Jason Lewis writes about the Pacific Division for Hockey Prospectus. and about the Kings for Hockey Buzz
Maybe one of the biggest storylines so far of 2015-16 is the unbelievably bad start that the Anaheim Ducks have had.
As the NHL entered play on December 18th, the Anaheim Ducks, a team that was one win away from a Stanley Cup Final last season, sat in a three way tie for last place. Their counterparts in the doldrums of the standings? The rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs and another surprise struggler, the Columbus Blue Jackets. While Columbus has had their struggles with goaltending, a coaching change, and perhaps some off-ice issues from one of their prominent young stars, the Ducks have had none of these issues.
In short, Anaheim has been flat out bad.
While few in the analytics community were convinced of their superiority last season, there were questions about the Pacific division strength in general that saw many pundits put them towards the top of the division before the season commenced. Those projections are almost all shattered at this point as we creep towards the halfway mark with the Ducks holding an under .500 record and a -20 goal differential.
As a brief overview, what is wrong with the Ducks?
They are seventh overall in Corsi For % at even strength with a 52.9%. That is better than their overall finish from last year at13th with a 51.3%.
Scoring chances for at even strength from Anaheim sat at a 52.3%. They were putting up around 25.8 per 60 at even strength, while allowing 23.4. That is a very fine margin. This season that number remains razor thin, as they currently hold a 50.9%, allowing 24.2 for, and creating 25.0 per 60 at evens.
High-danger chances? Also remain in the positive end of the spectrum, albeit slightly. Last year again, was slightly better, but not overwhelmingly bad compared to this season.
Goaltending maybe? Last year’s 91.9% regular season On-ice save percentage at even strength is actually worse than this year’s 92.4%
What about special teams? The powerplay is clicking at a 16.7%, which is 24th in the league. The penalty Kill at 87.5, which is currently first overall. Last season’s PK clicked at 81.0, and sat at 15th, while the powerplay struggled again at a 15.7% and placed them in the bottom three of the league at 28th. These are differences, but not enough to really throw a season into disarray.
So what is the deal here?
Two explanations are that the Anaheim Ducks were simply a very lucky team last season and/or are a very unlucky team this season. They shot at an 8.3% last season, scored at a rated 60 minute total of 2.4 goals for to 2.2 against and held a PDO of 100.2.
2015-16 has told a different story so far. The PDO is currently at a 97.1, their goals for are worst in the league at even strength at a 1.4 per 60 minutes, and the goals against remain similar to last season at a 2.1
The Ducks have swung like a violent pendulum from one extreme to the next. If you were expecting a middle group where their luck would settle in, do not look at 2014-2016.
Worse off, the team has two prominent players in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and one of them is having a pretty awful year. If you were expecting me to say Ryan Getzlaf, guess again. Corey Perry, now aged 30, is having a downright forgettable season. While the Ducks captain receives most the heavy criticism from fans in the O.C., Corey Perry is actually the player who has taken the biggest step backwards amongst the three prominent players of Getzlaf, Kesler, and himself. Other factors that may be contributing to the offensive decline of the Ducks is the unfilled absence of Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey. Carl Hagelin, to this point so far with two goals to his name, has been a massive disappointment. The flyer taken on Chris Stewart has also been disappointing, but that was to be expected. Both Palmieri and Beleskey are by no means tearing it up with their new teams, but the Ducks are certainly missing the numbers they put forth with the team last season.
Back to Perry and Getzlaf though.
If we are looking at scoring chance numbers relative to his teammates, Perry has been on a troubling backslide since about 2012-13. It has taken a nosedive this year.
When looking at close score situations, wherein the Ducks are either one goal up or one goal down, Corey Perry has been in a precipitous decline in his team being on the positive end of scoring chances as well.
What these numbers reflect, is that when Perry is on the ice his team is doing worse in in scoring chance differential than when he is off the ice. That may be exceptionally hard to believe when you look at the stats and see that Perry is the Ducks leading goal scorer and the leading point getter currently. However, that is the case.
If you are a Ducks fan I would like to tell you that the Fenwick scores are telling a different story to the scoring chance numbers. However, there is no such conclusion to be drawn. Perry, yet again, has slid considerably since in quality since 2012-13.
Furthermore, Corey Perry is getting the easiest zone starts he has ever had at even strength right now. He has a 12.18 ZSO relative to his teammates. That is a number that is up almost a full 10% from last year where he was a 2.55, and almost 14% from 2011-12 when he was getting more defensive zone starts than offensive (-1.94).
The final nail in the coffin for the Ducks may come in the form of the relative score adjusted goals for %. Perry and Getzlaf lead the team. They score much more when on the ice than off. Why is this scary? Because Perry and Getzlaf have both been below average on the season, and both are below in scary territory in the total goals for barrier. Perry is at 48% goals for, while Getzlaf is sitting at a flat 50%. They are still leading the charge offensively for the Ducks, even though the offense has been nonexistent. Historically Anaheim has been held afloat by their two major stars. This year, without a reasonably productive supporting cast, their decline has spelled doom for their season early on. Perry has become a bit more of a defensive liability, neither of them are scoring at a rate they previous have, and there are missing components in this lineup that were either not replaced or have been replaced by struggling acquisitions.
It is not good in Anaheim right now, and there may not be enough hands pulling on the rope to support the already exhausted arms of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.