Sunday, March 08, 2009

Carolina Hurricanes--post Trade Deadline

As usual, I’m a day (or more) late and a dollar (or more) short. I was supposed to write a pre-trade deadline post about what the Hurricanes could possibly do on Trade Deadline day. Part of the reason I didn’t write it is because who the heck ever knows what Jim Rutherford is going to do. There was talk of players being shopped, such as defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, but that’s about it. In reality, what this team needed to be shopping for was consistency. They may have found it.

The entire season the ‘Canes have struggled with consistency on the ice. Goaltending led by Cam Ward has been better than previous season (is Wardo finally maturing as a goaltender?) but Cam still had some bad games in there, games where he should have been better. Backup Michael Leighton did ok when called upon. The defense, once again, had times where it had more holes that swiss cheese, which didn’t help the goalies at all. On offense, Eric Staal, the face of the organization, struggled to be the offensive superpower he is supposed to be. Justin Williams injured over and over and over. Rod Brind’Amour coming back from injury at one point had league worst -29 rating. Rutherford’s answer at the time (early December) was to fire head coach Peter Laviolette and bring in former coach Paul Maurice. For the most part, nothing changed, still an inconsistent team.

As a Hurricanes fan, I resigned myself to the likelihood Carolina wouldn’t make the playoffs and just sat back watched their mediocrity. I was busy on trade deadline day, work and all, but did happen to catch (YAY Google Reader) that JR had traded Justin Williams to LA for hometown kid Patrick O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan then traded to Edmonton for former ‘Cane and fan favorite, Erik Cole. I almost did a happy dance, but I was at work.

So what has happened to the ‘Canes since the return of Cole? In the two games he’s been back, they’ve outscored opponents (Calgary and Tampa) 15-4. Cole was the heart and soul of this team and getting him back is huge. He served as mentor to a then-teenaged Eric Staal and those two have been BFFs since. Staal’s lackluster performance so far this season I personally blame on Cole being gone. With Cole back, and he and Staal on the same line, Eric Staal has 8 points (4-4-8). He is rejuvinated having Cole on the ice. Cole creates time and space that allows Staal to be the superstar he is. Cole himself has 5 points in 2 games back (1-4-5). Cole never quite found his niche in Edmonton and didn’t have chemistry with anyone there like he has with Staal.

Will ‘Canes make the playoffs now? Hard to say, as of this writing, they are sitting in 7th place in the East. Hard to say if the excitement of the last couple games will continue, will Cole’s presence continue to lift this team up? Will goaltending stay strong? I wish I knew, in the meantime, I’ll just be excited the Eric/k’s are reunited.

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