make us give us an excuse to do and say some pretty weird stuff. When a Starbucks barista puts cream into my coffee even though I just said I wanted it black I don’t boo the barista, nor is it deemed acceptable to chant “refs you suck” at a kid’s spelling bee, apparently. Learned that one the hard way.
My own inability to socialize with other humans aside, one area where sport and normal life seem synced up is our reaction to failure. I wrote about this, to an extent, about the Washington Capitals during the postseason; but that was about fan and media reaction to a team failing. What happens when management takes a loss too hard?
So the Anaheim Ducks, after losing one-too-many game sevens in a row is having a bit of a meltdown. The team will likely still be quite good this year given the amount of on-ice talent Anaheim retained from last year; but they certainly won’t be as good.
That’s kind of a problem, since their very talented team from a year ago got edged by a Nashville squad that just got better. Hiring Randy Carlyle was the all-too predictable move after Anaheim general manager Bob Murray let his players have it in a post-season press conference.
It’s easier to fire a coach than it is to fire players, right? It’s much harder to try to identify a team’s problem(s) when you’re angry. What the Ducks have done since losing to the Predators should sound very familiar to Sharks fans who just went through a similar series of moves from Doug Wilson two years ago.
Things have, thankfully, worked out fine since the disastrous 2014-15 season as Wilson made some very good moves during the last offseason. What Murray has done in Anaheim appears to be worse than anything Wilson did following the Sharks loss to the Kings in 2014 — which is kind of hard to believe.
Signing a face-puncher with very limited hockey talent stinks, but probably won’t kill your team (though it may seriously dent those Cup chances). Hiring one of the worst head coaches in the modern NHL era? That can do some damage. The worst part of all of this is that the Ducks are desperately trying to solve a problem that may not exist.
If the problem for Anaheim is a lack of composure and not a series of bad luck, this still doesn’t make for a convincing answer. I won’t pretend to know the psyche of Ducks players and coaches better than Murray, but it seems silly to me that the reaction to your team losing is to try to make your team worse.
Okay, so perhaps Murray thinks this makes the team better. Maybe Wilson thought Mike Brown and John Scott made the Sharks better. Maybe! If that’s the case, I think we just identified our problem.
This isn’t all to say that teams should be fine with losing, either. My point is that losing in the playoffs, even in a heartbreaking, soul-crushing manner, doesn’t mean your team is broken. 15 teams lose in the playoffs every year, and a good chunk of those are teams that are pretty darn good.
What I see in Anaheim is a general manager that couldn’t handle the sting of losing and overreacted in an attempt to soothe it. Now one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference a year ago is starting to lose its sting.