Last year, both Southern California NHL teams made the playoffs. The Ducks were the 4th seed, believe it or not. What a difference a year makes. Though the Kings went back and forth between being 3rd, 7th, 8th, and even out of the playoffs in the last couple weeks of the regular season, they ended in 8th. By points, the three Pacific teams who made this year’s NHL playoffs are 6th – 8th place. I’ve always been a believer in giving home ice advantage to the teams who do the best, not automatically assigning the top three seed positions to the winners of each division in the two conferences. If that were the case, none of the Pacific teams would start out with home ice advantage. Since it’s not, the Phoenix Coyotes (below the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks in points) will have home ice advantage to start the playoffs. (As a side note, the Florida Panthers are in the same position in the East.)
The Anaheim Ducks were pretty clearly out of the playoffs early on this year. They replaced their coach with the hopes that it would help them, but I really don’t think they’ll be able to do much until they replace their general manager and no GM in his right mind would tell the owners of a team to fire him, so I’m guessing Murray bought himself a bit of time by blaming Randy Carlyle. Of course, the team’s poor performance for the rest of the season seems like a very good argument that Carlyle was not the problem
On paper, the Los Angeles Kings are a very strong team. They were expected to be pretty dominant this season and go far in the playoffs. They had a rough year and didn’t do nearly as well as expected. Some will argue that’s due to the strength of the Pacific Division, but I think the Atlantic Division (with four teams in the playoffs) in the East is a good argument against that. The Atlantic Division has almost all strong teams. Four out of the five teams will be in the playoffs. If you ranked by points instead of giving the division leaders the 2nd and 3rd spots, the Atlantic Division would be ranked 1-4 in the east and they’d all have home ice advantage. Considering the fact that the Pacific teams are the lowest in points, they really don’t seem as strong overall.
Of course, none of that matters as the playoffs start later this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the Kings perform in the playoffs this year. They’ve definitely got the advantage of having to fight to get into the playoffs, but they ended with a couple of losses in SO/OT against the Sharks and have to face Vancouver, who knocked them out of the playoffs two years ago and often seems to have their number. The schedule will be released 10am Pacific time on Sunday.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Atlantic Division, Blackhawks, Bob Murray, Canucks, Coyotes, Ducks, Hockey, Kings, NHL, Pacific Division, Panthers, playoffs, Predators, Randy Carlyle, Red Wings, Sharks
In the beginning of the season (though many seem to have forgotten about this part), the Kings were doing great and in solid playoff standings (even #1 in the entire NHL on and off for a while) and the Ducks were struggling to stay out of last place in the NHL. Then, Jonas Hiller (the Ducks’ #1 goaltender) started to steal games for the Ducks. The Ducks still weren’t playing well, but they were winning and climbing the standings steadily. The Kings went through a rough patch and found themselves low in the standings and in a place where their fans were questioning their certainty that their team would be in the playoffs for the second year in a row in 2011.
Now that most teams in the NHL have 20 games or less remaining in the season, the Kings are in 5th place (just one point behind the 4th place Coyotes and they have a game in hand). They’re 5 points ahead of the 11th place Ducks (only 2 points out of the playoffs, but only 3 points ahead of 13th place). Jonas Hiller is injured (with symptoms of vertigo) and Ducks GM Bob Murray has already signed Ray Emery and traded the former backup (Curtis McElhinney) for Dan Ellis, who lost to the Wild in overtime last night. If I were the Ducks, I’d be making sure Hiller is seeing every specialist out there. I know a few people who suffer from vertigo and one way or another, the end of their symptoms is almost always the same. They see the right specialist or take the right medication and they’re back to normal until something else sets off their vertigo. I don’t know how the Ducks are handling the situation with Hiller, but he’s clearly still not healthy, which has already been very bad for the team. Hiller seems to be getting a bit more of the credit for the Ducks’ success earlier, but what good is that if he’s not able to play and the Ducks are sitting at home in the post-season again? The western conference remains tight. Only 5 points separates 4th place from 10th. The Kings have won three games in a row, in spite of giving up their 4-0 lead in today’s game and only beating the Avalanche by one goal. They’ve won 11 of their last 15 games and got points in 3 of the 4 they lost.
I find it interesting that the two southern California teams haven’t done well at the same time this season. I think it would be great for southern California hockey to have the Kings and the Ducks in the playoffs at the same time, but it looks like 2011 won’t be the year for that.
In spite of the struggling Anaheim team, somehow GM Bob Murray got a four year extension to his contract yesterday (an act that almost made one of my friends who’s a fan of the Ducks cry). I haven’t talked to anyone who believes Murray has been doing a good job as the General Manager of the Ducks, but clearly those most important in the decision believe in him. I think this will bring more mediocre hockey to the Ducks fans in the near future and the owners will wish they’d found a new GM, but time will tell. The trade deadline is coming up Monday at noon (PT), but so far the most shocking transaction was the Ducks resigning Murray. It doesn’t have to do with a player directly, but this development could have a longer impact on the team than most of the trade deadline moves on their teams. Many trade deadline moves result in a player transaction that only affects a team until the end of the playoffs that year. Very few of the moves affect a team for four years.
Tags: Avalanche, Bob Murray, contract, Coyotes, Curtis McElhinney, Dan Ellis, Ducks, general manager, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Ray Emery, trade deadline