The first time I had heard about Randy Carlyle being in trouble was back in October, when the Ducks started to show their true colors are a good start to the season. Problem was, the ‘good start’ that the Ducks got off to was basically just John Gibson playing at an elite level and Pontus Aberg shooting out the lights.
Aberg cooled considerably, and eventually fell back into his old ways before being dealt to Minnesota. Gibson, meanwhile, had simply had enough. The future of American goaltending was overworked and has broken down over the last few weeks. Now he’s banged up, and the Ducks are getting shelled on a nightly basis.
I’m an Edmonton Oiler fan, I know bad hockey. The Anaheim Ducks were flat out unwatchable during their recent road trip. This team wasn’t just bad, they looked like a slow, old team with next to no skill that had accepted the fact their season was over. It was ugly in every possible way.
Bob Murray did not want to fire Randy Carlyle during the season. Make no mistake, it was coming no matter what, but Murray desperately wanted to wait until the off-season. Why? As we saw yesterday, Murray does not want to disturb the San Diego Gulls. I also don’t believe that he was comfortable turning the team over to one of Carlyle’s assistants, who have no NHL head coaching experience.
The most recent road trip left Murray absolutely no choice, Carlyle had to go. Murray was actually in Europe doing some scouting and was forced to return home over the weekend to give his old friend the mercy pull a few months before he had hoped. Murray himself, with no NHL coaching experience, will take over the Ducks’ bench for the remainder of the season.
What Is Next Behind The Bench?:
Murray will take over for the rest of this season, but make no mistake he is just keeping the seat warm. Although nothing will be confirmed until after the season, sources confirm that Dallas Eakins will take over the Ducks’ bench next season barring something unforeseen.
Eakins, who was a young hotshot coach with the Toronto Marlies who bit off more than he could chew with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013, had received considerable interest around the league over the last two off-seasons for coaching gigs. Eakins, however, decided to be patient. He wants to find the right situation and has specifically mentioned how he wants to avoid another Edmonton scenario. His sights have always been set on the Ducks.
Unless Joel Quenneville comes walking through that door, the Ducks are expected to elevate Eakins after the season to become their next head coach. It’s not a surprising move, and it is one that nearly happened back in October.
Some have been asking, why wait? Who cares about the AHL team when the NHL club is in the playoff race, right? The Ducks smartly care. See, Anaheim is going to be able to go hunting after big free agents, their game has always been to draft and develop. There are a number of prospects on the Gulls roster that the Ducks believe can help in short order. They want them developing in a winning environment and do not want to mess with what that team is building.
The Ducks aren’t competing for the Cup this season, they know that. Bob Murray is playing the long game right now, and I can’t help but think that is the right choice.
What Is Next For The Ducks?:
Things are about to get very interesting for the Ducks. Murray is not happy, and you best believe that surgery to the roster is coming next. Murray will be in the trenches for the next two months and will get a real good look at what his team is lacking. I also think he will be looking to change up the leadership core of this franchise.
If he can move Ryan Kesler’s contract I firmly believe that he would. Ditto for Corey Perry, whose best days are without doubt behind him. Adam Henrique’s name is absolutely out there right now, and I think (foolishly) the Ducks are willing to listen on D Hampus Lindholm.
Of course, the Ducks won’t be inclined to move any of their young pieces and will be reluctant to move Gibson, Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler. Outside of those three, however, everything is fair game.
I also would wager that the Ducks will be selling come the deadline. Unless they get real hot here in the next two weeks, there is no sense in trying to save this lost season. Sell what you can, gain some cap flexibility and start building towards a better tomorrow. It’s not going to sit well with fans, but it just might net you the high draft pick you need.
The Ducks don’t need a full on rebuild, they just need a retool. Not scorched earth like the Maples Leafs a years back, but more what the Boston Bruins did after firing Peter Chiarelli. Staying competitive while integrating the prospects already developing in the system.
The Ducks did what they had to do over the weekend. Randy Carlyle’s time was long overdue, and Murray was left no choice. He won’t be the only person to pay for this season, however. Next comes the players, who will look very different when the horn sounds on trading season.