February 18, 2019 | 2:16pm ET
BY Hannah Spraker, The Fourth Period
BOB’S CALL TO ARMS
ANAHEIM, CA – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once upon a time, the Anaheim Ducks could not be stopped, but their current state has fans vocalizing their discontent in overt ways.
Twitter was absolutely demolishing now ex-Head Coach Randy Carlyle and fans wanted his head on a platter. Now, since he’s been given the pink slip and General Manager Bob Murray has taken over as interim coach, the narrative has shifted.
Over the past week at Honda Center, I’ve seen fans with paper bags over their heads carrying signs saying, “Mr. Brown Bag wants a new GM,” fans playing on Grammy award winning artist Ariana Grande’s new album, signs saying “thank u, next” and “break up with your GM, I’m bored,” and of course the infamous hashtag #lose4hughes.
Great way to celebrate 25 years, eh?
Murray gave Carlyle the kiss of death a few weeks back saying he was keeping him as bench boss despite the Ducks’ woes. Roughly a month after that statement, Carlyle finds himself without a job.
It’s obvious Carlyle wasn’t working out, anyone with decent pair of eyes could see that – you can’t win two games since Christmas and expect job security – but the bigger problem resides in management; the team they’ve put together and the contracts that prohibit them from making significant changes.
In theory, Bob’s approach of joining his guys in the trenches and “getting down to ice level and seeing what needs to be done” sounds great. Taking the reigns, cool, but if you can’t see from that bird’s eye view what a lot of fans, media and players alike can see, what makes you think being at ice level will help? The issue lies with the team that has been assembled.
PASS THE BUCK TO BOB
First, let’s take a look back. Owners Henry and Susan Samueli bought the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2005 for $75 million, turning them into the Anaheim Ducks in 2006. During this time, Brian Burke was the GM of the Ducks and Murray was serving as Burke’s right-hand man as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. After the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, Burke stepped down in November 2008 and Murray was named GM and has held the role since.
Ten years going on 11, “Bargain Bob” has held the position as GM in Anaheim, and now he’s the GM and the coach. Bob has a reputation for drafting well, but his choices in extension terms, bad or meaningless trades, and handing out no-movement clauses is causing the you-know-what to hit the fan as these contracts aren’t aging well, and neither are some of the players to be frank.
Ryan Kesler is not the same player since his hip injury, nor will he be that Selke-caliber player again. He’s 34, getting $6.875 million a season until 2022 with a NMC, and teams aren’t exactly knocking on Bob’s door to ask about him.
Same goes for Corey Perry, a whopping $8.6 million through 2021 with a NMC.
Once upon a time they were worth their contracts, but now teams aren’t interested in them and even if they were, they would have to agree to the trade, and when you’re over 30, play hockey in southern California, your kids go to school in SoCal, and you’re getting paid that kind of money and have a no move, why would you ever want to leave?
Ryan Getzlaf is still a huge part of the team and still a top center, but the problem is the fact this League is so fast now – will he be able to keep up?
Between albatross contracts that have plagued this team for years, from Clayton Stoner to Kevin Bieksa and now Perry and Kesler, this team has had little wiggle room when it comes to salaries for a while now.
Random acquisitions like Carter Rowney, Ben Street and Brian Gibbons has left fans puzzled. Add in the trades for older guys like Jason Chimera when Murray stated they’re trying to get younger and faster to fit today’s mold of the NHL. Then add in the lengthy eight-year extensions and no-movement clauses handed out like candy. Do the math, and what do you get? Exactly, a minus-54 goal differential and nearly last in the League.
So now what?
One of the longest tenured GMs in the NHL, Murray has to do a lot more than just take over as interim coach. The decision to take over as head coach was his own recommendation, honored by ownership, although it seems all too convenient when you don’t want to pay another coach like Dallas Eakins to come in for half a season (although it is safe to assume he is the front runner for the position for next season). Be that as it may, the Ducks need to be sellers as this trade deadline looms to make the kind of significant change required.
The roster is not a winning roster. I’ve said it before, the Ducks’ best shot in recent years was 2015, and since then it’s been a decline and it’s time to get with the program. Stop worrying about the now (that ship has sailed) and worry about the future of this team. Younger guys like Troy Terry and Max Jones are getting more of a taste of the NHL, and while now would be a great opportunity to start conditioning guys like Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois to the NHL level of play, Murray is hesitant to bring them into a “toxic environment” or “negative atmosphere,” but why not? If you know you’re not making the postseason and making a playoff run, why not give these guys a shot to get acclimated? Goalie Kevin Boyle got a shutout in his first NHL start last week. This whole “negative atmosphere” thing seems like wasted opportunity. Giving young talent an opportunity to shine when your team is not where they need to be can pay off, just look at Toronto.
PLAYING DUCKS AND DRAKES
You may have heard this expression before and this is exactly what Anaheim has done for the past few seasons. To “play ducks and drakes” means to be reckless with one’s money. Fitting, huh? Well maybe it’s time the Ducks take a note from Drake and make that hotline bling to Toronto.
Murray needs to sell, and sell now. As history proves, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Anaheim Ducks love to make trades with each other and some new opportunities to capitalize could be presenting themselves. Basically, everyone but John Gibson is expendable at this point, and frankly, he is the only reason the Ducks had any kind of momentum earlier in the season.
The Leafs are interested in adding another young, right shooting defenseman, or they very well could stand pat at the trade deadline. But here’s the thing: if Toronto plays a team like Boston in the first round of the playoffs, can Ron Hainsey handle it? Probably not. So adding a player to fill that role for the right price would be a steal.
We know that the Leafs really like Brandon Montour and a deal for him could send a player like Connor Brown or Andreas Johnsson in a package give or take a pick prospect like Calle Rosén. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas was in Anaheim last week taking in the Ducks/Canucks game.
Now, a few seasons back the Leafs and Ducks were believed to be close to a deal with Cam Fowler and James van Riemsdyk, but it never came to fruition. If Fowler is on the table, I could see a more substantial offer being made, and as far as I know, there is interest in Fowler in the League, but he has a four-team trade list.
Fowler is a competitive guy, he wants to win a Cup, so if he were offered a trade to a contending team, I would imagine he’d consider taking it, but in terms of a potential deal with the Leafs, Montour shoots right, has the better price tag, and Dubas has to consider future extensions for Mitch Marner and possibly Kasperi Kapanen as they are both restricted free agents come July 1.
The Leafs could also be interested in Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Radko Gudas to possibly fill that void with a cheaper price tag. Dubas has his hands full with negotiations in the coming months, but I will say, what he has been able to do as GM of the Maple Leafs in a short time has been admirable and that Auston Matthews deal is great.
Adam Henrique is generating some interest around the League, and teams like Montreal are looking for help down the middle – a guy like Henrique could certainly be serviceable. Other players who are generating interest and could be used as trade chips include Nick Ritchie and Jakob Silfverberg.
The Ducks are trying to work out an extension with Silfverberg, but he’s been picking up the pace as of late and teams like Boston are believed to have interest. Given the right return, this could be a good deal for Anaheim, perhaps a high pick and a prospect could be in the cards there. Considering the massive contracts of Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler eating up nearly a third of the cap, dumping a bit of salary will be beneficial.
The Ducks’ fanbase is furious, to say the least; many are embracing the tank, but fans want to see action. For years this team has been good, but not good enough, and the team is crumbling not just because of coaching, but because of bad management decisions – Murray has to make waves at this trade deadline.
Murray has never really does anything of large significance at the trade deadline, but Ducks management needs to show the fanbase (especially since many season ticket holders recently got a notice for increase in price) they are making moves to get this team back to a competitive spot as soon as they can.
So Bob has a call to arms, time to confront mistakes and do what it takes to fix them, and that means sell, sell, sell. Time to maybe take some advice from Ariana Grande and the fans and say, “thank you, next” to the old Ducks and start bringing in a new era.
Hannah Spraker is a Columnist and the Anaheim Correspondent for The Fourth Period.
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