The Anaheim Ducks 2018-19 season has been a roller coaster, but if given the choice, would you get back on?
Last season, when the Anaheim Ducks were swept by the San Jose Sharks in the Conference Quarter-Finals, I wrote an article detailing my journey through the 5 Stages of Grief. After coming to acceptance with an early exit, I had every hope in the world that the 2018-19 season would be vastly different. Technically, I was right, but in all the wrong ways.
I was a little skeptical when Bob Murray chose Isac Lundestrom in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He seemed like a safe choice, with little upside. However, after seeing how he, as well as the rest of the prospects, played during the rookie tournament, I allowed myself to set my hopes even higher.
The thought that Randy Carlyle would be back for another season left me slightly puzzled. Still, I had high hopes. He helped an injured Ducks team push their way to the playoffs when they really had no business being there. Promises from Bob Murray that a new, and relevant, speed driven system was going to be instituted as well as an opportunity for the Ducklings really helped their case.
With the nostalgia surrounding the 25th Anniversary season, including a sleek third jersey, there was nothing that made me think that the Anaheim Ducks wouldn’t pull off another miracle and make it to the playoffs. I knew they’d struggle, they always seem to have trouble getting things off the ground in the first half of the season, just to make an impressive push in the second half.
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John Gibson, Adam Henrique, Ondrej Kase, Brandon Montour, and eventually, Nick Ritchie, were all signed to contract extensions. Troy Terry, Max Comtois, Sam Steel, and the surprising Kiefer Sherwood all seemed like a possibility on opening night. A few acquisitions in Free Agency were puzzling, but, I welcomed new faces with open arms.
My dad, too, had confidence in the Anaheim Ducks. He’s always been a fan of hockey, but never committed to a team. So, we made a bet. If the Anaheim Ducks made it the playoffs, he would finally become a Ducks fan after years of me trying to convince him. However, if they missed the playoffs, I had to interview someone of his choice (we all know how the season ended, so stay tuned to see if I keep my end of the bargain.)
This Season Has Been a Wild Ride
Then, the season started. The Anaheim Ducks traveled to the SAP Center to take on the San Jose Sharks. They defeated their cross-state foes 5-2. While a win was a great way to start off the season, I think it’s safe to say that each of us stared at our TV screens with puzzled looks on our faces, wondering how the Anaheim Ducks had just won that game.
It continued for two more games, the team won despite looking absolutely atrocious. Their mediocrity continued for the first few weeks, and then, mid-October, the suffered a 7 game losing streak. Things began to look up when they won 9/10 games during a stint in November, having an incredible road trip which included a win against one of the best teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a phenomenal comeback in the Capital against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals.
Then, the Anaheim Ducks fell back down to earth and pulled all of us down along with them. They surpassed a previous franchise record with a 12 game losing streak. You think after two long losing streaks, Bob Murray would put his foot down and fire Randy Carlyle, but no, he blamed the players.
Andrew Cogliano was the first victim on the chopping block. Traded to the Dallas Stars for a younger, but similar, Devin Shore. The Anaheim Ducks top goal scorer, Pontus Aberg, was traded for an AHL player, Justin Kloos. Then, Murray traded one of my personal favorite AHL players, Joseph Blandisi, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the reacquisition of Derek Grant. While I may have been against the latter trade early on, I would late eat my words. Bringing back Grant was a smart move on Murray’s part.
Two wins later, the Ducks were back to losing. This time, 7 games. If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that I would have joined the tank movement and been rooting for the Anaheim Ducks to lose, I would have called you crazy. But, there I was, crossing my fingers for another loss.
Finally, Carlyle got the boot, but not until the season ticket holders let their voice be heard. There is no evidence that this is why the Samueli’s and Bob Murray put their foot down, but many of us have speculated. I, personally, had to take a step back from hockey for about a week around this time just to maintain my sanity.
Instead of appointing one of his assistant coaches to take over coaching duties until the end of the season, Bob Murray himself, sweater vest and all, stepped behind the bench. While I may have laughed at this move early one, I wholeheartedly believe this was one of his smartest moves of the season behind the Brandon Montour trade.
Finally Getting Off the Roller Coaster
This season didn’t turn out how any of us fans wanted to, that much is true. When it ended, I had a feeling in my stomach similar to the feeling you get when you finally get off of a roller coaster; slightly nauseated but elated all at the same time. 2018-19 disappointed me in so many ways but gave me so much to look forward to.
I realized early on, that since becoming a fan of the Anaheim Ducks, I have been spoiled with seasons full of playoff hockey. If memory serves me correctly, I’ve only seen the Ducks miss the playoffs once since becoming a part of Ducks Nation.
Every team goes through seasons like this, and the Anaheim Ducks, although a young team, are no exception to the rule of thumb. However, now that this season has ended, we can start to get excited about the future. We have a new coach, the draft, trades, free agency, and the Ducklings to look forward to over the next few months and into next season.
Despite all the losing, the broken promises, the frustration, and everything in between, the Anaheim Ducks still gave me something to cheer for when there were days I didn’t have the strength to cheer for myself. Whether I was cheering for a win, cheering for the tank, or cheering for Randy Carlyle to get fired, I still enjoyed my self quite a bit this season.
The Anaheim Ducks and Ducks Nation is so much more than just a group of hockey-obsessed people. We are a community, and community is something I desperately needed this season. The biggest lesson I have learned this year, although we had to suffer through such an excruciatingly difficult season, is that if given the choice, I would get right back on the roller coaster each and every time. The Anaheim Ducks are my team, Ducks Nation has become my family, and win or loss, I love each and every one of you!
We have a lot to look forward to next season. However, what I’m looking forward to most is cheering alongside each and every one of you. Thank you for making this season bearable and worthwhile!