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Time For GMBM To Go?
By George Casner
Okay, let’s just rip the Band-Aid off. The Ducks have missed the playoffs for the second season! This is unacceptable! We need to fire everyone, the coaches, the managers, the players, everyone! Just tear the franchise down and move the team to Alaska! It’s over. Everything is lost. I’m done writing for DucksNPucks. Nothing more shall be said.
Clearly, I am being overdramatic for a comedic effect, but I do want to have a serious discussion about the way the team is being run. Let me explain.
In the aftermath of the Stanley Cup Final, NHL Draft, and Free Agency day, we look at two different pictures: teams that made big moves and teams that did not. The two I want to look at are the current Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vegas Golden Knights.
First off, the Lightning. We all know what happened two years ago, it has become a meme and has been done to death. I am not going to go into that here; however, they did something from that early exit: they made moves.
The core of the team stayed identical, but they added grit and depth during the off-season and at the trade deadline. These additions really helped propel them over the top and got them to where they are now. Granted, some of them have left due to the salary cap and contract issues but even still, they will be a competitive team this coming season.
I’m not going to go into a detailed analysis of that here as I’m more acclimated with Anaheim than Tampa (our friends at Bay Bolts do a great job of discussing all things Tampa, check them out if you are interested!)
Meanwhile, in our own division no less, the Golden Knights just picked up Alex Pietrangelo. Vegas has made it clear that they want to win the Cup within their first five years of being a team. They already shook up the whole league in their first year and have been a force to reckon with every season since. They keep making big moves to better themselves.
Meanwhile, our Ducks have continued to go on a downward spiral. This leads me to think, is it time for Bob Murray to go?
To begin, I want to look at the team as a whole and then look at the moves (or lack thereof) that Murray has made. This year was bound to have some growing pains and the Ducks had a lot of new challenges to overcome. First, they had some young players coming up from the Gulls, getting their feet wet with the NHL. They had to find their groove with not just the league but also the rest of the team. Granted some have popped up in the Ducks a few times in the past due to injuries or some other unforeseen events. But this was different this year they were playing to keep their spot and not go back down to the Gulls.
On top of that, we had veteran players not make their way back. Obviously, Patrick Eaves (one of my personal favorites) was not going to play. But we were also missing Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, and Andrew Cogliano. Now, granted, Cogliano was traded midway through last season and we all knew that Kesler was highly unlikely to play, but the ripple effects of it were still felt this year. Those three alone brought a lot of leadership to the team, and that leadership would have helped the younger players.
A second thing that was felt was Dallas Eakins. Prior to this season, he was in San Diego for years. Due to this, the younger players that came up with him were able to carry over his style and adapt quickly. However, the veteran players had to get a feel for him and his style.
This presented a natural learning curve for our Ducks on both sides. The young ducklings had to adapt to the new league and the veterans had to adjust to a new coach and new play system.
That is typical for a rebuild and if it was just this, I would not be writing this article. But I think the issue is something coming from higher up. Bob Murray doesn’t make big moves.
Let us rewind the clock, back in 2015 I was living in Florida and I would go to Disney World or Universal Studios wearing my Ducks gear. While there, people would constantly remark, “I think the Ducks are going to win the Cup this year.” And in Bob Murray’s defense, he made quite a few moves that year to try and win the Cup. But the Ducks lost in game seven of the Western Conference Finals to Chicago. But again, he made moves, so we will put a Talley Mark on his side of the board.
The off-season comes and they do not make much noise. There were a few small things like Vancouver getting a 2016 2nd round pick for Bieksa, Chicago getting Sekac for Garbutt, but no big moves. Makes sense, the team did well and came up short against the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, no need to change everything. Well, in 2016 Anaheim lost in seven games to Nashville. In the first round, no less!
So, you would think that with an aging core and the Cup window closing, the GM would make some big moves to put Anaheim over the top and get that 2017 Cup, right?
The Ducks could possibly enter the “Win now mode”. Maybe trade a first-round pick for a big push? I mean, they got an additional one on June 20, 2016, for Freddy. And yet the biggest move made is trading a 2nd round pick for Patrick Eaves at the trade deadline.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it worked in Anaheim’s favor and Eaves will always be one of my favorite players. He instantly gelled with Getzlef and that top-line had some serious chemistry! But Eaves was not the thing that would put Anaheim over the top. This resulted in the Ducks getting knocked out in the Western Conference Finals, again, to Nashville.
Worse yet, he brought back Randy Carlyle for the 2016-17 season. Now, I will admit, at first I was okay with it since Carlyle had to meet with the leaders of the team, the owners, and Bob Murray. But after that one good year, it all went downhill.
Now, let’s take a brief pause and look at this three-year span:
2015 – Lost in seven in the Western Conference Finals
Off-season – no big moves
2016 – Lost in seven in the first round
Off-season – The biggest move was firing the coach and hiring the old coach back.
2017 – Lost in six in the Western Conference Finals to the same team that beat you in 2016.
Things are looking bad. In my opinion, it was desperation time. Pull out all the stops and go for broke. Well… The 2017-2018 season was all over the place and then the Ducks get swept by the Sharks in the first round!
This is already a bad looking track record for GM BM who, at this point, has let the Cup slip from his grasp… But then the 2018-19 season happens.
This train wreck of a year was one of the worst I had ever seen. The Ducks set a franchise record for losing streaks and the whole team turned on the coach. Everyone knew Murray had to fire Randy, yet he hesitated. He waited and it got worse! Eventually, he fired Randy and took over as interim Head Coach before bringing in Eakins in the off-season. But it was too late. The window was closed and now it is full rebuild time.
I understand what Murray has said about not trading the future at the expense of the present, which is why he is hesitant on doing big deals and trading first-round picks. But at the end of the day, if you win the Cup, you are picking last anyway. So, it is a bit of a moot point.
Currently, as I mentioned above, the Ducks are a young team, have a lot of potential, and are under a coach that seems like he connects with the players. These are the signs of a long and promising future but, at the end of the day, if the Ducks want to win the Cup, they have to be over the top and that clearly is not something Bob Murray is willing to do.
If they are serious about making a Cup run in the upcoming years with these kids, they need to make some big moves. Could this mean changing GMs?
Personally, I say yes. His last big move was getting Ryan Kesler. If we want to win it all then we need a GM who is willing to risk it all.
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November 8th, 2020