Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Carolina Hurricanes season preview

I received the email from Sherry today that the new topic was to write up a season preview. I did not immediately snap into action and whip this baby out, I have been working on it for a guest posting spot over at RumorMeThis. Enjoy!

2008-09 Carolina Hurricanes Preview

Well, when your biggest training camp invite is a guy who used to play for the team (and pretty well too), had a couple of DUI's, was caught pissing in public, and spent last season playing in a beer league then there is the possibility of disaster on the horizon. (**Good news, since writing this, Jeff O'Neill and the 'Canes have parted ways, realizing he wasn't really going to make the team**) Then your captain has his knee "cleaned up" after missing half of last season recovering from surgery on said knee. And then one of your top forwards has a freak "off-ice training" accident, tearing his Achilles and has to have surgery, may be out up to 6 months.

Since winning the Cup in 2006, the 'Canes have been unable to even make the playoffs. It can be blamed on the massive numbers of injuries sustained over the 2 seasons since, it can also be blamed on a defense that was old and had more holes than this snappy little mesh number (for the guys). However, at the trade deadline last season, GM Jim Rutherford brought in Joe Corvo who was an instant boost on the blueline. This summer, golden oldie (as in, two years older than God) Glen Wesley retired and now works in the 'Canes organization as Director of Defenseman Development. The oft-broken (also not getting any younger) Bret Hedican was not re-signed, he's looking for a gig out west, no takers yet.

Additionally, Joni Pitkanen was brought in via trade with Edmonton for Eric Cole. Anton Babchuk and Josef Malichar have returned from playing in Europe. Tim Conboy, Casey Borer, Wade Brookbank, Tim Gleason, and Dennis Seidenberg all saw time with the 'Canes last season as well (due to injuries). If you thinking "holy cow, that's a lot of defensemen!" you're correct. Toss in Nic Wallin and Frantisek "Pee-Wee Herman" Kaberle and you have eleven D on the 'Canes roster. It's unlikely Conboy or Borer or Brookbank will see a lot of ice, unless there are more injuries. 'Canes have been trying to toss Kabby out as trade bait as often as Dion Phaneuf goes for antibiotic refills, but no takers. Since his fantastic season in 2006, he had shoulder surgery and hasn't quite played the same. Wallin apparently has a no-trade clause which makes Kaberle the one most likely to be moved. Which is too bad, I hear he makes some yummy chicken. It's worth noting that Kabs has had an exceptional camp, putting himself out there to be shopped or to (hopefully) earn a spot.

The offense has depth and talent, led by "Rod the Bod" and Erik "The Next Captain" Staal. Carolina needed help defensively which meant giving up a forward and Eric Cole was one of the most tradeable. It's tough to see him go, he's a gritty power forward who survived a horrific injury and came back to help the team win the cup. He will definitely be missed. Staal and Brind' Amour are joined by Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen (if he stops seeing cartoon birdies flying around his noggin ), a rejuvenated Sergei Samsanov, Tuomo Ruutu, Scott Walker, Chad LaRose (click on it, you won't regret it!), and Patrick Eaves. That's a lot of decent talent. And with the aggressive offensive system employed by Peter Laviolette things are promising for the 'Canes.

With the loss of Williams for pretty much the whole season, it opens up a roster spot. This is, of course, assuming Brandon Sutter makes the team, which the way the 'Canes brass LLOOOVVVEEE this kid, it seems pretty much a sure thing. Granted, he'll most likely be on the 4th line, but that will give guys like LaRose a chance to move up on the depth chart. So who will fill Williams' slot? Ryan Bayda will get a chance to prove himself. Matt Murley has an excellent shot and has been impressive at training camp. Indeed, so has youngster Drayson Bowman. For comprehensive and near-psycho coverage of Bowman, check my site.

It could all be worthless if the Carolina players all get the dreaded Indifference-itis syndrome that seemed to run through their locker room at varying times last season. As in just after the start of the season and lasted until about a week a day an hour before the playoffs started--and they missed out by the skin of their teeth.

It also rests on the shoulders of a young and inconsistent Cam Ward. And his backup, AHL goalie of the year Michael Leighton. Since winning the Conn Smythe in 2006 Ward has been streaky at best. If he can put together a solid season they'll be in good shape. But it hasn't happened yet. Leighton is a capable backup and most certainly an upgrade from John "NASCAR helmet-wearing" Grahame.

'Canes are projected by most prognosticators as 2nd in the Division, after Washington. Tampa is such an unknown, but the rest of the Division (Atlanta, Florida) is fairly weak. Carolina has many of the pieces to be 1st in the division, it's whether those pieces can come together and be a success on the ice.

For my goalie-loving ladiez. For my Staal-loving sistas.

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