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Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, top, flipped over Nashville's Matt Halischuk during the playoffs in April.

Chris Carlson, Associated Press - Ap

Sunday Insider: Ducks down, but not dumb

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • December 4, 2011 - 2:45 AM

Bob Murray beat me to the punch.

For a week, I have been inundated with e-mails and tweets asking if the Wild would dive into the Bobby Ryan sweepstakes, like even if the rumors were true that he was available the Wild could have had him for a bucket of pucks and a minor league scrub and not the absolute monster package it would take.

Hey, I get the reason for the questions: The Wild could use an offensive star, it has lots of salary-cap room and General Manager Chuck Fletcher played a gigantic role in the Ducks drafting Ryan in the first place.

But as the rumors caught fire and suddenly Ryan, the Ducks' 24-year-old goal scorer, was allegedly as good as gone, my question in this space was going to be, "Why?"

Hey, the Ducks have stunk. Losing 16 out of 18 until Wednesday's victory over Montreal was unacceptable and demanded a managerial response and shakeup.

But why on earth would you break into the foundation and trade a young (stressing the word, young) stud like Bobby Ryan?

Here's a novel concept: Fire the coach.

Anybody who has watched the Ducks knew they were no longer responding to Randy Carlyle.

You can tolerate a surly, sarcastic, gruff Carlyle when you're winning. But the Ducks were long past being willing to handle the stubbornly old-school Carlyle.

There is no denying the former Norris Trophy winner is a tremendous coach. It was Carlyle who guided Anaheim to a 2007 Stanley Cup. But the losing wasn't going to end. Talk to most players who have played for Carlyle, and they can't stand him. The Ducks finally quit on him.

As former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward, who played with Anaheim at the end of his career, said on TSN, "The man absolutely sucked the life and the fun out of the game."

So Wednesday night, a half-hour after the Ducks beat the Canadiens, Ducks GM Murray fired Carlyle and the rest of the coaching staff and hired Bruce Boudreau, who had been thrown to the curb by the Washington Capitals only two days before.

It'll be interesting to see if the Ducks respond now because there are some glaring weaknesses that go beyond Carlyle.

The top line of Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry has underperformed. The second line, which includes Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, is aging. There's little depth on the third and fourth lines. The Ducks' blue line is threatening offensively but hasn't been good defensively (their most dynamic defenseman, 19-year-old Cam Fowler, is a career minus-39).

And when it comes to goaltending, Jonas Hiller has been abysmal -- the largest factor for Anaheim's repeated losses.

Some national pundits and hockey fans love to say the Wild keeps winning with smoke and mirrors because of how much it has relied on stingy goaltending, but find me one team that wins without great goaltending.

That's the league now. No team has the ability to score four or five goals a game to overcome poor goaltending. The Ducks have gotten subpar goaltending.

Look, maybe at the end of the day the losses continue and the noose becomes so tight that Murray will have to contemplate trading Ryan.

But to do so without firing Carlyle first was beyond ridiculous.

Sorry, when every team in the league would line up to trade for your player, it's a good indication you try axing the coach first before trading that player.

With Carlyle gone, the Ryan trade rumors should quiet for a while, and thankfully, so should the e-mails and tweets.

If the losing continues, ask me then if the Wild would be interested. And I'll tell you what kind of monster package it would take to get him.

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