Just because the Anaheim Ducks opted against playing defense this season doesn’t mean we can’t grade them. Harshly.
Jokes aside, however, trying to answer whether a particular player succeeded or failed against pre-season expectations in the system Head Coach Dallas Eakins implemented is a lesson in futility. As one of the poorer NHL coaches of any generation, with a storied history of underwhelming defensive schemes, succeeding under the tutelage of the man who implemented “the swarm” was always going to be a tall order for any of the Ducks blueliners.
The results of the team as a whole show this to be as true as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west on the spring and autumn equinox. Nonetheless, the Anaheim Ducks iced 12 defensemen this past season and by some cruel twist of fate, my editor has decided that without casting a single stone, I am to bring the hammer of judgment down upon them like an unforgiving god of mythology.
With that in mind, I’ve chosen to provide both a raw grade and a bell-curved adjusted grade, based on having Dallas Eakins as a coach. Like all bell curves, this can improve grades, or torpedo them. So without any further delay, I present my grades for the Anaheim Ducks 2021 blueliners.
Raw Grade: C+
Eakins Adjusted Bell-Curve Grade: B+
It feels just a little odd to say, but Cam Fowler just kind of went about his business this season. Statistically, he was one of the better Ducks blueliners, yet overall, many of his results fall in line with those of his previous seasons.
Of the numbers that did stand out in a positive fashion, points per 60 minutes of play were once again higher than his career norm. For an offensively driven player, this is a positive sign. Defensively, shot attempts against him were at a career-low, although not to a statistically significant degree.
Nonetheless, despite all other numbers being within a margin of his career averages, walking away with a near career-best scoring rate (second only to last season) and with career-best shot suppression numbers, is a positive step for Fowler. It seems that playing for Dallas Eakins has agreed with Fowler.