LOS ANGELES — The Kings fired John Stevens on Sunday, after a 4-8-1 start to a season. The Chicago Blackhawks sacked Joel Quenneville on Tuesday, after a 6-6-3 start. There were plenty of reasons to believe they wouldn’t be the only NHL coaches relieved of their duties before Thanksgiving.
If Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was worried he would be the next to go, he wasn’t sharing his feelings. He could feel the pain of Stevens and Quenneville, but he had more immediate concerns than what decisions might or might not be made in the executive suite at Honda Center after a 6-6-3 start.
“It’s a great game, but it’s an awful business,” Carlyle said of the NHL’s coaching carousel.
The task at hand, improving the Ducks and making them competitive, was difficult enough.
“It’s our responsibility, as a coaching staff, to show leadership and not to drag down the hockey club with the emotions, the frustrations that do take place,” Carlyle said. “You learn that over the years. You cannot change what’s happening in the moment. The time you change that is in the preparation.
“During the week, I think that you coach people and during the game, you manage people.”
General Manager Bob Murray has been patient. So far, anyway.
Carlyle’s status with the Ducks would seem secure. Their 5-1-1 record to open the season was a mirage and a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) that followed probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Injuries and the adjustment of playing to a higher tempo this season have hindered the Ducks’ progress.
There were encouraging signs in their past three or four games, including a streak-busting victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. The Ducks began to display a willingness and ability to win the small battles that lead to victories last week and it culminated with an overtime win Sunday.
The fight to regain lost ground in the standings is far from over, though.
“It’s about solutions,” Carlyle said. “That’s our responsibility, to provide solutions.”
BACK TO BASICS
A team meeting last week has paid dividends for the Ducks, according to Carlyle.
“We made a decision in the team meeting a week ago that what was taking place on the ice wasn’t good enough, was nowhere near what we were capable of, and we sat down and did a little bit of a dissecting of what needed to improve,” he said. “Now we’re trying to build on it.
“We need more of this. We need more of this. A, B, C, D, E and F. We need more of it.”
The Ducks responded with improved play during a shootout loss last Thursday to the New York Rangers and then took more steps with a 3-2 OT victory over the Blue Jackets on Sunday. The Ducks’ play was far more cohesive and consistent Sunday than at any point in the season.
“Our group has grasped the work ethic and tenacity,” Carlyle said. “The one-on-one battles on the ice, we were not winning enough of them, and now we’re winning our fair share of them in the last four or five games. It’s better when you have an opportunity to win a one-on-one battle.”
Carlyle called it “a stepping stone, a building block, a foundation for us to have success.”
DE LEO RECALLED
The Ducks recalled Chase De Leo from their AHL team, the San Diego Gulls, in order to bolster their depth at center after Ryan Getzlaf sat out Sunday’s game against Columbus because of an unspecified upper-body injury. De Leo, a La Mirada native, has two goals and five points in five games with San Diego this season. He’s played two career games in the NHL while with the Winnipeg Jets, including one against the Ducks.
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