Ducks Injuries And Penalties Holding Back Their Potential

Trevor Zegras

Coming off the franchise’s worst season last year, the Ducks were supposed to take a step in the right direction this season with new head coach Greg Cronin and a roster that sports 12 players under 25. However, injuries to key young players and unnecessary penalties have put a halt to their progress.

Although the Ducks are currently 15-27-1, and their 31 points have them as the fourth-worst team in the league, the team has shown signs of improvement. It is easy to look at the record and think this is the same team from last year that will finish in the basement in another year of their rebuilding journey, but that is not the case.

This is a far more competitive team, despite what the record shows. The Ducks have the most regulation losses in one-goal games in the league (10) and are 5-10 in games decided by three or more goals, whereas last year, they were a measly 3-33 in games decided by three goals or more. The Ducks were blown out in 40% of their games last year.

With the rebuild slowly coming along, the roster still has a ways to go, but the Ducks should have more wins. More often than not, they find themselves in close games, yet poorly-timed penalties have killed their chances of winning. The Ducks are the most penalized team in the league by a wide margin, with 244 penalties, according to Statmuse. Their 5.14 minor penalties per 60 minutes (PENT2/60) is also the highest rate in the league, with the Boston Bruins in second with a 4.21 PENT2/60, according to Evolving Hockey. The difference between the Ducks and the second-ranked Bruins is the exact difference between the Panthers and the 26th-ranked Vancouver Canucks.

Not that any penalty is a “good one,” but the vast majority of penalties that the Ducks take are frustrating. The Ducks run a strict man-on-man defense that can be very effective, but the problem that the Ducks are running into is that once their man beats them, they try to use their stick to catch up and end up taking hooking or tripping penalties.

Another frustratingly common penalty is the retaliation roughing penalty. There have been many instances where a Ducks player gets roughed up after play ends, and they decide to retaliate and either end up short-handed or negating the original penalty.

The Ducks also lead the league in too many men penalties with 11. A common theme with these penalties has been the result of players coasting to the bench on line changes instead of getting off quickly. The players coming onto the ice should wait for their teammates to fully get off the ice, but there needs to be a better effort to get off the ice quickly to complete the change.

Now, you may think that is the growing pains of having a young team, but the veteran players are just as guilty, if not more than the young guys. The top three players in minor penalties taken on the Ducks this year are Frank Vatrano (24), Radko Gudas (23), and Mason McTavish (20), according to Evolving Hockey. Ilya Lyubushkin and Ryan Strome are not far behind, with 16 taken each. Among the league rankings of minor penalties taken, Vatrano ranks first, Gudas ranks second, and McTavish ranks fifth, according to Evolving Hockey.

Injuries have also done the Ducks no favors. With the season officially passing the halfway mark, the Ducks have a laundry list of injuries to their notable players. 

These players include Trevor Zegras (20 games played), Leo Carlsson (24 games played), Jamie Drysdale (10 games played before being traded this week), Alex Killorn (33 games played), Max Jones (34 games played), Mason McTavish (36 games played) and Isac Lundeström (seven games played). Not to mention that the Ducks lost Pavel Mintyukov for about six weeks with a separated shoulder, Zegras for six to eight weeks with a fractured ankle, and John Gibson with an upper-body injury (unknown duration) on Tuesday night when they played the Nashville Predators. Then the very next game, Brett Leason left the game with an upper-body injury and has yet to rejoin the lineup.

There have not been many games that the Ducks have played where all of the members of the young core were in the same lineup. Not saying they are a playoff team, but it is hard to imagine that the Ducks would still be in the basement if they stayed relatively healthy. The Ducks showed what they are capable of in October when they were mostly healthy and playing a better brand of hockey, going 5-4 with wins against playoff-caliber teams in the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins.

With Mintyukov and Zegras rejoining the team by early March and newly acquired prospect Cutter Gauthier joining the Ducks once Boston College’s season is done, the Ducks still have exciting hockey ahead of them. If they stay healthy and out of the penalty box, that is.

On this episode of LAP, the guys cover the week's games and reflect on Jakob Silfverberg's career after the news of his retirement. Leo Carlsson continues to be him and the wait for Cutter Gauthier is prolonged another day. The guys talk about some exciting milestones from around the league and briefly talk about the Coyotes relocation chatter. As always, they close the episode out with listener questions!Follow Late Arrivals Twitter: @latearrivalspodInstagram: @latearrivalspodFollow the hostsChris: @CJKChelJake: @_JRobles71Louis: @Louiex37 Intro/ Outro done by Will Rice/ @pastorwillrice
  1. Episode 83: Ooh Ah
  2. Episode 82: The Thinking Man's Podcast
  3. Episode 81: Whatabummer
  4. Episode 80: It's Only Game
  5. Episode 79: What's Nine Plus Ten?

Jack Janes

Journalism major at the University of La Verne. Writer for Inside The Rink covering the Anaheim Ducks.

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