Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 11/13/14

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 31: Teemu Selanne #8 of the Anaheim Ducks walks back to the locker room after warm ups to the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on October 31, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 3-2 in an overtime shootout. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks boasted last year's highest scoring defender, most threatening top line, the league MVP, and perhaps the greatest veteran in today's game with Teemu Selanne coming back for another year. In an ultra competitive Pacific Division this team wasn't expected to run away with the West, but they certainly were thought to be capable of matching last year's performance and possibly making a deeper playoff run. We're now 50 games into the season, and despite improved play as of late, the Ducks turned out a horrendous first half performance, and haven’t put themselves in place to even make the playoffs, much less eclipse last year's accomplishments.

What went wrong? When answering that question about a team with so much talent, you need to dig a little deeper. Here are three x-factors that ultimately doomed Anaheim's 2011-2012 season.

Coaching

Randy Carlyle wasn't a bad coach, but he his gameplan was set in stone. While that plan worked in 2007, it wasn't suited to the team GM Bob Murray has constructed in the years since, and having Bruce Boudreau take over made that painfully clear. Had the Ducks' management lost their patience with Carlyle earlier in the season, they might have had a chance to salvage the year, as Boudreau's methods have the team competing at a much higher level. Though in all likelihood, his mid-season hiring will have to wait until next season to truly come full circle.

The November Homestand

By November 9th the Ducks had gone 6-8-3 and while this was not an excellent start, it wasn't insurmountable. At this point Anaheim would play 11 of their next 13 games at home, with two of those games in Los Angeles and Phoenix close by. This home-stand should have been an excellent stretch for a Ducks team who has historically been very good at home. It should have been the springboard that would turn their season in the right direction and get them quickly back into the Western Conference conversation. It should have saved Randy Carlyle's job.

None of this happened.

Anaheim went 3-8-2 during this stretch, which sent them to the bottom of the standings and culminated in the firing of Carlyle and the hiring of Boudreau. The Ducks would drop eight of their next ten before turning their season around during January. However if the mid-season surge isn't enough to get them into the post-season, the wasted home-stand will be largely to blame.

First Half Goaltending

Jonas Hiller's year long battle with vertigo significantly hurt his playing ability and while his health this year was never in question, the lingering effects were almost certainly an issue.

Hiller's play has picked up as of late, but during the first half of the season he seemed very flustered, beatable and just plain inconsistent. With the injury issues behind him, and enough games played to regain his footing after missing so much time, the Ducks' netminder will likely maintain the expected level of play that won him the starting job over J.S. Giguere. The damage has been done though as Hiller's early season play cost Anaheim a lot of games.

What's the Solution?

Anaheim's current situation is good. They are 10-2-2 in their last 14 games and have won seven of their last 10. Everything that went wrong with the team this season has been addressed and appears to have been almost completely corrected. A new coaching staff is seeing their scheme take root with the players, the team is playing better at home and better goaltending is being complimented by a more aggressive defense. The only problem with all this is that it's too little-too late. Anaheim simply doesn't have enough racetrack to make up the ground they lost early in the season. Yet moving forward, the Ducks look to have solved what amounts to a four year Stanley Cup hangover. They've moved on from that coach and team and created a new-look Anaheim Ducks with the blue prints of Bruce Boudreau's Washington Capitals.

We'll have to wait until next season to see the full complement of these changes and whether or not they are enough to push Anaheim back into the playoffs and beyond.

 

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