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Anaheim's playoff hopes are roasted

Mar 11, 2010, 7:00 AM EDT

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We’re coming to the point in the season where the bubble teams will
start falling by the wayside one by one. Technically there are still a
number of teams in the playoff hunt, but each passing game opens up the
divide that much more between the pretenders and the legitimate
contenders.

The Anaheim Ducks may be finished.

The Ducks
haven’t won since the Olympic break and goaltender Jonas Hiller, who
played so well for Switzerland,
is stumbling right along with the rest of the team.

“We
didn’t seem to trust each other and everybody tries to do some of
the work that the other guy’s supposed to do,” Hiller
said.
“We don’t trust. That’s just not how it works.”

Said
Todd Marchant, “It’s something that is very difficult to comprehend at
this point. Like Randy said, we’ve got to … go back to work and be
ready for that game on Friday.”

They
sit just seven point back of eighth place in the West, but even if the
Ducks go on a tear down the stretch they face something like a 30%
chance of slipping into a playoff spot. And this is a team that’s been
on the decline for a couple of seasons now; perhaps a year out of the
playoffs will afford them a chance to rebuild and reload a bit.

“The
easy thing is to give up and get down, and that’s what we’re trying
to stop now,” Getzlaf said. “Get our momentum going back the other way
and get our swing going like we did before the break.”

Ahh
yes. You have to respect the attempt at positivity, but I don’t know
what else you’d expect the players to say. I thought this was
interesting:

“The most frustrating part for our
coaching staff is when you go
through practice and you see our execution level at a much higher level
than in the games,” Carlyle said.

“That’s
what’s so mind boggling right now.”

That’s
the big challenge for all coaches; how to make the team perform in a
game at the same level they do in practice. The Ducks could be the best
practicing team in the NHL but win just one out every ten games. Is that
on the players or the coaching? I’ve always been a believer that the
ultimate onus is on the coaches; after all their job is to coach the
players and prepare them for the game.

But at some point the
players have to be held responsible, and perhaps the Ducks are at a
point where some major changes are in store. There a number of potential
UFA’s on the team, including Scott Niedermayer, Aaron Ward, Teemu
Selanne and Saku Koivu. The cap room for next season is manageable at
this point but not great. Is that enough room for Anaheim to retool for
next season?

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