Sharks take on a struggling Ducks squad; Who do the stats say are the class of the West?

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7:30 PST
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9-19-6, 24 points 19-10-3, 41 points
14th in Western Conference 3rd in Western Conference

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98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
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Anaheim Calling
Battle of California

It has been an extremely rough year for Anaheim.

On November 30th the Ducks fired long-tenured Head Coach Randy Carlyle and immediately hired former Washington Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. The Ducks, who finished 2-8-3 in November and in the midst of one of the worst runs in franchise history, were hoping that Boudreau could step in and right a ship that was quickly sinking.

As we said following the change, Anaheim's decision was the correct one. Carlyle had given the team as much as he could over his six year stint, and Boudreau's abilities as a Head Coach were well chronicled during his stint behind the bench with Washington. But the Ducks struggles don't lie solely with the Head Coach-- the roster has had some pretty gaping holes amongst their bottom six forwards for years now, and the blueline is in a perpetual state of mediocrity:

Anaheim still needs more work however-- their blueline is a mess without Lubomir Visnovsky and barely treading water with him in the lineup, their secondary scoring is nonexistent for the umpteenth season, and the usually dominant Jonas Hiller has posted an ugly .899 SV% this year. If Boudreau can be considered a step in the right direction (and he should be), the fact is that a marathon still remains for Anaheim if they expect to make the playoffs this year or at the very least be competitive.

As former Apple CEO Gil Amelio once said, "Apple is like a ship and that ship is loaded with treasure, but there's a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction." When you've been Head Coach for a team for six plus years, which is truly a long-time in this League, sometimes you're trying to get your players to row in the same direction instead of fixing the actual problem-- the hole in the ship. That seemed to be the case behind the bench in Anaheim, even if Carlyle's top-heavy forward group, paltry blueline, and surprisingly poor goaltending weren't giving him a whole lot of tools to work with.

Long story short? Carlyle wasn't solely to blame for the Ducks struggles this season. He is a man that knows what he is doing, has gotten his team to play better than the sum of its parts in years past, and will be receiving all types of phone calls when another League GM buys a ticket to the NHL's couching carousel. But he wasn't part of the solution either, and as his team's record this season indicates, it was time to make a change.

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For the most part that analysis was bang on, as Anaheim's depth continues to be a glaring issue. Having said that, count me among those who felt that a change behind the bench would spark the Ducks much more than it has-- even with the coaching change in place, the Ducks have continued to spiral ever downward.

Anaheim is 2-7-1 since Boudreau took over, still in the depths of the Western Conference and a prime contender for a lottery pick this coming offseason. We all remember the 48 hour Bobby Ryan circus that dominated the airwaves in the days leading up to the Carlyle firing, and now Darren Dreger is reporting that there are "NHL people who believe Getzlaf for the right price might be available at some point"; while he states that Getzlaf isn't on the block right now, that type of willingness to listen to offers for your current Captain and member of the Big Three indicates something is clearly amiss in Anaheim.

Darm days for the Ducks. As for the Sharks, they seem to be putting a rough ten game stretch in the rear-view mirror, as four straight wins and games in hand have helped them stay in the thick of the Western Conference home-ice race. After the jump we look at three basic statistical categories that are good indicators of sustained success for a team, and see where the Sharks match up against the other juggernauts in the West.

What follows is three statistical categories that, while not the end-all be-all of team talent barometers, do a pretty good job of setting the record straight on who is for real and who is riding the percentages. In order of appearance we have:

  • Points percentage (Points divided by Games Played)
  • Goal differential (Goals For minus Goals Against)
  • 5v5 Goal Ratio (Goals For divided by Goals Against at 5v5)

Western Conference Team Statistical Rankings

Rank Team
Points %
- Rank Team G/Ga Dif.
-
Rank Team 5v5 Ratio
1
CHI
.686
- 1 DET +33 - 1 DET 1.63
2 STL
.647
- 2 VAN +30 - 2 SJS 1.52
3 SJS
.641
- 3 SJS +18 - 3 STL 1.50
4
DET
.632
- 4 CHI +16 - 4 VAN 1.21
5 VAN
.629
- 5 STL +13 - 5 CHI 1.04

Well it's pretty easy to tell who the class of the West is this season-- all five of these teams land in the top five for these categories, making it a pretty cut and dry affair. Heading into the season I expected four of them (VAN, CHI, SJS, DET) to be in the running in these categories, with Los Angeles rounding out the field.

Coming into the season St. Louis looked like a dangerous low seed that could do some damage in the first round, but this analysis locks down what so many have already said before-- the Blues are for real, no ifs ands or buts about it. That's a damn good team which has the potential to go pretty deep in the playoffs provided they stay healthy.

Overall there's a couple things to take out of this-- the West is filled with some top-notch teams at the top, but may not be as deep as it was in year's past. There's never a cakewalk in the postseason (especially for the team that draws Los Angeles, because I'm still a believer no matter what that underlying metrics say), but this make it clear how important it is going to be to lock down at least the division title this season. A 4-5 matchup is going to be brutal for any team trying to go deep-- the regular season is still extremely important, even if the dialogue surrounding the Sharks usually makes it seem otherwise.

Tonight the Sharks get another chance to rack up some points against a struggling opponent. We preached on and on about how important this six-game homestand was, and by jove have the Sharks ever delivered. Keeping that going tonight before hitting the road in January is a perfect way to round further into norm and hit the New Year running.

Prediction: Sharks win 5-1. Goals by McGinn (x2), Couture, Burns, and Pavelski.

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