Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has been fired during his career so he had no trouble mustering sympathy for John Stevens, who was let go by the Kings on Sunday, and for three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville, whose firing by the Chicago Blackhawks set the hockey world buzzing on Tuesday.
Asked how he viewed Quenneville’s shocking dismissal in particular, Carlyle offered an interesting perspective. “I don’t know what their situation is. On the exterior there’s a huge amount of success that organization has been blessed with, with him at the helm,” Carlyle said. “But I know how this business works, being on both sides of the fence. And as I’ve stated before, it’s a great game but it’s an awful business, and sometimes those things become front and center over what’s happening on the ice.”
Carlyle’s own job security isn’t rock-solid, but it’s unclear if Quenneville’s sudden availability will change that. Ducks general manager Bob Murray has been patient with Carlyle and has factored in the Ducks’ league-leading 93 man-games lost to injury when evaluating Carlyle’s performance. Murray is more likely to first try to shake things up with a trade before he makes a coaching change, but his patience probably isn’t infinite. Quenneville’s availability won’t affect the Kings’ plans to have Willie Desjardins coach them on an interim basis for the rest of this season.
Carlyle’s Ducks will be the opponent Tuesday night at Staples Center when Desjardins makes his Kings coaching debut. Kings-Ducks matchups automatically generate a lot of emotion, and Ducks players said they expect to see the Kings even more revved up than usual in an effort to make an impression on Desjardins. Center Ryan Getzlaf, who missed Sunday’s game because of an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision, Carlyle said. The same is true for veteran center Ryan Kesler, who isn’t injured but could probably benefit from some rest after playing heavy minutes recently. The Ducks recalled center Chase DeLeo from their American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego.
“Any time you fire your coach you’re probably going to get a reaction out of your team, and it can go either way,” winger Jakob Silfverberg said after the Ducks practiced at Honda Center and prepared for a bus ride to downtown Los Angeles. “But any time we play these guys it’s a battle. It’s a playoff atmosphere. And I don’t think that’s going to be any different tonight. Maybe they’ll have a little bit of an extra spark with a new coach and they want to perform in front of him. It’s going to be a tough night but it’s going to be fun.”
Forward Rickard Rakell said he expected the Kings will “want to show a new side or kind of have a fresh start” with a new coach. But Rakell said he’s more concerned about his own team, which ended a seven-game losing streak on Sunday on the strength of defenseman Cam Fowler’s hat trick against Columbus. The Ducks had started to show signs of life before that overtime victory, and their task is to maintain and raise that level. “Especially for our own end, we’re playing with better puck possession and being harder to play against. Not turning pucks over, chasing the puck all game. If we have the puck, the other team probably can’t score.”
Carlyle said the Ducks held a team meeting last week to discuss their woes and emerged with determination to turn their season around. They decided, “that what was taking place on the ice wasn’t good enough, was nowhere near what we’re capable of. And we sat down and did a little bit of a dissecting of what needed to improve,” he said. The coaches showed videos of various situations and discussed what had been lacking, including the resolve to be first on the forecheck and win board battles. “Our group has grasped the work ethic and some tenacity. The one-on-one battles that are taking place on the ice, we were not winning enough of them and now we’re winning our fair share of them in the last four, five games,” he said. “We eliminated any gray area, any confusion, and hopefully we can carry that forward. Now, you get judged every game. And that’s how we judge our position.”