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How Do The Ducks Solve Their Defensive Dilemma?

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The Ducks gave up way too many shots on goal last season and left Jonas Hiller out to dry all too often. There's not much hope for the playoffs if they can't fix that. Here's one way they possibly can.

The Ducks' biggest problem last season was limiting shots on goal. They were 2nd to last in shots allowed per game last season, in front of only the Florida Panthers, and allowed about 33 shots a game. They were only ninth worst at allowing goals, which goes to show how heroic Jonas Hiller was in a losing cause last season. The Ducks' biggest question going into this season is going to be: how do they limit shots on goal and give Jonas Hiller a fighting chance?

You can actually trace the Ducks' fall from grace by tracking their shots on goal:

2006-2007 (won Cup): 27.4 (5th best)

2007-2008: 28.0 (10th best)

2008-2009: 30.5 (19th best)

2009-2010: 33.4 (29th best)

One good way to take a look at how well a player does at limiting and getting shots on goal is by looking at CORSI. CORSI examines the shots directed toward the net while a player is on ice at even strength; basically, it's kind of like plus/minus but with a much larger sample size from which to draw. I'm going to use the numbers from SBNation sister site Behind the Net because I believe in synergy. Specifically, I'm going to use Relative CORSI, which gives you a comparative rating between how a player did on the ice versus how his teammates did when that player was off the ice. It's not perfect but since we're focusing on limiting shots I think it's a good place to start.

Head Coach Randy Carlyle loves having a shutdown line that can match up against the opposition's best offensive line, freeing his own offensive superstars to wreak havoc on the other team's bottom lines. This strategy was used to great effect in 06-07, when the shutdown line of Travis Moen-Samuel Pahlsson-Rob Niedermayer destroyed their opposition on their way to a Cup win. Last season Ryan Getzlaf usually saw the other team's top line and did pretty well, although he took way too many penalties.  Corey Perry did well too, and Bobby Ryan's a superstar wherever he lined up: his 16.8 CORSI rating is tops on the team and 12th overall in the entire league. The Ducks' second line of Whoever-Koivu-Selanne did okay last season, although they were usually give soft opposition. The problem isn't at the top of the Ducks' lineup; it's at the bottom.  Hide the women and children, folks:

Relative CORSI

Kyle Chipchura: -6.9

Ryan Carter: -7.4

Mike Brown: -15.2

Troy Bodie: -15.6

Todd Marchant: -18.4

Holy Hell, Todd Marchant. Marchant was the center of the Ducks' "shutdown" line, along with (usually) Kyle Chipchura and Troy Bodie. That didn't work. Todd Marchant is a cool guy and a great teammate, but I think he's past the point where he's able to give significant, hard minutes. 

The Ducks are a top-heavy team. They need to embrace it and roll their top two lines against the other team's top players. Their best defensive center is Saku Koivu and he needs to be take that shutdown role. Pairing him with Bobby Ryan would give the Ducks two players that can skate and score on top competition, and shoring the line up with someone like Kyle Chipchura would give the Ducks a solid shutdown line. I'm thinking something like this:

Lupul/Beleskey/Sexton-Getzlaf-Perry

Ryan-Koivu-Chipchura

Blake-Bonino/Carter-Selanne

Parros-Marchant-Bodie

To me, that seems like the best way the Ducks can limit shots on goal and give Randy Carlyle something he can work with. I like Teemu Selanne on the third line because it allows him to concentrate on goal-scoring without that whole pesky defense thing, which he's never been a big fan of anyway. He and Blake had some chemistry last season and hopefully can rekindle that romance next season.

The Ducks have gotten further and further away from what made them Cup champs as the seasons have passed. I'm not entirely sure why, or why Randy Carlyle is coaching a team that is completely at odds with his philosophy, but as long as he's coach the Ducks are going to have a traditional forward set-up. This seems like the best way to do it, at least from my perspective.

(You may be wondering, "Hey, what about the defense?"  The answer is I honestly don't know.  The Ducks are pretty doomed without Scott Niedermayer.  I could try to come up with something, do some real research, or I could be a blogger.  Hmm...)