Posted March 4, 2009
It's decision day for the Carolina Hurricanes. By 3 p.m. this afternoon, all decisions regarding player movement will be made and on we go. It's a big one, as we see it here the Hurricanes are at a crossroads. This current edition is firmly entrenched in a playoff race that should take them right down to the final hour. Are they good enough to play extra hockey season? Sure they are. Will they? No one can answer that. The last two games are a perfect indication as to why no one can give a definitive read on where the Canes are headed. What is certain is that decisions made or not made today could be critical in that picture.
It would be nice if Jim Rutherford could pull the trigger on a series of deals that would place the Hurricanes into the category of Stanley Cup contender. If this were a fantasy league, maybe that's do able. But in this world, there is only so much that can happen amidst the 20-30 transactions that could take place today. The Hurricanes should use today as a springboard to a quiet rebuild that will take them through the NHL entry draft and into the free-agent season.
We saw in 2006 what a team in a position to do some serious damage needs to do in the weeks leading to and at the trading deadline. During that season the Canes realized that they had what it took to win it all and went for it. Doug Weight , Mark Recchi and a young Anton Babchuk were all acquired down the stretch. Draft choices, some prospects, middle of the road players were surrendered and it worked out. But this year, let's leave that to others. Washington, Boston, New Jersey and Philadelphia are teams in the East in that spot. Their groups are solid, good enough to win, but maybe just maybe something else can take them home. They also have the young prospects to make the deals necessary.
For the Canes, it should be about making the playoffs this season without question, but also making the organization better moving forward. For me, the latter might outweigh the former.
The days leading up to the trading deadline are known in hockey circles as the "silly season." Rumors fly, players are pulled from line-ups and that speculation can take over team's mindset. The games can give a GM and understanding of where he is at. Take last night for example. Washington had one of their player's pulled during the warm up. They say it was an injury which could be the case. But there is a strong chance Tom Poti may be involved in a trade. There is no question that the Caps took a step back and were clearly not at their best last night. The Canes jumped on it, played solid and received a much needed two points. Before we get caught up in that win, remember what happened in Atlanta on Saturday. Ouch - that hurts, doesn't it. Although the coaches and players need to have selective amnesia, facts are facts. The Hurricanes remain an inconsistent group and that has to be the message moving forward. In these two cases both GMs must have looked at this game and realized, OK, today's the day let's go shopping.
For the short term, the Hurricanes might be able to add one player today that helps them make a push. Sometimes these players are not that expensive. But today, the order might be something creative, out of the box. This might help the future.
In this space we have talked about the Hurricanes needs all season. Strong defensive help, size and grit as a group and possibly a high-end guy to play along side No. 12. My feeling is those areas cannot all be addressed by 3 o'clock today. But maybe it's time to separate from some players and start to look ahead, way ahead.
The Hurricanes delivered the prize in 2006. Many teams and their fan bases would kill for that. Since then a price has been paid. It's time to move forward. The Hurricanes need to somehow get younger, too. It's time to go that direction and get back to a heavy emphasis on scouting. Today could be a win on two fronts. The Canes do have some chips in place to make it happen. There could be someone coming of immediate help to get the Canes back into the playoff group of eight. That would be fine.
But for me, it's about the future. With the economic downturn, this team needs to start developing it's own and going that direction. Today could be the beginning. It almost has to be. Decisions are never easy. Neither is winning that championship. To get back there, the right decisions have to be made and soon.
Enjoy trading season.