NHL

John Klingberg’s move to Anaheim Ducks has been shaky – can they turn it around?

John Klingberg’s move to Anaheim Ducks has been shaky – can they turn it around?

John Klingberg’s move to Anaheim Ducks has been shaky – can they turn it around?

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The way to look at the passage of the sky John Klingbergcomplement to the ducks it was that the defenseman would put up points and chew up a ton of minutes as the team advanced and even headed to the playoffs, causing Klingberg to consider Anaheim as a possible long-term home.

The reality is that very little of that has happened, and it likely won’t. Klingberg is playing a lot of minutes — averaging 23:40, the second-most on the team and his most in four years. But the Ducks are in last place in the Pacific Division with the worst goal differential in the league. He’s not putting up a ton of points, his advanced metrics are just plain bad, and it’s hard to see an outcome other than him before the March 3 trade deadline.

The next three and a half months will be about building your value. The eye test and the numbers don’t predict Anaheim making an improbable climb up the standings, as the team is already running out of roads to make a U-turn. Sure, Saint Louis he did it four years ago in his worst run to be champion, but so did the blues they weren’t going for a record number of goals allowed.

The first month of action hasn’t gone the way the Ducks or Klingberg envisioned after coming together on a one-year, $7 million deal following Klingberg’s ill-fated foray into free agency over the summer . He has seven assists to lead Anaheim’s blue line, but his 0.50 points per game pace is well below his career average of 0.67. He’s a minus-6 in traditional stats, while he has a 45.67 Corsi rating for Natural Stat Trick and has been on the ice for a team-high 95 high-danger chances.

Putting a positive spin on all this is quite an undertaking. But Klingberg did what he could with his assessment.

“I think it was hard for me to start,” said the 30-year-old Swede. The Athletic after a Tuesday morning of skating. “I did. Both in camp and the first few games. But the last, I don’t know, eight to 10 games, I’ve felt a lot better. I feel like I’m moving a lot better. I feel more comfortable reading teammates and others things like that

“At the same time, I can play better. The team can play better. And that goes hand in hand. It’s still something we’re building on. I feel like my game is getting better and better at least. There’s more to ask for offensively, obviously.”

This offense for which he has been known for a long time came to the moment against Tuesday Detroit. Operating with an additional attacker com John Gibson was on the bench in Anaheim, and faced with the reality of a winless home, Klingberg received a pass from Cam Fowler and he patiently searched his shooting lane to aim and do what he does best. The shot didn’t just go through traffic to Detroit’s goalie Ville Husso but he skipped off his left pad and overtook the score to tie the game with 46.2 seconds left.

The Ducks won Ryan StromeThe overtime goal, but none of that would have happened without Klingberg’s contribution. His first goal of the season capped off the kind of night the Ducks were hoping for when they pulled off a bit of a surprise by signing a player who has topped 40 points six times. He’s a player they hadn’t seen much of until Tuesday night.

“A goal like that goes a long way,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “The reality is, it’s very easy for coaches, parents and agents to tell a player, ‘Hey, get on with it.’ Don’t lose your confidence. Everything is going very well. But as a player, you start to question your skill. Like, “Can I put it back online? What’s going on?” For him to score a huge goal like that for us tonight will definitely be a great reminder that he can be an elite defender in this league. That he can score.

“Kling is just an extremely competitive kid. He’s always got a little bit of fire in his belly. I think this goal is going to be great for him personally. He was obviously very important to our team.”

The goal mattered, obviously, but Klingberg was having an effective game earlier. His ninth shot attempt of the night rang true and that’s what the Ducks wanted to see, a defenseman with a knack for taking advantage of opportunities in the offensive zone and putting pucks on net. Three of his shot attempts were blocked and three missed the net, but he was busy and a dangerous attacking fourth.

“I need to shoot more pucks,” said Klingberg, still a little disappointed he couldn’t get more than three shots on Husso. “I need to spend more time in the o-zone. I need to be more involved offensively. That’s my game. … I think if I play solid defensively and break the puck consistently and spend more time in the o-zone, that’s where my game should take over”.

John Klingberg’s move to Anaheim Ducks has been shaky – can they turn it around?


John Klingberg. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today)

Anaheim’s last two games have been more favorable to their game. Finally, the Ducks staged contests in which far more time was spent on the offensive end than on their own. Klingberg has answered. Natural Stat Trick credited him with 26 scoring chances in favor and only 10 against Chicago and Detroit. His CF% in both contests was 70.59. It seems that the physicality and the defense Simon Benoit he could be a match as his constant defensive partner.

Chicago and Detroit are not among the NHLthe elite But it’s a start for someone trying to make up for what was lost when he reportedly turned down an eight-year, $58 million contract to stick around. Dallas, the team he had become a fixture with, leading to his tougher-than-expected foray into the free agency waters. It’s fair to wonder if the pressure to perform with an eye on his next contract was weighing on him as the season began.

There is also the element of change, especially after being in one place for eight years.

“When you’re in one place for that long, everybody learns to get out of you,” Eakins said. “And now, when you go into a new place, you have to learn how to get out of them. I think that’s part of it. The other part is that when you move, you have to develop new habits. You just can’t keep going be what you were somewhere else.and i know he’s trying very hard to do that.

“The best thing about it is that he really cares. He’s a very proud guy. He wants to make an impact and he’s competitive. Those are all great, great traits. But we really want him to just focus on his job, the simplicity. With keeping all these other great traits he has.”

Simplicity could be the key. It’s something Ken Hitchcock touched on as the Ducks try to get the best version of Klingberg, if only to increase his trade value. Klingberg had his best season of 67 points with the Stars under Hitchcock in 2017-18.

“I just know that when he was with us in Dallas, both Rick Wilson and I saw a lot of Sergei Zubov in him,” Hitchcock said. The Athletic. “And we thought if we could get John to play big minutes and play conservative, that when he was in the offensive zone, he could be creative. But we wanted him to play very conservatively in the exits, at the tables. When they were reviewing it. We didn’t want him to force the record. And then when he was in the offensive zone, he had a complete green light to do what he did, and he always did it well.

“Rick Wilson used the term, move the puck around people instead of through people. And we convinced John if he played conservative, he could play more than 25 minutes and he could do the things he does so good. There were no restrictions on what he did in the offensive zone. Just let him go and let him play. We worked with him a lot on moving the puck between people. Get him out of trouble quickly. Get- ho, get it to the head very quickly. Not overdoing anything. Not overhandling anything. And then no holds barred when he was on the offensive blue line.”

It’s been a big change for Klingberg. There were coaching changes during his eight-year stay in Dallas, and the Stars’ roster did not remain static during that time. Anaheim represented another upset, even if it was their choice. New coaches New colleagues new system New facilities. new house And change like that matters.

“I think it’s huge,” Hitchcock said. “And that’s why it’s important to look at who he played with, where you got him from and find someone similar. There are many automatics in the game of John and he and Esa Lindell they were a great couple together because they read each other on automatics.

“We messed around with Zubov all the time and finally found that he and (Darryl) Sydor read each other perfectly. We kept them together for five years.”

Is this kind of change overlooked when a player struggles with their new team?

“I don’t know,” Klingberg said. “It’s the first time I’ve done this. It’s definitely different because obviously the last eight years before that, I’ve been going into something that I know how it works. Even if we had new coaches, you still know your teammates and the organization and blah, blah, blah, all that. It’s a bit of a change. But I wouldn’t say that has slowed me down much. Maybe a little at the start of camp and the first few games.

“Like I said, I feel like I’m moving a lot better now. I feel like I want to be more involved in things on the ice offensively and things like that. Yeah, there’s some situations where you can ask for more. It’s always like that. You just have to build your game.”

After recording two assists in his debut, Klingberg went eight straight games without a point and had a minus-8 mark. Now, he has six points in his last seven games. On Tuesday night, Strome joked that the defenseman put forth a Michael Jordan-like effort in the wake of an illness that kept him out of Monday’s practice. “I’ll call it the John Klingberg flu game,” the gregarious Ducks center said.

Turning more serious, Strome said his teammate’s fluid, risk-taking game lends itself to easy criticism. “We’ve got to do a better job of finding the open ice because he has that ability to hit you,” Strome said. In other words, the Ducks have to read Klingberg as well as him reading where his teammates will be and what they will do.

“He played on the same team for eight years,” Strome said. “You play with the same core group of guys and you come to a team that’s trying to find its way and trying to build an identity and trying to settle in. It can take a little while for a guy like him to get comfortable.

“Listen, he does a lot of good things. Obviously everybody wants to see the offense, but I think he’s a leader. I think he works really hard. He’s a good example. Hopefully, the points keep rolling in.”

In the morning, the clear Klingberg was forceful about his goals, as he had been during training camp. “Do I want to be a points per game player?” he said “Yeah sure. Do I want the team to win? Yeah sure. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a grind. Every team is very good. It’s something you have to work on every day.”

The goal is for the Ducks to get the best version of the defenseman during his time with them. His former coach believes he will get there.

“John is too good a player not to bounce back here,” Hitchcock said. “He’s got great vision, great talent. He’s a competitive son of a gun. He’ll work it out.”

It would benefit everyone involved when it does. Tuesday’s heroics may be the start.

(Top photo by John Klingberg: Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)





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