There was a shared feeling of unfamiliarity for many of the Ducks that gathered inside Honda Center today for the last time this season. For more than a decade, the Ducks have been synonymous with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In fact, since 2006, the Ducks have missed the postseason just three times (2010, 2012 and 2019).
The NHL playoffs are all Hampus Lindholm ever knew until now. He was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 Draft - the last time before this season the Ducks had to pack their bags after 82 games. Lindholm says it's the first time since he was 16 years old that he entered an offseason without some sort of postseason. "It's going to be extra motivation to work extra hard in the summer to come back with a bang," he said. "I can see us making a 180 and come back next year."
The extended offseason might do his body good. He won't play for Sweden at the upcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia (May 10-26) because of a nagging hip issue that kept him out of some games this season. Lindholm says he'll speak with doctors, but is under the impression he'll simply need time and rest.
Ryan Kesler said it was a "weird feeling" meeting with reporters on a day when playoff teams are busy preparing for their first round matchups. In an NHL career that began in 2003, Kesler has only missed the postseason a handful of times. "That's what we play for," he said. "We fell short this year."
The 34-year-old center managed to grind through 60 games this season, which pushed him to 1,001 in his career, but his arthritic hip got progressively worse as the season went on. Kesler says he was feeling good at the start of the season, but the grind of an NHL schedule (back-to-backs, four games in six nights, etc.) was simply too much for his hip to handle. He missed the final 14 games of the season, having last played on March 6 vs. St. Louis. The normally stoic Kesler was visibly disappointed when asked by reporters to describe his ailing hip. "It's bothering me a lot lately," he said. "This year, the hip got worse. That's why we need to find some options not just for hockey, but for my life. Simple things, like putting on socks in the morning, is tough."
For now, Kesler says a game plan needs to be made for his hip. That involves finding (and meeting with) doctors, as well as staying in constant communication with Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. One of the looming decisions Kesler says he'll have to make in the future is whether or not to undergo hip replacement surgery. "We're just gathering information now and talking to some of the best surgeons in the country. Probably meet with them and see what they say."
He mentions Ed Jovanovski, a former NHL defenseman who underwent a similar (but newer) version of a total hip replacement called hip resurfacing in March 2013. Jovanovski went on to play 33 games post-surgery, and Kesler says he's been in contact with him. "[Jovanovski's surgery] was years ago, so the surgery has gotten better," Kesler said. "It's all up in the air, but it would probably be career ending."
'Tough Year All Around'
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said this season was unlike any of the previous 13 he's been in. Every team has adversity in a season, but Getzlaf says this one was the toughest. "It was the hardest thing to go through," he said to reporters. "We're accustomed to a certain way of playing here, and a certain way of doing things. Going through [losing] streaks like that aren't really part of it. In the 14 years of my career, I don't think we've ever had anything like that. It was a hard experience, but also a learning experience.
"We let that kind of stuff happen. Our group had to address something head on that was a problem. We were able to do that and move on for the rest of the year, but unfortunately it put us too far behind."
Fellow veteran Adam Henrique touches on the disappointment of a tough year, but also has confidence the team can turn it around next season. "It was a rollercoaster year. Up, down and sideways," he said. "It's disappointing, certainly. Everybody is disappointed with how everything went. Everyone has to go into the offseason with the mindset of getting better. We have to get better in a lot of areas. The future is bright here. I think we'll have a great turnaround next season."
The Search for a Coach
Now that the season is done, the interim coaching tag has been lifted from Murray's job title. Among a list of things Murray has planned now and for the future is finding a new head coach for next season. He says he'll use patience in the process, and that includes speaking with teams currently in the postseason. "I'm going to be totally respectful to other organizations," he said to reporters. "I hated when other organizations came to you when you're in the middle of a playoff run and they want to talk. I think that's totally wrong. I'll reach out to some, and I'll say, Hey, I need to talk to 'this guy' or 'this guy' when you're done, so you tell me when you want me to talk to them."