The Anaheim Ducks lost more than defenseman Stephane Robidas when he broke his leg three games into these 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Forget the conditional fourth-round pick the Ducks gave the Dallas Stars to get the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent at the trade deadline.
Forget how that means they essentially also lost forward Dustin Penner—a third of their top line heading into the trade deadline—in the deal by trading away the pick they got in exchange for him.
No, all things considered, what the Ducks really lost was a realistic shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
Before I get into that, first some (kind of) good news: You can probably also forget that conditional fourth reportedly turning into a third should the Ducks win two rounds.
Granted, that’s good news in the same way that a hurricane means you don’t have to go wash your car anymore. You know, because of the rain—and the fact that your car isn’t there anymore.
Joking aside, the possibility of it becoming a third admittedly went out the window along with any chance of Robidas playing in 50 percent of Anaheim’s playoff games. He won’t now that the Ducks are guaranteed to play at least seven in all.
However, the fact is Anaheim was already going to be hard-pressed to reach the Western Conference semifinals, having to eventually beat the winner of the San Jose Sharks-Los Angeles Kings series to get there.
Without one of its better defensemen, it’s much less likely.
Robidas may only have played 17 games with the Ducks (14 in the regular season), but over that stretch, he established himself as a steadying presence on the blue line. He ended the regular season with a Fenwick percentage of 51.9 with Anaheim in five-on-five, close-score situations.
That may not seem impressive, with the Ducks earning just 51.9 percent of unblocked shot attempts with him on the ice.
However, the Ducks essentially broke even in that same category during the regular season (50.2 percent) and currently have a percentage of 45.1 during the playoffs, consistently getting outplayed by those same Stars in the first round.
This was all supposed to make for an intriguing storyline: Robidas getting a chance to play against his old team and lead his new one to victory—and potentially an eventual first career Stanley Cup championship—in the process.
Instead he only got in a few games in before fate got in the last word, with Stars forward Ryan Garbutt taking his legs out from under him in a play for the puck, breaking his right one and effectively ending his season and potentially his career.
It was the same leg he broke in November as a Star, sidelining him for half the season.
With him being 37 and a UFA, one has to wonder just how realistic it is for him to first recuperate it in time for free agency and, more importantly, be offered a new contract for next season. It’s not looking good. It didn’t to begin with.
Cruel twists of fate such as this are nothing new to this franchise, with another former Stars (and Montreal Canadiens) defenseman, Sheldon Souray, having missed the entire season up to this point with a wrist injury.
It must have, at least in part, been Souray’s injury that pushed the Ducks to acquire a veteran defenseman for the stretch run and hopefully a long postseason. Now all that is further in doubt.
That isn’t to say Robidas is the linchpin to a long playoff run, but his poise on the blue line will definitely be missed and his absence there has certainly exposed the weaknesses in Anaheim’s game to a greater degree.
The Ducks are obviously in a good position in this particular series, leading three games to two despite being outshot 155-137 by a wild-card team.
However, one has to seriously question how far these Ducks will be able to get against either the Sharks or Kings—two teams that were in the top three in terms of possession during the regular season.
The Ducks were 15th, for the record, a surprisingly average rank for a division champion. The team has gotten by largely on the strength of league’s highest shooting percentage this season and, again, it opted to move a key component of its offense at the trade deadline essentially just for Robidas.
Now, Robidas is gone.
The same way the Ducks were able to make do without both him and Souray for most of the season, compiling an impressive 45-16-7 prior to Robidas playing his first game as a Duck, they will have to make do right now.
If there’s any team that can do it, it is the Ducks, as they’ve been proving prognosticators wrong all season. In fact, the Ducks were technically better without Robidas (.662 winning percentage) than with him (9-4-1; .642 winning percentage) in the regular season.
However, ask anyone in the organization and they’ll tell you they’d still prefer to have him healthy than have to rely on lucky bounces.
Luck doesn’t get you a championship. Defense does. That’s one popular saying.
Another one is a team has to lose first before it can win. It’s fair to say that, despite their impressive record, the Ducks have lost a great deal up to now. Without Robidas, an already tough task just got a whole lot tougher.
Then again, no one thought winning it all would be easy.
Advanced statistics courtesy of Extra Skater.
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