The Ducks had home-ice advantage so, an easy first-game win right? Nope. The Ducks get shutout 4-0 in front of a sell-out hometown crowd. OK, regroup and win the second one, right? Wrong again as the Ducks go down 5-2.
This was the first element that contributed to the Ducks' downfall. Admittedly, they took the Stars for granted and basically took these games off. They were out played, out muscled, and outclassed by the Dallas Stars. I believe this was a hole from which the Ducks were never able to crawl out of.
It has been said by many players that, at this time of the season, if you are not 100 percent committed to sacrificing your mind and body in order to win those gritty battles on a nightly basis, you are never going to advance. I believe not all of the Anaheim players got on this bus. This issue can be looked at in two perspectives.
First, there has been speculation that the Ducks were not a united team. Something just wasn't clicking for this team, and the chemistry looked a shadow of its former self, compared to last year's Championship team.
"We tried. Every guy gave it everything he had," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "You thank them for their work ethic throughout the course of the season, but their lack of execution in the playoffs is an issue we'll deal with over the summer." Meaning some will stay, some will have to go. You can't win when you don't think the guy next to you will take that bullet for you.
We couldn't look at Anaheim's season without the questionable-at-best late-season additions of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne. While Selanne was a "retired" free agent, Niedermayer wasn't, and this had all of the other GMs wondering why they didn't think of this first...Let one of their star players sit out most of the year and use his cap space money to get another good player in the meantime. Once the playoffs approach, insert said rested player, and you're good to go.
Two problems with this theory. One, you have heard by now that the Ducks have fined Niedermayer $500,000 for not having reported to training camp. Long story, but it is, in fact, a fine that is clearly documented in the CBA, and both the Ducks and Niedermayer were well aware of the eventual repercussions if the CBA was to be followed to the letter of the law. It was.
Also, you have to wonder as to the mind frame of the two parties involved. The original players that played all 82 games together, and the two former-Duck stars who joined the team with a few games left. This was a team that was not on the same wavelength. They were not synchronized, and you have to wonder if the intensity level for the two latecomers was at the level it needed to be compared to their teammates that were ramping up to the playoffs from the very beginning.
Do not confuse this with a trade acquisition at the deadline. In this case, the player joining you has fought all year to get to the playoffs. Perhaps not with this new team, but with another team for the whole year.
Note to all other GM's: This experiment did not work. Do not try.
If it is any consolation for the Ducks, the new NHL and its parity factor has made it very difficult for any team to even make the playoffs the next year, let alone win the cup. Like the four Stanley Cup champions before them, the Ducks couldn't make it past the first round of the playoffs. They did, at least, make the postseason, unlike Carolina and Tampa Bay, the two previous champs.