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Mike Maniscalco

The little things to be thankful for

Posted November 28, 2013

Nathan Gerbe (14) takes a shot during play at the PNC Center between the the Carolina Hurricanes and the Detroit Red Wings on October 4, 2013 in Raleigh, NC.

Sometimes it is the little moves that make all the difference.

On draft day the Carolina Hurricanes made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to acquire defenseman Andrej Sekera for Jamie McBain and a draft pick.

On July 26th, the Canes signed Nathan Gerbe to a two-way contract with the thought he could provide some forward depth in the organization.

With training camp opening up the team invited 18-year veteran forward Radek Dvorak for a tryout and later signed the former first round pick.

Unrestricted free agent defenseman Ron Hainsey waited all summer for a contract from anyone. That deal finally came in September from Carolina.

On October 31st, the organization called up Manny Malhotra from Charlotte. Malhotra was waived by Vancouver and signed a ‘professional try out’ contract with the Charlotte Checkers.

None of these moves individually was looked upon as Earth shattering.

  • Sekera was a steady defenseman in Buffalo, nothing more.
  • Gerbe was a gritty but undersized player, who showed flashes in the League, but that word undersized is hard to shake in the eyes of scouts.
  • Dvorak was older player that teams bring into training camp to show younger guys how to play. If he showed anything at camp maybe the team would take a flyer on him.
  • Hainsey was made to wait for a deal due to the lowered salary cap and for an offer that would be less money but make sense for him to fit in and play.
  • Malhotra’s career was thought to be over after suffering an eye injury in 2011.

Doesn’t look like much, does it?

Add it together and it has been beyond what the Hurricanes front office could have calculated. These players all came in with something to prove and for all the things that can be measured in pro sports there is still no way to determine leadership, heart and desire. All those players had something to prove and Carolina has provided the place for them to show why they were first round choices or deserving of an NHL sweater.

Sekera is one of the team’s top scorers and has been a perfect complement for Justin Faulk on the blue line. Gerbe only trails Eric Staal in goals scored and has been a relentless fore checker. Dvorak has been steady, and since being reunited with former New York Ranger teammate Manny Malhotra, has turned back the clock on their NHL careers. Ron Hainsey has logged big minutes, picking up the slack with Joni Pitkanen lost for the season from last year’s heel injury. Malhotra has been the best player in the NHL in the faceoff circle since his return to the NHL and has been such a good influence on Kirk Muller’s team that he has been wearing the alternate captain’s ‘A’.

It would also be easy to overlook the contributions of Justin Peters in the month of November. The netminder wanted to prove he was an NHL caliber talent. Instead the team signed Anton Khudobin to be the number two goalie and Peters was sent to Charlotte, having to clear waivers to go back to the AHL. After injuries to Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin he was given his chance, and while the wins weren’t there his play was. Peters found his confidence and the team found a winning streak and his stellar play is a reason why the team is in the thick of the Metro division instead of looking at a deficit. Peters was always positive and a stand-up guy in the locker room. His save percentage of .920 doesn’t do justice of how big the save he made for the Canes during the second month of the season.

There is still a lot of the season left to be played and the NHL is still a league where the stars have to shine for teams to be successful. The Hurricanes have been waiting for their top players to round back into form, and Eric and Jordan Staal have turned in solid performances of late. Cam Ward, who is back from injury, has been stellar and Jeff Skinner is getting his bearings back after missing 11 games with an upper body injury. The team is awaiting Alexander Semin’s return from a concussion and hopes he can capture the scoring touch he had last year in the Triangle. Even with injury and inconsistent play from the top dollar players, it has been the play of the players that didn’t grab headlines that have kept the Hurricanes moving forward.

This should be the point where I say the players that were involved in those unheralded moves should be thankful that the Hurricanes found them. But the truth is the Canes organization needs to be thankful that those players found their way here.

11 Comments

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  • edits Dec 19, 8:58 a.m.

    Sometimes I wish I could take certain parts of chracter, physique, talent and intelligence from several men to make one that would be close to perfect for what I want. This is what JR has done. He has taken these players for their individual strengths and skills to put with the rest of the team body and he finally has a product on the ice that is a threat no matter who is out there. That is what I love about these moves and that is what I love to see watching a game. The parts are also interchangable, which is never a problem. Everyone knows what their jobs are and everyone is doing that. They keep it up and stay healthy this team will go deep into the paly offs while others implode.

  • aprince27 Dec 2, 9:23 a.m.

    The next time I see someone bash JR after a loss I'm going to refer them to this article. He's... View More

    — Posted by tobin63

    But Tobin...in those sixteen years they will have missed the playoffs 11 times. The teams most consistent years of making the playoffs were in the first five years they were here. playoffs in 99, 01, and 02.

    In fact, since Rutherford and karmanos bought the whalers they have been in the playoffs only 5 times in 20 or 21 seasons! That's not a good track record.

    The Canes have always been and continue to be a 7th - 10th place team that need a bit of a hot streak to make the playoffs. Once, the fan base understands that - either they can accept it for what it is or demand better.

  • caniacman Nov 29, 11:04 a.m.

    I agree JR gets bashed a lot, and these moves do show how good he is at finding the right players most of the time. From other accounts, it sounds like Gleason could be traded soon. I just hope it is for some offensive up and not another D.

  • kenshi Nov 28, 9:42 p.m.

    I had said Malhotra was a good pick up, especially at 600K. I also remember not that many thought the same as me when they made him an offer. I've been watching hockey for 40 years and I knew the naysayers were wrong.

  • Cragsdale Nov 28, 5:42 p.m.

    The next time I see someone bash JR after a loss I'm going to refer them to this article. He's... View More

    — Posted by tobin63

    +1 sir. well played :)

  • tobin63 Nov 28, 3:36 p.m.

    The next time I see someone bash JR after a loss I'm going to refer them to this article. He's been successfully pulling off maneuvers like this for well over a decade, and I've felt for quite a while that he's one of the best GMs in the league. Complain all you want when we look bad, but 1 Cup, another good look at one earlier, and a deep playoff run a few seasons ago, all in 16 years. Not too bad for a small southern market with a crusty old goalie behind the scenes!

  • jscott13 Nov 28, 12:47 p.m.

    This article says it all...the success of this team is not due to the big name, high salary players. The guys mentioned above have "leadership, heart and desire" which they bring to the ice every single game. Would that the Staals and Ward would choose to do the same.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 28, 11:47 a.m.

    Those free agent pick ups have been terrific, and a case of the sum being better than the parts. Those guys have been around the block, so they don't take playing for granted - they make the most of every minute of ice time they get.

  • junkemail Nov 28, 11:39 a.m.

    Hear, Hear! This is a fun team to watch and there are so many great story-lines on the bench that it is hard to pick a favorite player.

  • mikeyfan5600 Nov 28, 11:24 a.m.

    The pick up of these Free Agents have been a blessing. Hopefully Rutherford will realize Hansey is a better play than Pitkinen and will resign him and let Joni walk. With the Defense playing so well what do the Canes do with Gleason or Harrison? Would Gleason waive his NTC to go someplace else? If not what could the Canes get for Harrison? it is really a nice situation to be in on our defense for a change. Good Luck Canes the remainder of the season.

    OBTW - how good will this team be when we get our top 20 players on the ice at one time?

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