They may not be a big-market team, but the what relatively few fans the Anaheim Ducks have earned over the last several seasons of consistent success are becoming increasingly anxious and angry over their team's current status quo. And who could blame them?
After starting off the season with a beautiful 4-1-0 record in five games, the Ducks have more or less grounded to a screeching halt, dropping to a 6-10-4 mark (including a league-worst 1-6-3 over the last 10 games), putting them 14th in the Western Conference, and only four points ahead of last-place Columbus.
They're currently seven points out of the final playoff spot in the West.
The power play, which dominated the league last season and finished tied for second, has gone stone cold, clicking at only 15.2 percent, good enough for 21st in the league.
Perhaps even more unsettling is a team stacked with last year's Rocket Richard trophy winner Corey Perry, perennial 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan, renowned set-up center Ryan Getzlaf and the ageless wonder Teemu Selanne, is currently 29th in the league in offense, scoring an average of just two goals per game.
The defense isn't helping much either. With Lubomir Visnovsky out with a hand injury for at least another month, the Ducks have dropped to the third worst goal-differential in the league at -20.
As a result, they've won just one game in November, and have only two wins in their last 14 games.
Something isn't clicking. The team looks depressed and confused. The entire system appears out of sorts, and the weaknesses of the team that stormed into the playoffs last year have become utter cruxes which have been so far insurmountable.
As a result what started as a whisper is now escalating to a rather unsettling dull roar amongst the fans: coach Randy Carlyle needs to go.
In a sport where success is so heavily demanded, coaches are often the first to feel the heat.
Remember the cries for Bruce Boudreau's head when the Washington Capitals dropped seven in a row last year? If the Ducks are any bigger of a team then Randy Carlyle's job would have been gone a long time ago.
Thus, I think tonight's game in Phoenix will have a lot to do with the Anaheim coach's future with the team. Losing at this point is not acceptable.
But before the puck drops I want to bring up a few points to debate whether Randy Carlyle should be fired:
He led the team to the Stanley Cup in 2007.
It's true. Randy Carlyle has been at the helm of the Anaheim squad since Mike Babcock left for the Detroit Red Wings in 2005. In his first season, he led the Ducks to the Western Conference Finals. One year later, they were Stanley Cup Champions.
He has missed the playoffs only once in six seasons.
Another impressive stat when you consider Anaheim's history of terrible starts and often times being in an enormous hole when the calendar flips to January.
The team is currently missing two key pieces due to injury.
Let's not forget that Anaheim is currently pushing forward without the services of All-Star defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who led all defensemen in points last season. However, it's his contributions that are really being missed right now as the team struggles defensively.
Likewise, lest we forget, the team is also pushing forward without Jason Blake who remains out for at least another two months with a severely lacerated wrist. Blake's absence has seen both the first line and the third line disrupted trying to fill the void. Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Andrew Cogliano, Matt Beleskey and Devante Smith-Pelly have all been placed on the second line alongside Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu to try to find some offense.
Carlyle is the winningest coach in franchise history.
Carlyle passed Ron Wilson in 2008 with his 121st win. He's now up to 206 wins and a killer .603 win percentage. Additionally, Carlyle-run Ducks have never finished a season lower than 10th in the West.
Carlyle was given a raise this offseason.
General Manager Bob Murray has stood by his coach for years, and this faith was reaffirmed this past offseason when Carlyle was granted a contract extension through the 2013-14 season. In an interview with the OC Register back in 2010, Murray was adamant in placing the blame on the players for the bad start rather than the coach, and I'm sure he is probably harboring similar thoughts today.
The personnel has shifted and success still hasn't come.
The Ducks picked up both Ben Maxwell and Niklas Hagman off waivers and neither have made any offensive contribution to the squad yet. My first thought...at what point did bringing in a former Jet/Thrasher (Maxwell) to boost scoring become logical? My second thought: honestly if we need to shift some players, that's not going to be enough. My third thought: it's only been two games. I'll give it a few more before dubbing it an unsuccessful experiment, but I have a feeling I should get my big red "FAIL" stamp ready.
Many of Carlyle's decisions don't seem logical and a lot of them aren't working.
The Ducks had a chance to steal two points against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center in the shootout and Carlyle's shootout choices more or less blew it.
The Ducks played possibly their worst game of the season against the Kings that night but got a stellar performance from Jonas Hiller and a very fortunate bounce on a Teemu Selanne shot late in the third period to force overtime and the eventual shootout.
While I was pumped we were able to take a point from that game, we should have had two.
Carlyle did what was logical at first: having Getzlaf, Ryan, Perry and Selanne shooting in the 1-4 slots, but then as the shootout wore on, he started making some pretty boneheaded moves.
The next shooters consisted of Cam Fowler, Saku Koivu and Kurtis Foster. Koivu and Fowler I can understand but really, Randy? Kurtis Foster?!
The guy isn't exactly a shootout extraordinaire and he threw out one of the most embarrassing shootout attempts I've ever seen in a situation where the game hinged on him scoring.
What's even more infuriating is that Foster's selection came while Andrew Cogliano, Devante Smith-Pelly and Maxime Macenauer were all still available.
You'd think if you had a chance to win and finally get two points out of a game you'd play the cards you can, but no, Carlyle didn't and the Ducks were swept in that series by L.A.
So here's my conclusion: in my opinion Randy Carlyle isn't really the problem in the Anaheim locker room, but the team isn't playing as well as it should be and there needs to be a shakeup fast.
Sadly, what usually happens in that case is someone's head has to roll, and unfortunately in Carlyle's case, it's usually the head coach.
Either way, tonight's game in Phoenix could be a make-or-break one for his career.