Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, top center, shoots as he is defended… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Angered by his team's continued wretched play, Ducks General Manager Bob Murray said he's prepared to make dramatic changes and underscored his point by saying only Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are not available in trades.
Both veteran forwards have no-trade clauses. But if Selanne were to ask to be traded to a Stanley Cup contender Murray surely wouldn't stand in his way, though Murray still wants Selanne to retire as a Duck.
"And the rest of the players in that locker room, I thought they'd figure out when we changed coaches that time was running, the clock was running quickly here. And I don't care who you talked about," Murray said, referring to his dismissal of Coach Randy Carlyle on Nov. 30 and hiring of former Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
"But we will not go to draft picks. It's not my intention."
Speaking before the Ducks' 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday at Honda Center, Murray didn't quite concede the season. But he came close, recognizing the enormity of the 19-point chasm between the Ducks and the last playoff spot in the West.
"We're going to get ready for next year," he said, repeating that he's not rebuilding and doesn't intend to trade established players for prospects and draft choices.
"I think this team can be turned around to make the playoffs next year. I think it's going to be hard to do it this year but I do want them to make a run. But it's got to happen quick. Everybody knows that. … Let's start playing better hockey."
Three games short of the halfway point of the season the Ducks have won only 10 games and rank 29th in the NHL.
"It's an embarrassing stat. That's really all you can say about it," forward Bobby Ryan said. "You look at the standings and they continue to separate us from even the team ahead of us."
The baffling aspect is that the Ducks are essentially the same team that finished fourth in the West last season, but key players such as goaltender Jonas Hiller, Ryan and captain Ryan Getzlaf have experienced huge drop-offs. In addition, defenseman Toni Lydman, a stalwart last season, has struggled after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"First of all, we do have a lot of good core players. Everybody in pro hockey knows we have good core players and explaining why they're playing the way they are and why we've had the year we've had so far it's just frustrating and unexplainable and it's not good enough," Murray said. "It's unacceptable.
"I still believe we have some core players. Now, whether we have to change a few core players, so be it. They're deciding who's staying and who's not staying at this point."
The Ducks took the lead 2 minutes 37 seconds into the game, after Andrew Cogliano intercepted a clearing attempt and found Corey Perry in front. But the Sharks, whose win vaulted them past the Kings and atop the Pacific Division, struck twice late in the second period. Brad Winchester, who briefly played for the Ducks last season, scored from the left circle at 16:23 and Benn Ferriero converted a rebound at 16:50.
"It's happened a lot to this group," Boudreau said of giving up goals in quick succession. "Before they went on, after they'd scored, the first thing I said was, 'This is the shift, because they'll push on this shift and what has happened in the past.' And they did and we didn't meet their push and they scored the goal. ... You knew it was going to happen."
The Ducks created many chances in the third period and hit the crossbar seconds before San Jose scored its final goal, by Joe Pavelski at 12:43 on the rebound of a shot by Joe Thornton. Boudreau said he liked his team's work ethic but knew that wouldn't be much consolation.
"You can't cut your losses and move on and just play to play. We have to play for a little bit of respect at this stage," Ryan said. "We've got to play for each other and we still haven't yet to do that, you know?"
The hockey world knows. And soon the group that hasn't played for each other could be shaken up. It's their chance, and maybe Murray's as well, to make a last stand