After an impressive 6-2 start that saw them lead the Pacific division for a time, the Ducks have since gone 3-9-1 and now sit just above the Kings in the Pacific’s basement.
So, what happened?

Many will tell you that it’s the trials and tribulations of being a fan of a mostly-young team – but it’s a bit more than that.

Yes, the inconsistencies of a young roster are certainly at play here, but there are deeper issues to explore.

The Defense Stinks

In their last 10 games (not including tonight’s tilt against the white-hot Islanders) the Ducks have held their opponents under 3 goals once. Unless you’re playing with an All-Star team, you’re not going to win giving up 4 or more goals per game (even then, you’re not giving up that amount of goals with All-Stars on your team.) The Ducks defense has been putrid, surrendering 3.71 goals per game and getting poor John Gibson pummeled. What started off as a potential Vezina-type season for Gibson has gone down in flames – and he has the guys in front of him to thank for that.

Erik Gudbrason has been every bit the thrift store pickup we thought he’d be, but at least he has more points this season than Korbinian Holzer! Outside of Fowler & Lindholm, the Ducks defense has been pedestrian at best and awful at its worst. I’d tell you that the team needs to get some help on the blue line, but we both know it’s not going to happen as long as Murray is GM, so we might as well forget even thinking about it.

The Offense Stinks Slightly Less

Jakob Silfverberg leads the team in points (18,) goals (9,) and assists (9), which is well and good – until you realize that the league leader, Leon Draisaitl, has 48 by himself. To put that in perspective, the Ducks entire top line has 38 points combined. Not great. Ducklings like Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Sam Steel have struggled at times, especially when trying to play both ends of the ice, but that’s to be expected from guys playing what amounts to their first extended time as professionals. The hope is they’ll grow into their roles and be productive players as they mature.

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Bright spots on the team include Rakell & Getzlaf on the top line, as well as Henrique & Silfverberg on the second line, but they’re not bright enough to provide the team enough of a spark to get them a win. A bright spot from the last few seasons, Ondrej Kase, has struggled this season – to the point where he was a healthy scratch in the Ducks’ win in St. Louis – but has dealt with injuries, in his defense. Who has no defense for how bad he’s been? The only Duck in the Top 5 in any sort of league-wide stat.

Nick Bleeping Ritchie

As mentioned in the past, I’m not a fan of Nick Ritchie. I don’t think he’s good and I believe he hasn’t warranted being chosen as the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The numbers don’t lie, especially if you look at his contemporaries in that draft – mainly, the aforementioned Draisaitl.

Now, Draisaitl was gone by the time the Ducks pick, but when equipped with hindsight, the Ducks could have chosen Dylan Larkin, David Pastrnak (who, by the way, leads the NHL with 20 goals this season,) or even Brayden Point (albeit at a huge reach) instead of Ritchie. At least those other guys can’t say they’re top 5 in a stat like Ritchie can (never mind that that stat is penalty minutes, though.)

Yeah, Ritchie has 50 PIM, good for second in the NHL, 2 behind 2014 draftmate Brendan Lemieux. Maybe that draft is just cursed?

At least it can only go up from here, right? Hopefully, head coach Dallas Eakins can find the special sauce to get the Ducks back on track and give us something to look forward to. If not, just do it for John Gibson’s sake.

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