Anaheim Ducks: Penalties Have Become a Huge Problem

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 10: Nick Ritchie #37 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on October 10, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 10: Nick Ritchie #37 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on October 10, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Penalties have become the Anaheim Ducks Achilles heel, and we’re only seven games into the season. It’s a problem that needs to be solved if they have any hopes at continued success.

A 5-2 victory against the Buffalo Sabres last night has propelled the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-2-0 season record. However, their recent win has overshadowed a glaring issue in their current system. The exuberant amount of penalties the team has taken has been a source of frustration for the fans, and last night, they took it to the extreme.

Between the Sabres and the Ducks, 21 penalties were taken. The two teams spent a combined 42 minutes in the sin bin. There were only 18 minutes throughout the entire game when both teams were playing 5-on-5. Although Buffalo wasn’t an innocent party by any means, the Anaheim Ducks took a majority of the penalties, with 12.

Spending so much time on the penalty kill against the Buffalo Sabres was dangerous. With the best power play in the league, Buffalo could have easily taken the Ducks for all they’re worth. Anaheim is lucky they only allowed one power-play goal late in the first period. If their penalty kill wasn’t in tip-top shape, due to all of their recent practice, the game could have ended differently.

So far this season, the Ducks have been short-handed for 72 minutes in just 7 games played. Only 4 players on the current roster, not including John Gibson and Ryan Miller, have yet to take a penalty. They are second in penalties, only to the Carolina Hurricanes, and fifth in PIM. They’ve managed to win a majority of their games this far, but if something doesn’t change, it’s going to catch up with them sooner or later.

Where’s the Big Disconnect?

Dallas Eakins has been adamant that he wants his team to cut down on the pointless penalties. After last season, who can blame him? Last year, they ended the season 4th in penalties. That is not an accomplishment the team should be proud of by any means. They started the season off on the right foot, taking only one penalty against Arizona. Nevertheless, it’s all gone downhill ever since.

"“A lot of times it’s just being competitive, but it’s got to stop. We can’t take an extra penalty every night. I’d rather be the team taking one less. That’s a good start. I’d like to have no penalties but taking one is OK, too.” -Dallas Eakins after Anaheim Ducks 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes"

Eakins’ point is the only reasonable explanation for the inordinate amount of penalties the team has been taking. They want to be competitive and that’s not a bad thing. After last season, they have the desire to win. However, their competitive spirit is sometimes their biggest downfall and they need to learn how to control it and utilize it in a healthy way.

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It’s No Surprise that Nick Ritchie is Leading the Flock

Nick Ritchie is currently leading the team, along with Josh Manson, with 8 PIM. It’s not a huge surprise, especially to the fans. Over the years, he’s found it harder and harder to stay out of the box. He has a tendency to let his anger get the best of him, and things took a nasty turn last night against the Buffalo Sabres.

Ritchie was assessed a double-minor for roughing Sabres forward, Vladimir Sobotka. During a stoppage of play, he grabbed Sobotka by the face and drove him into the ice. His actions have cost him a hefty fine of $4,121.86, the maximum allowed under the NHL and NHLPA’s current CBA.

I’ve been a big proponent that Ritchie is an integral part of this team. Nevertheless, his actions are inexcusable. With every step he takes forward, he takes two steps back due to his hot-headedness and irritability. Something needs to change, or Ritchie could find himself on the outs in exchange for a more disciplined player.

Change Needs to Happen

Change is not a suggestion, it is a requirement if this team has any hopes of continuing their early success. The Ducks cannot win games if they are constantly outnumbered and outplayed. John Gibson and the PK units can only do so much, and when important players on your PK are taking penalties too, that just adds gas to the fire.

Penalties are bound to happen, it’s just the nature of the game. But, the NHL is all about respect. That doesn’t mean just being respectful to your teammates, fans, and the organization in which you play; it also means being respectful towards the opposing team. Things are bound to get heated between teams every once and a while, but the Anaheim Ducks cannot continue to take an insane amount of penalties each and every night.

Dallas Eakins was hired as the new coach for a reason, and it’s time for him to step up and do what Randy Carlyle couldn’t do. Accountability and discipline are going to be key in taking the step in the right direction. Let’s just hope the team is willing to listen and take direction from their new leader.

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