"Obviously, the sun is going to come up tomorrow - we hope," Anaheim Ducks' coach Randy Carlyle was saying Sunday, but with the way things were going for his beleaguered NHL team, I figured I'd better check just to be sure. Yes, turns out Carlyle was right. Cloudy and 66F in Anaheim first thing this morning, but turning sunny later, with the temperature climbing to 82F - maybe just enough warmth to dispel the doom and gloom surrounding the Ducks in these early days of the NHL season.
You can find Anaheim, champs as recently as 2007, right there at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, with a 0-3 record that doesn't begin to say everything about how badly things have gone. Sometimes, you can lose three in a row and be close in every game. Anaheim wasn't. They were pummeled by a collective 13-2 margin in successive road losses to Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis. They have given up 145 shots in all, and finally Carlyle gave starter Jonas Hiller the hook midway through the Blues' game, not because Hiller was doing such a bad job, but because he showing mercy to a goalie under constant siege. The Ducks responded to the change so well that replacement Curtis McElhinney faced almost a shot a minute in the mop-up role - 19 in his 24-plus minutes of playing time.
Everybody suspected that Anaheim's defence would be a problem area, in the season after Scott Niedermayer retired and James Wiesniewski was traded away to the New York Islanders, but it's hard to imagine that it could be so bad so quickly. Toni Lydman was signed to partially mitigate the losses; he hasn't played yet because of an acute case of double vision. Andy Sutton also came in and was playing on the No. 1 pair with ex-Oiler Lubo Visnovsky until he broke his thumb, leaving the Ducks to sign ex-Wing Andres Lilja as an injury replacement because - well - because they really had no other options. Lilja will start to play as soon as he gets his work visa straightened out.
In the meantime, the Ducks need a find a way to score a few more goals, something they should be able to do, given their talent on the top two lines. Right now, they have just two goals, both scored by former Habs' captain Saku Koivu. The No. 1 line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan have been skunked this year and have a collective minus-12 rating to show for the first three games, with Getzlaf, the new captain, at minus-5. It's bad - maybe not bad enough for Carlyle to walk the plank right now, but certainly bad enough for the hints and speculation about his job security to begin.
Anaheim's home opener is Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks and you'd have to think they will be a motivated flock for that outing. Getzlaf is a perennial slow starter - two years ago, it took him six games to dent the scores sheet and he subsequently ended up with a career-high 91 points. Getzlaf's Novembers have always been superior to his Octobers, so there is hope and solace there. Still, even as a team in transition, the Ducks were entertaining playoff thoughts this year. In a conference where it usually takes 95 or more points to make the top eight, they need to get this turned around, sooner rather than later. Or heads may start to roll.