up youngsters Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri from Syracuse. Head coach Randy Carlyle continues to look for the right combinations to put together three scoring lines and find a compatible defense partner for Lubomir Visnovsky.
Contrast that trial and error method versus the stability the Ducks had in their lineup as they left training camp in October of 2006.
The Cup team was a veteran laden juggernaut, while the 2010 Ducks are clearly a team in transition. There are few remnants of the 2007 Stanley Cup Champions still in the lineup. Of this seasons’ edition, just Ryan Getzlaf, Perry, Todd Marchant, Josh Green, Ryan Carter, Teemu Selanne and George Parros have their names etched on Lord Stanley’s mug. That is an amazing amount of turnover in just over three seasons.
That 2007 team was one to remember.
The Hockey News labeled it perhaps the greatest assembled team of all time. They were the same guys that opened the season 9-0-2 and finished it on a 16-5 run through the playoffs. On most nights, the final result never seemed in question, just the margin of victory and the level of brutality that was required to achieve it. The 07 Ducks basically decided that they would just punch everyone in the mouth en route to the Cup and if you didn’t like it, well that was really your problem.
This is a much different team now, yet the reputation of that 2007 team affects people’s perceptions of this year’s squad. That’s unfair. On some nights, it even feels like this applies to the referees working the game. That whole “sins of the father” thing still seems to affect the standard to which the Ducks are held accountable by the men in stripes.
Because we won in 2007, sometimes we think too much about what that team had in comparison to this team. The Ducks of 2010-11 do not have a shutdown line and there is no intimidating menace on the blue line.
However, there are some positives.
This defense actually blocks shots. Remember former netminder J.S. Giguere would ask his blue liners to never try and block a shot because he’d rather see it himself? I’m convinced that if both Jonas Hiller and Curtis McElhinney “took one off the noggin” in the same game and were unable to play, you could strap the pads on either Toni Lydman or Andreas Lilja and they would fill in admirably. We’ve yet to really see much of Andy Sutton, but he’ll block more shots than either Lilja or Lydman.
The current top line can dominate a game like no other in the history of the franchise. In the early years, the Ducks boasted Paul Kariya, Steve Ruchin and Selanne. Then later Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz and Selanne formed a strong No. 1 line. Now, Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan are a unique package of size, skill and power that are the envy of every team in today’s NHL. If they can reach a higher level of consistency, there are no limits as to how far this trio can carry the Ducks.
I firmly believe the best is yet to come.
Discipline now matters more than intimidation. In the first four games this season, the Ducks were whistled for 44 penalties and 152 PIMs. Their record over that span was 1-3-0. In their past 11 games they have collected just 52-133, while posting a 6-4-1 mark. This is a major step in the right direction and represents an enormous change in philosophy after the Ducks lost their first three games of the season. They now must go into each game focused on being more disciplined than that night’s opponent. It feels strange, but it’s an essential new ingredient.
Now back at .500 and winning at home (5-1-1 at Honda Center), you have to admire the process to get where they are today.