NHL analyst Ward expects big things from Canes
Posted September 27, 2011
Updated September 28, 2011
The Carolina Hurricanes travel to Winnipeg Wednesday for an 8:30 p.m. preseason match-up with the Jets.
The Canes head into the game with a 1-2 preseason record and the management looking to make the last cuts before opening night Oct. 7 at the RBC Center.
Three-time Stanley Cup champion and former Hurricane Aaron Ward joined Adam and Joe Wednesday on 99.9 FM The Fan and said, despite the losing preseason record, the team is in a good position heading into the season.
“The best thing for a general manager to have is competition at a position, especially if it is someone you just drafted,” Ward said of the Canes depth on defense relative to top draft pick Ryan Murphy. “Murphy particularly has been getting a lot of attention, and they are talking about how this guy has the potential to make the team.”
Jim Rutherford, Hurricanes president and general manager, has been clear about his expectations this year, and that is for the team to make a run for it.
“That sends a message to the players,” said Ward, “There is always a chance to make an impact on a team where there is a need.”
Ward said it’s about finding the right pairings on the ice.
One spot that will have to be filled is that of Erik Cole who signed with Montreal during the offseason.
“There’s talk about [Zac] Dalpe. When you lose a component, there’s an opportunity for a young guy to seize it. As I understand it, Dalpe’s giving them an opportunity to maybe move Skinner to another line,” said Ward. “How do you get past the loss of Erik Cole? That’s yet to be seen.”
Ward said the true test will be how the players adapt to regular season play. And he said even players who aren’t fighting for a spot have an opportunity to really succeed this year.
“I think there’s a changing of the guard going on right now. [Cam Ward]’s always been an upper tier goalie, but I think some of the perennial goalies are possibly moving on maybe this year or next, it’s another opportunity for Cam to be that guy this year,” said Ward.
"The good thing for Cam is he is familiar with his environment and he doesn’t have to learn a lot.”
Ward also expects a lot out of another longtime Hurricane, captain Eric Staal.
“He’s dedicated himself a little more in the offseason to his preparation. The sky’s the limit for him,” said Ward.
“Maybe he’s more comfortable in his skin, and he’s got a full year of being a captain behind him. It’s tough sometimes for a young guy to say not only do I have to focus on my game, lead this team in points, lead this team in performance, but I also have to comfortable with the fact that I have young guys around me and the responsibility falls on me to make sure they’re prepared. This season should be a good test, but I expect a lot more from Eric Staal.”