Ducks sort through what went wrong

Amid exit in­ter­views, GM Mur­ray says the team didn’t re­act well to stress in the end.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lance Pug­mire lance.pug­mire@la­times.com Twit­ter: @la­time­spug­mire

What es­caped the Ducks along with the one victory needed to ap­pear in the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal is a mys­te­ri­ous el­e­ment that Gen­eral Manager Bob Mur­ray and his play­ers con­tin­ued to search forTues­day.

The eval­u­a­tion process that be­gan with play­ers’ exit in­ter­views at Honda Cen­ter is so thor­ough, Mur­ray wouldn’t even com­mit to the sce­nario that Coach Bruce Boudreau will re­turn next sea­son.

“Far too early to tell you what I’m think­ing. I’ve got lots of thoughts in my mind and I’ve got to sort them out,” Mur­ray said.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing “the coach­ing staff made strides” and he was “fairly happy” with their over­all­work, Mur­ray also said he was dis­pleased with what oc­curred from when the Ducks al­lowed three sec­ond-pe­riod goals in a Game 6 loss to the Chicago Black­hawks to the mo­ment they were elim­i­nated in a Game 7 at home for an NHL record third straight sea­son.

“We did not re­act prop­erly what­so­ever. All struc­ture — all ev­ery­thing — went right out the win­dow,” Mur­ray said. “Wasn’t im­pressed by it at all. The unan­swered ques­tion is still the struc­ture when we get un­der stress­ful pe­ri­ods. When you’re not play­ing well, you have to fall back on your struc­ture. It failed us in a crit­i­cal mo­ment. That’s what I’m eval­u­at­ing.”

Boudreau said he ex­pects to con­vene with Mur­ray by the end of the­week.

“We know we’re get­ting bet­ter ev­ery year and we an­tic­i­pate get­ting bet­ter next year,” said Boudreau, who has two sea­sons re­main­ing on his con­tract.

Cen­ter Ryan Kesler said he be­lieves the Ducks are “des­tined for­great­ness,” but need to “get men­tally stronger.”

“You talk about ex­pe­ri­ence… the on­lyway to gain it is to go through it,” said cen­ter Ryan Get­zlaf, who set a fran­chise record with 20 play­off points but had a mi­nus-four rat­ing.

“Hope­fully, our guys learned some lessons. I did. You get ready for next sea­son, ap­proach it … on a mission to get back to have that op­por­tu­nity hap­pen again.”

But it’s the missed op­por­tu­ni­ties that gnaw, and the fact the Ducks squan­dered a 3-2 se­ries lead for the third straight sea­son.

“Things have hap­pened too many times over the last fewyears, and hope­fully we’ll fig­ure some­thing out,” said Corey Perry, who had 10 play­off goals.“We had a lot of good things, the pieces of the puz­zle were all fit­ting to­gether… you’re so close.”

But not ev­ery­one will be back.

That struck Matt Be­leskey hardSatur­day night, the for­ward say­ing he had a “sick feel­ing” while tak­ing off his Ducks sweater for per­haps the fi­nal time af­ter seven sea­sons. Be­leskey en­joyed a break­out 22-goal cam­paign, but he and vet­eran de­fense­man Fran­cois Beau­chemin, who turns 35 this week, can con­sider freeagent of­fers in July.

Be­leskey said, “It’s kind of tough to think about. I’m not sure what’s go­ing to hap­pen. You never want to leave a group like this. You def­i­nitely see us climb­ing and go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Beau­chemin said he hopes loy­alty comes into play.

“I’m not go­ing to sug­ar­coat it — It’s go­ing to be hard,” Mur­ray said of resigning those two play­ers. “I’ll take a shot, quickly, but I have a whole bunch of is­sues in front of me.”

The“is­sues” Mur­rayis re­fer­ring to are based on the “tag­ging” rule in the NHL’s col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment that pro­hibits teams from be­ing on the hook for more money in the fol­low­ing sea­son than the cur­rent sea­son’s salary cap.

So it be­hooves the Ducks to not only ad­dress this year’s po­ten­tial free agents — in­clud­ing young for­wards Jakob Sil­fver­berg and Emer­son Etem — but also ex­am­ine those who could go free af­ter next sea­son.

That list in­cludes Kesler, goal­tenders Fred­erik An­der­sen and John Gibson, de­fense­men Lind­holm, Simon De­spres and Sami Vata­nen, and cen­ter Rickard Rakell.

“You have to ad­dress them this year,” Mur­ray said.

“This is go­ing to be a great team for the next cou­ple of years,” Sil­fver­berg said. “I like it a lot. I’d like to stay here. We’ll have tomake sure we learn from this and take an­other step for­ward. We have a young team, haven’t playedin the­sekinds of games.”

He said the work that re­mains pro­vides mo­ti­va­tion for the third-youngest team in this year’s play­offs (with an av­er­age age of 26.8), but the num­bers don’t al­ways work out.

Mur­ray said “tag­ging” con­cerns could force him to trade, and said play­off per­for­mances will in­flu­ence those de­ci­sions.

“We were right there,” saidBoudreau, “andwe took our foot off the gas.”

‘Things have hap­pened too many times over the last few years, and hope­fully we’ll fig­ure some­thing out.’

— Corey Perry

Ducks right winger who had 10 goals in post­sea­son

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times

BRUCE BOUDREAU, right, and his coach­ing staff watch the clock count down on the Ducks’ sea­son in Game 7 ofWestern Con­fer­ence fi­nals against Black­hawks.

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