Hockey-Great Times–Awful Times”
The best time of the hockey season, the opening night of the NHL-Stanley Cup playoffs, is on my TV set..
The worst time to be a hockey fan, if you own an Anaheim Ducks jersey or you took part in the ‘Beer Friday’ nights to watch the AHL-San Diego Gulls.
Where do I begin in all this?
The Kings open their nasty rivalry playoff series with the Oilers. GM-Rob Blake has rebuilt this once proud team in a 24-month span. It’s a team made up of more than star goal scorers like Anzi Kopitar and Adrian Kempe, or the rock solid blueline group led by Drew Doughty.
It’s acquisitions like Philippe Danault and Kevin Fialla. It’s the patience to get injured draft picks like Gabe Villardi healthy. It’s a wide variety of working pieces on the roster, who score goals, check, kill penalties.
And it was being bold, dealing cornerstone goalie Jonathon Quick and opening the way to get proven goalie Joonas Korpisalo and then finding journeyman Phoenix Copley could play at this level.
Of course as good as the Kings season has been, just ahead are the Oilers and the 64-goal scoring superstar Connor McDavid and the 52-goal winger Leon Draisaitl. They are aided by add-on veterans like Zach Hyman, a rebuilt defense. Whether they have enough goaltending remains to be seen, but the Oilers, like the Maple Leafs, north of the border, are so explosive.
Down the freeway, the season-long misery is over the Ducks and now here the San Diego Gulls. We knew it would be painful, awful and less than competitive hockey in Anaheim. And because it was so bad up there, it became even worse here with the AHL-Gulls, a failure of a season, not necessarily their fault.
The Ducks won 23-of-82 games, and it cost Dallas Eakins his job after four years of suffering. If you think watching star goalie John Gibson face 30-shots in a game one period, think about how poor the product was on the ice infront of him this year.
Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Mason MacTavish and Jamie Drysdale against the world. That’s what the Ducks had to send out on the ice night after night at the NHL level. All kids against the stars of the world.
The club, impaled by heavy contracts for aging players, started housecleaning a year ago. What few veterans that were left couldn’t carry the team, and what they dealt away was to stockpile more draft picks for the rebuild, a process that will take forever.
Injuries took Adam Henrique out of the lineup. Once promising Max Comtois and Max Jones never regained their scoring touch after two years of injuries and frustrations. Who knows why Jakob Silfverberg disappeared as a goal scorer.
By the end of the season Eakins could look down the end of the bench and see AHL callups, young college players, and fringe veterans. Even last summer’s free agent additions like Frank Vatrano-and-Ryan Strome scored less there than the other places they played a year ago, and they were supposed to be goal-scoring additions.
I feel bad for Eakins. He was handed a bad hand in his first coaching job with the Oilers when they hired him and told him to play all the kids, like McDavid, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, well before they should have been on the ice in Oilers colors. And after he did another good job with the Gulls, he took on the Ducks job and they did the same thing again to him.
All the teaching and motivation skills could not hide the lack of experience and talent. A 13-game losing streak at the end of the season was a period-exclamation point of how bad the situation was in a building where they once raised a Stanley Cup banner.
Maybe he is a great AHL-developmental coach, based upon what he did with the Gulls and before that with the Toronto Marlies. You win (311) games in the AHL, that’s a pretty good resume. Maybe he is not an NHL coach. Maybe the organization is in disrray, though somewhere in here you need to stop blaming former GM-Bob Murray and his persohal problems.
In San Diego, since they took all the really good players to Anaheim, this turned out be to be a season long toothache. So bad, that legendary AHL coach Roy Sommor decided to step aside at the end of the year, despite an all time (828) career AHL wins.
Great goaltending from Lukas Dostal and a potential college star in Gage Alexander. After that, nothing to really believe in.
So bad that by the trade deadline, the Ducks started to tear the Gulls roster apart. It was like they had an entirely different team of journeymen and some young college draft picks the back half of the season. It really didn’t help.
The Gulls finished with 20-wins on the season, worst record in the AHL, and like the parent Ducks, last in goals scored, first in goals allowed. Appalling to see the 2nd year Seattle Kraken expansion team, put together a roster for their new AHL affiliate (Palm Springs-Coachella Valley) that won 50-games in their first year in the league.
They never survived early season injuries that wiped out much of the year for Chase DeLeo, then a car crash hurting Justin Kirkland, and extended off time for Jacob Perrault, Axel Andersson and more.
Too many guys on the roster, who could not score goals, and in some cases, this was the second straight year of anemic output from some of these players. How could you make so many mistakes on young prospects?
The Gulls had 12-young players on the roster, who played anywhere from 30-to-62-games this year and scored 10-goals or less for the entire season. If you can’t play and score in the AHL and produce, you can’t play in the NHL. and some of them were second year players. Why are they even in San Diego?
I’ve never seen games where defenders were (-5) in one game. Look at the season long stats, and see defenseman with (-22) plus minus marks.
And the Gulls will have their 4th new head coach in the last four years, after letting go Kevin Dineen, firing Joel Bouchard and then having Sommor walk away.
It’s been a really bad two years at the Sports Arena. Gulls hockey was not helped by the Covid outbreak, that took the team away for a whole year. Losing has killed the gate, where crowds of 4-to-6,000 replace the once often 12,000- weekend turnouts.
In Anaheim, GM-Pat Dineen was hired a year and a half ago to rebuild the Ducks. He has torn that roster down, and fired the head coach. This Gulls situation is also his fault, on his watch, for what he took out of San Diego and what he sent here to replace them on the roster.
Hopefully this Gulls situation is a ‘1-off’ and next year, they will bring in a better cross section of kids and AHL-veterans.
The rebuild in Anaheim will get another boost with a very high lottery pick coming in, the fact they have lots of draft picks, and with having a ton of salary cap space to use. Maybe soon we wake up 1-morning and the Ducks become a very good young team. But getting from Point A (last place) to Point B (young playoff team) will take time at the NHL level. It’s take the Oilers a long time to get good, even with a generational player like McDavid.
Verbeek owes San Diego better than we have seen two years running.
The losing is awful, whether it is at the Honda Center or Pechanga Arena.
I keep flashing back to the glory of the Ducks years, Selanne, Kariya, Giguere, Getzlaf-Perry and more. Seems like a lifetime ago.
The playoffs have begun and all attention should be on the Kings-Oilers hate series. For hockey fans in Anaheim and San Diego, if you love hockey, you watch. If you love your team, you tell ownership ‘fix this mess.’
The best time of the year for hockey fans, unless your mailing address is Anaheim Ducks or San Diego Gulls.