Where have the Ducks gone wrong since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007?
What appeared to be a solid playoff team at the start of the year is now in a desperate dogfight to make the playoffs.
They currently sit eight points back off the Colorado Avalanche with 13 games remaining in their season (one more than the Avalanche).
This season, the Ducks have a minus-22 goal differential. The 2010-2011 season saw this team finish fourth in the West with 99 points and a plus-four goal differential.
The 2009-2010 season saw them finish 11th in the West with 89 points and a minus-13 goal differential.
Also, in the 2008-2009 season they finished in eight in the West with 91 points and a plus-seven goal differential.
This team has not been past the Conference quarterfinals since the 2008-2009 NHL season.
Prior to that they were always a team that made noise and life difficult for others in the playoffs.
Granted the likes of Scott Niedermeyer and Chris Pronger no longer dominate their blue line, but they still have a solid core of players.
Their lineup strength shows that their group of wingers is actually 10 percent above the league average.
While their goaltending is a negligible three percent below the league average, largely due to a slow start by Jonas Hiller, the league average point shares at the goaltending position are 10.7. Hiller has been above that since the beginning of February, so he appears to have returned to his normal self.
On defence, the group of Francois Beauchemin, Toni Lydman, Lubomir Visnovsky, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and Sheldon Brookbank are 13 percent below the league average.
A large part of this group is below league average which can be seen in the regression of both Visnovsky and Fowler’s point production this season.
Last season, Visnovsky put up 18 goals and 50 assists (including five power-play goals) and Fowler chipped in 10 goals and 30 assists (including six power-play goals).
So combined, they provided 28 goals and 80 assists (including 11 power-play goals).
This year, Visnovsky has five goals and 17 assists (including one power-play goal) and Fowler has provided three goals and 20 assists (including no power-play goals).
Combined they have produced 21 less goals, 43 less assists and 10 less power play goals.
This season, only 8.5 percent of their wins have come from power plays and their Special Teams index is at 44.5 percent, good for 19th in the league.
The largest area of weakness on their team this season has been at centre ice. Their line up strength down the middle is 37 percent lower than the league average.
This group includes Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu, Nick Bonino, Rod Pelley, Norm Macenauer, Ben Maxwell and Ryan O’Marra.
A fair amount of the blame should be shouldered by Getzlaf as he has only nine goals and is a minus-14 this season with a shooting percentage of 5.9.
Last season, he had 19 goals, was a plus-14 and had a shooting percentage of 16.2. I expect him to bounce back next year.
Their second-line centre has an aging Saku Koivu, who has managed 11 goals and 21 assists this season.
There is very little production coming from their third- and fourth-line centres (Bonino, Pelley and Macenauer). They have combined for six goals and 12 assists this season.
There simply is not enough depth at centre ice for them to compete for a playoff spot this year.
Their group on the wings is fairly solid with Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Andrew Cogliano, Niklas Hagman, Devante Smith-Pelly, Matt Beleskey, Andrew Gordon, Jason Blake and George Parros.
Cogliano played some centre during his time in Edmonton so he may need to be shifted back to the third-line centre role. This would assist with their weakness down the middle.
There also does not appear to be many options via free agency. and the Ducks are hoping that the ageless Selanne comes back for another season, as replacing his production of 21 goals and 37 assists would be very difficult.
Some options via free agency that would help the Ducks down the middle could include: Zach Parise at a 3.4 (1.7 wins) point share (if the Devils are unable to get him to sign a new contract); Daymond Langkow at a 3 (1.5 wins) point share (probably a good fit in a third- or fourth- line centre role); Jarret Stoll at a 2.5 (1.25 wins) point share (a third-line centre who could potentially fill in on the second line); and Olli Jokinen at a 6 (3 wins) point share (whomever gets him this offseason will surely overpay because of the lack of scoring centres available).
Internally, the Ducks can hope that the 15th overall pick in 2009, Peter Holland, is ready to make a full time leap to the NHL as a second-line centre.
This season he has seen playing time mostly on the wing in four games. In those four games he has contributed one goal, along with four hits and one blocked shot.
In the AHL for the Syracuse Crunch this season, he has 21 goals, 26 assists and a plus-four rating (eight of his goals have come on the power play).
Right now the Ducks are eight points—or four wins—back off a playoff spot.
Signing a second-line center such as Jokinen and seeing internal improvement from Cam Fowler (3.2 points or 1.6 wins in 2010-2011, and 4.8 points or 2.4 wins in 2011-2012) could lead them into a playoff spot next season.
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