From The Blue Line
Dallas Eakins has an approach in which demands that all of his defensemen join the rush, pinch, and otherwise become aggressive in the offensive zone. Given the sheer volume of odd-man rushes the Ducks give up on a game-to-game basis, whether this is a fundamentally good idea may be debated.
Nonetheless, all the blue-liners from Cam Fowler to Ben Hutton are expected to activate. Six of the current defensive players have been involved in both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, thus they will be our focus.
The Anaheim Ducks Defenseman as a Group
Before delving into the individuals it’s worth looking at their accumulative results. Thus given putting up points is the primary concern on the offensive end, it’s worth noting that the returning Anaheim Ducks defensive group is scoring at a reduced rate of ~264.5%. Quite simply, they’re struggling to have an offensive impact on the game and this is despite a ~253% increase in shooting percentage! It’s astounding really.
Nonetheless, the mechanics behind it are a little frightening. Individual shot attempts have increased by ~42 and that is the extent of the positive offensive contributions from the blue line. Conversely, assist numbers have declined (~193.7%), as have individual expected goals (~48.5%), unblocked shot attempts (~37.3%), shots on net (~64.7%), scoring chances (~27.3%), high danger chances (~110.1%), rush attempts (~23.3%), and rebounds created (~107.5%).
It’s almost as if the blueliners have been tasked to shoot at will without any regard to shot quality or setting up teammates in better locations. With that said, the Anaheim Ducks offensive system seems heavily reliant on dumping the puck into the corner, before yo-yo’ing the puck back to the point for a shot from there, thus these numbers check out with the “eye test.”
Unfortunately, this returning defensive group has also presented increases in penalty minutes per 60 minutes of play (~320.3%) and giveaways (~166.2%) between last season and the present, though these are perhaps more heavily related to defensive play than offensive.
As an unrelated point of interest before looking at the individual players, this returning group has presented a ~410.3% increase in hits, suggesting that they have increased their physical play somewhat. Perhaps more notable is that they are blocking shots at a significantly reduced rate from last season (~72.4%).
This decrease has somewhat mimicked league trends this season, however, across the league goal-scoring hasn’t noticeably been altered by this trend. The Ducks however are letting in far more goals this season, thus one wonders if a high blocking game may be more efficient to their success with the netminders they have. It’s something that maybe could be explored in the future.