Carolina Hurricanes Season Preview
Jim Rutherford continues his era with the Carolina Hurricanes. Rutherford saw his team go from Stanley Cup champs to regular season losers. The Hurricanes missed the playoffs by a minor margin, but it never looks good to win the Cup and miss the playoffs the season after. Reminds me of the 1995 New Jersey Devils.
Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup, but coached his team out of the playoffs. Must have been frustrating, but I cannot blame him too much either as the Canes suffered with injuries and lack defensive talent, not to mention goaltending. Nonetheless, Laviolette has faced tough situations in his career, and he has the right mind to get this team back into playoff action.
The mode is evident. For the Hurricanes it is desperation hockey starting from Game 1 to Game 82. They won the Cup and they need to forget about last season’s gaffe and get on with it. They need to focus, and play at a more consistent level. The problems with the team is that it stayed status quo for the most part in the off-season, but it did well to re-acquire Matt Cullen from the New York Rangers. It is important to keep a winning core that worked. It will be a tough year for the Hurricanes, and they need to be a category five hurricane if they want to make it to the playoffs.
On The Rush
The Hurricanes know what their problem was last season. Eric Staal. I am surprised he was not discussed enough in the off-season as he had a horrible season. Scoring 30 goals and 70 points is not the bad part. It’s going from 100 points to 70 points, that’s the bad part. It’s just unacceptable on his part and Eric has to regain his form first and foremost if the Hurricanes want to make the playoffs. Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour had great seasons surpassing the 80 point mark, respectively, but they are also aging and how long can they go for scoring this much? Erik Cole and Justin Williams prove really good scoring as well in the 60-70 point range. Cory Stillman looks to rebound from being too injured to be effective. Overall, the firepower is well present in Carolina, especially if Staal turns it on, and with Matt Cullen adding more support on the offense, the Hurricanes become one of the most underrated offensive teams in the NHL. Offense is well set, and it will help them succeed. If Staal explodes, the rest will explode
Covering the D-Zone
This is the worst part about this team. The defense is just abysmal at best. It lacks size, skill, or anything that is worth considering good. How much can you comment on a defense that consists of the following names: Frantisek Kaberle, Mike Commodore, Tim Gleason, Bret Hedican, Dennis Seidenberg, Niclas Wallin, and Glen Wesley. Hedican and Wesley may be on the verge of retirement. Commodore is solid but a third pair defenseman at best. Kaberle is injury prone. Tim Gleason is a solid young defenseman, but also needs to stay healthy. Dennis Seidenberg appears to be a journeyman in the NHL as this is his third team in four years. He is an average defenseman, but better for depth purposes. Wallin is also a very good defenseman, but does not stand out. Last season the defense ranked 20th, and even in their Cup winning season, the Canes defense was no better than 19th in the league. Expect the defense to be about the same unless Cam Ward regains his playoff form from two seasons ago. Carolina’s defense is a very weak point and it was surprising not to see GM Rutherford make any changes to help out the blueline.
Guarding the Net
Cam Ward was a well touted goalie prospect, but he put on a mediocre season when he received the starting role for the franchise. He is still young and carrying loads of potential, but a .897 save percentage was very unattractive to look at. Can Ward pull himself together and regain his form? It’s a coint toss. I recall his rookie ampaign as back-up to Martin Gerber and he did not look sharp at all and appeared to be a goalie that needed a lot of time to develop. Yet, he ended up being the star of the 2006 playoffs. Was I wrong? Not with the way he performed last season. Behind Ward is John Grahame who was also not as consistent as hoped. Overall, the goaltending situation in Carolina is nothing more than a huge question mark. If Ward performs well, this team will make the playoffs, but if he is too inconsistent, then this team will repeat another early summer vacation.
Expected and Projected
The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to make the playoffs since many see Eric Staal rebounding from a poor performance last season. The Hurricanes have good depth, scoring is very underrated, but the defense is a major concern and the goaltending is questionable. But if you take the best case scenarios, then the Hurricanes are not just a playoff team, but a tough competitor to face in the playoffs as well. Projected: I do not expected this hockey club to make the playoffs, at all. I lost credibility in Cam Ward and the defense looks very very doubtful for my tastes. Some defensemen are aging, a couple are on the brink of retirement, and the younger defensemen are just not that good. Without good goaltending and the defense ranking in the bottom half of the league, you’re not going to make the playoffs unless the offense performs at a stellar level every game. I doubt it, however, and the Hurricanes will compete for the 8th seed, but will fail to make it.