Canes Out To Prove Championship Was No Fluke

This is a big season for the Carolina Hurricanes. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, many considered the Canes to be very fortunate, a fluke if you will. Since their win, they have only enforced that notion by being playoff spectators the last two years.

Its time for them to start proving to others that they werent a fluke and that they are a legitimate playoff team. They have the tools in place to be competitive. They are one of the strongest teams up the middle, they have decent goaltending and a good coach. They just now need to put it all together.

GM Jim Rutherford has tried the last year to get his team to be a bit younger and quicker. This is why he has brought in so many players in their mid to late 20s like Samsonov, Eaves, Ruutu, Melichar, Pitkanen and Corvo. Hopefully the younger legs will bring more energy to the team.

Coach Peter Laviolette was brought back one more time to see if he can turn things around. He is going to be on a short leash and needs to produce results. There are no more excuses. He has lots of skill to work with and the team cant blame the Stanley Cup hangover anymore.

Laviolette desperately needs to improve the defensive play and PK. He is going to somehow need to do this without stalwarts like Hedican and Wesley on D. If he cannot, it could definitely mean another playoff no show for the Canes and perhaps put his job in jeopardy.

Lineup

The Canes should be able to put together 3 scoring lines who are at the very least half decent defensively. They do not look strong defensively on the blueline but have a much stronger group that can get the puck to the forwards and join the rush.

C: Eric Staal, Rod Brind’Amour, Matt Cullen,
RW: Justin Williams, Scott Walker, Patrick Eaves, Chad Larose
LW: Sergei Samsonov, Ray Whitney, Tuomo Ruutu, Wade Brookbank

Staal, Brind’Amour and Cullen give the Canes a ton of strength up the middle. Staal had a good season last year, a comeback of sorts after a dreadful 07 year. They are going to need him to continue being a dominant offensive player as they are going to need as many goals they can get if they cant keep them out. Brind’Amour is so integral to their defensive play. He is such a catalyst at both ends and his faceoff prowess helps in terms of puck possession. He is always in terrific shape and should be back at 100% for this year.

They are going to also need a full season from Williams who has all the skills to be a big impact player. With the trade of Eric Cole, they are going to need Williams to be a force at both ends and emerge as a top flight winger. He should have more help around him this year. Samsonov was a huge suprise and seems like his old self playing with a big centre. Ruutu is a wildcard. He offers lots of grit which the Canes sorely need but he needs to stay healthy too. Walker will also add sandpaper. Really only Whitney has been a model of consistency for the team and seems to be getting better with age.

A full season from Williams, Brind’Amour, Ruutu and Eaves to join Cullen and Walker should give the team a strong enough base defensively up front to improve on their pretty dreadful 3.00 GAA. Because they dont have a lockdown defender on the blueline and are still waiting for consistent goaltending, the Canes are definitely going to need their forwards to help.

D: Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, Tim Gleason, Frank Kaberle, Niclas Wallin, Dennis Seidenberg, Josef Melichar, Anton Babchuk

Pitkanen and a full season from Corvo should give the Canes a very potent 1-2 punch on defence. With these two manning the points, they may improve on their very solid 8th ranked PP. Players like Kaberle and Seidenberg are on thin ice.

Its defensively where they might get into trouble. Gleason is their best defender but he will miss Hedican as a partner. Wallin can play physical but tends to take bad penalties. Melichar returns to the NHL and adds size but he was pushed out of the NHL for a reason: he wasnt good enough. Same goes for Babchuk. He has a ton of ability but cant seem to put things together at the NHL level. Time is running out.

G: Cam Ward, Michael Leighton

Ward seems to save his best for short tournaments. Over the long season, he has yet to prove to be a strong number 1. He lacks consistency as most young players do. The talent is certainly there. He has great size and very agile with a great glove. But it seems he doesnt bring it every game. Internationally and in the playoffs he seems to get it, but if he cant do it over a long year, he wont be playing many games that matter. Leighton is a serviceable backup who should be an upgrade over John Grahame.

Depth

F: Dwight Helminen, Ryan Bayda, Mike Angelidis, Pat Dwyer, Trevor Gillies, Bobby Hughes, Brandon Nolan, Jerome Samson, Jakub Petruzalek
D: Noah Babin, Tim Conboy, Brett Carson, Casey Borer, Mark Flood
G: Daniel Manzato


Prospects

The Canes actually have some young players to look forward to. They still lack depth on defence and in goal and will probably need a couple more successful drafts to fully replenish their thin organization.

F: Brandon Sutter, Drayson Bowman, Harrison Reed, Chris Terry, Justin McCrae, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Nick Dodge
D: Jamie McBain
G: Justin Peters

There really isnt any prospect who is ready to step into the NHL at this point in the Canes organization. Brandon Sutter might be the closest but he would likely find himself playing limited minutes on the 4th line as an energy forward. Like his dad and uncles, Sutter is tenacious and gritty and will give 200 percent every night. He’ll probably grow into the team’s defensive conscious much like a guy such as Michael Peca. The jury is still out on whether he can score at the NHL level but his determination should endear him to teammates and fans alike.

Here are some of the Canes other prospects:

Zach Boychuk – Heart and soul type player with lots of skill
Drayson Bowman – Big scorer in Jr now needs to prove it a pro level
Zac Dalpe – Skilled forward headed to US College
Nick Dodge – good checking forward might make team as 4th line PKer
Justin Peters – Demoted to the E, needs to prove himself at the AHL level

Out of necessity the Canes needed to reload their farm system. In a couple of years they should see some excellent results and have the next young nucleus to support the likes of Staal, Ward and Gleason.

Prediction – 12th in the Conference, 24th overall

The Canes might be too poor defensively to be a playoff team. They are a dangerous offensive squad but as we have seen always, defence wins. They just do not have the horses, especially on the blueline, to get it done. Ward hasnt proven yet he can be a top number 1 as he has only performed in spurts. Unless he comes up with a monster regular season, expect the Canes to be on the outside looking in once again.


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