The 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks season has been nothing short of a complete disaster. Nobody saw it coming. Last year, they breezed through Winnipeg and Calgary in the playoffs and came within one win of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals before being taken down in seven games by the Blackhawks. Heading into the season, a lot of people had the Ducks pegged as one of the elite teams in the Western Conference who could easily challenge for the Stanley Cup, and I’m fairly certain that everybody had them penciled in as a playoff team.
Now, it’s the beginning of November and they’ve just managed to earn their second win of the season.What’s going on here? Are the Ducks actually this bad? Do they have any chance at making the playoffs, or has this season become a write off already?
Like I said before, pretty much nobody saw this coming for the Ducks. Many people had them as a legitimate contender, and even their harshest of critics assumed that they would at least make the playoffs, even if they weren’t an elite team.
They had a pretty decent shakeup in the offseason. Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey left as free agents, and James Wisniewski, Kyle Palmeri, and Emerson Etem were shipped off in trades. Coming in, though, was Chris Stewart, Shawn Horcoff, and Mike Santorelli via free agency, and Kevin Bieksa, Carl Hagelin, and Anton Khudobin through trades. It appeared, that at the very least, the Ducks were going to come into the season with an equally as effective roster as the one that made it to the Conference Finals the year before.
So what do the numbers say?
Well, as we know, the Ducks can’t score at all. Before last night’s offensive explosion against the Predators, where they managed to score a whopping four goals, the Ducks had only scored 10 goals in their first 10 games of the season. So now they’re at 14 goals in 11 games, which would put them on pace for a 104 goal season over 82 games.
The Ducks are towards the bottom-middle of the pack with a 49.0 even strength Corsi For percentage. They’re in the top of third in the league in terms of Corsi For per 60 at even strength, but they’re also allowing the fifth most shot attempts against per 60. In terms of possession, they aren’t very good, but they aren’t ‘worst team in the league terrible’ either.
While their Corsi numbers have them shoved somewhere in the middle of the pack, some other offensive figures tell a different story. They’re being dominated in shots on goal at even strength, boasting the fourth worst Shots For percentage in the league at 46.5, ahead of only Colorado, Detroit, and Edmonton. They’re also only managing 21.3 even strength scoring chances per game at even strength, which is the third fewest in the league. Only Colorado and New Jersey are generating fewer scoring chances, and that’s some company you really don’t want to be mixed in with. Going a little deeper, according to war-on-ice, they’re only generating 9.4 high danger scoring chances per game at even strength, putting them again in company with some of the worst teams in the league.
How does that compare to what they did last year?
The 2014-15 Ducks were a middle on the pack team in terms of possession, managing a 51.0 Corsi For percentage at even strength, so slightly better than what they’re doing this year. Their Shots For percentage was positive, but it wasn’t anything to brag about at 50.8 per cent. Then finally, they were averaging 25.6 scoring chances and 10.5 high danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength, which was pretty average.
One thing to remember about last year’s Ducks is that they finished the year with just 13 more goals for than against. Despite owning one of the best records in the NHL, the Ducks certainly didn’t dominate game in, game out. They finished the year with a 50.8 Goals For percentage in all situations, which was right around teams like Dallas and Boston who ended up on the outside looking in. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that the Ducks did overachieve somewhat last season, and that good luck and a weak division ultimately led them to their strong record and successful playoff run.
So the major difference between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 rendition of the Ducks, beyond the obvious fact that their shooting percentage has been chopped in half, if the inability to generate shots and scoring chances while their possession metrics have remained relatively similar.
Is this season a write off?
No, it isn’t. Obviously it isn’t very common for a team to start the season 2-7-2 and then go on to not only make the playoffs but have a deep run to boot, but there’s no way the Ducks are going to carry on at this 100 goal season pace. It’s reasonable to say that the Ducks aren’t an elite team, sure, but they aren’t going to go the entire year shooting at like a 4.1 per cent clip because nobody goes through an entire season with that bad of puck luck. If they weren’t generating any shot attempts, then yeah, I would be really worried for them.
Now, if they played in the Central Division, yeah, it would be fair to say that their season is probably over. They would have to leapfrog teams like Chicago and Winnipeg to squeeze into the playoffs, but thankfully for them, they play in the horrible Pacific Division, where they’re going to have to jump over the Oilers and Coyotes to put themselves in playoff contention.
Also, let’s take a moment to remember the 1995-96 Mighty Ducks, who started the year 1-9-2 and still went on to squeeze into the playoffs. It’s going to be tough, obviously, but it certainly isn’t impossible. I mean, right now they’re only six points behind the Sharks for third place in the division. It really isn’t crazy to think that Anaheim could win three more games than San Jose (and Edmonton, Arizona, and Calgary) for the rest of the year.