Another year, another disappointing postseason for the Anaheim Ducks. The team’s seven game first round exit at the hands of the Nashville Predators marks another season of high expectations and unsatisfactory results. The Ducks are now nine years removed from their Stanley Cup Final victory over the Senators in the 2006-07 season and have not returned to the Cup Final since. The Ducks have only missed the playoffs twice since, in the 2009-10 season and 11-12 season, and have otherwise been a very dangerous team in the West in the regular season.
In the last four seasons, the Ducks finished first in the Pacific Division, coming in first twice and second once, but have only reached the Western Conference finals once, losing to the Blackhawks in seven games two postseasons ago. What’s more disappointing isn’t the defeat, but how they lost. This is the fourth year in a row the Ducks have been eliminated from the playoffs in Game 7 at home. In 2012-13, they played against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. In 2013-14, it was in the second round to the pesky Los Angeles Kings. Two seasons ago it was to Chicago, and this year, of course, it was to Nashville.
This is obviously frustrating for the Ducks’ upper management, a sentiment made clear when they fired head coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau was with the Ducks since 2011-2012, so he’s been at the helm for all four Game 7 home playoff losses, bringing his record in such games as a coach to 1-7. “I did not feel going forward and making the playoffs that again it would be a good situation,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. The Ducks have been a model of consistency in the regular season, but have also been a model of consistent disappointment in the playoffs. For a team that seems to always find itself atop the Western Conference, they understandably seek higher expectations, thus the Boudreau firing.
While Boudreau has some of the blame, the players cannot be let off scot free. Core players like Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been with this team through all their recent playoff struggles and, despite some changes here and there to the defense and wingers, Anaheim has believed in these players to get them deeper into the playoffs. “It was almost the mentality that they weren’t going to win, they were going out not to lose. And you can’t play hockey that way,” Murray said. “That’s just the group and it was very disturbing to watch.”
“Maybe I haven’t been hard enough on them the last few years,” Murary added. “They’re going to hear some different words this time.” Harsh words, but can you blame him? This is a Ducks team that is clearly talented enough for the grind of an 82-game NHL season, but just can’t get over the hump in the playoffs. Boudreau is gone, and it appears Getzlaf, Perry and the rest of the Ducks’ core are on notice. The team has had four chances to make it to the Stanley Cup and has failed to do so. Next season, hopefully we will see a different team in Anaheim.