Mike Maniscalco

Canes answer questions as season ends

Posted April 5, 2011

Think back to Oct. 6, the day before the start of the Carolina Hurricanes season opener in Finland.

The Canes were picked by virtually everyone to miss the playoffs for a second straight year. There were too many questions with the Hurricanes roster and the answers would depend on young players developing quickly.

If most fans were told there would be a shot at the postseason with three games left on the schedule, the reaction would be: "Where do we sign up for that?"

This is not to say that this was a rebuilding year with no chance at bonus hockey.

However, some said I might have picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue when I said this team had a shot at the playoffs. Pundits reminded everyone that the Carolina Hurricanes were a team the year before that was loaded with veterans in an attempt to make a run for playoff glory. That squad failed miserably due to injuries and sluggish play and was dismantled, but that roster looked like a solid team compared to the Canes that opened the year.

Questions like: where would the offense come from besides Eric Staal; how could the defense be better; and is the goaltending going to hold up for 82 games?

Those questions now have answers.

Skinner, Cole deliver goals

Jeff Skinner, the seventh overall pick of the draft, provided a tremendous offensive spark, leading all rookies in points. Side note: Any question that Skinner is not the NHL rookie of the year is silly. To do what he has done at 18 years of age is right out of a Hollywood script.

Since Jan. 1, no player in the NHL has scored bigger goals than Erik Cole in keeping playoff hopes alive. Cole has scored 12 goals that have won or tied games in the third period in that span.

When the Hurricanes looked like there was a chance to make a playoff push, forward Cory Stillman was re-acquired to add more punch.

Deals yield defense

General Manager Jim Rutherford provided solutions for the team’s blue line issues. Joe Corvo came back to Carolina in the offseason and has been steady in both ends of the rink. Anton Babchuk started the year with the Canes. The offensive-minded defenseman was dealt for the steadier Ian White. White provided more defensive-minded presence on the back end until he was dealt to San Jose. In a separate deal with the Sharks, young defenseman Derek Joslin was added to the mix. In a final move at the trade deadline the Hurricanes added the player with a nasty streak in front of his net that they needed in Bryan Allen.

As for the goalie, Cam Ward is the only net minder in the NHL with over 2,000 saves this year.

This edition of the Hurricanes did promise one thing: every night you were going to see players take steps forward or back in their development. Roles within the team were defined. Brandon Sutter developed into one of the league's best defensive centers. Skinner showed that his offensive flair wasn’t a fluke as he was steady all year and, after an inconsistent start providing offense, defenseman Jamie McBain rebounded from a shoulder injury to regain the offensive flair he displayed last season in a late call-up.

As the year moved on, the chance of a playoff berth materialized, and there is still a chance albeit slim, for the Canes to move on to the postseason.

If the team does not make it into the top eight in the East, it will be a disappointment, but it won’t mean that this season was for nothing.

The raised expectations for the Canes showed there is more talent in Raleigh than we thought 79 games ago.

The young players who were put under the pressure of trying to make the playoffs will benefit from this year down the road. Leaders emerged in the locker with and without letters sewn on the front of their jerseys. An identity was also formed for this team, one that never quits.

A year that started with uncertainties for this team now has plenty of answers, playoffs or not. 

27 Comments

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  • mattman8386 Apr 6, 9:54 a.m.

    Mike..

    I fully agree with Cole & Skinner delivering. Cole is back to his pre-injury form due to his workouts with Corvo, and Skinner IS the Calder Trophy winner hands down. If he’s not, then there is a huge flaw in that voting.

    I’d have to respectfully disagree with you on some of Rutherford’s deals. Getting rid of Babchuk in ANY way was the right thing. I think he’s been overrated since day1 , and don’t understand Ruth’s obsession with him. The pick ups of White, Allen and Joslin were good ones. What was NOT done was dealing our “Jeckyll –n- Hyde” Pitkanen. I truly believe his erratic play, and sometimes ‘mailing it in’ attitude down the stretch hurt us more than helped us. Jim R. should have found a way to deal him out and get a better D-man who is more consistent and physical. I’d give Jim R. a C- at best this go-round.

    As for Cam making 2000+ saves this year, albeit great for him, and he has been THE ONLY REASON we’ve been in an playoff hunt, but what does it say about our defense? Those numbers of shots make it looks like we allow opponents to pummel our goalie at will. I think we lost many games due to HUGE breakdown(s) in defense deep in our zone either by turnovers or not fighting for the puck hard enough to clear the zone, AND our weak penalty kill.

    Yes there is a LOT of upside, and many aspects to build on, and I am glad we had a decent season, but I believe we could have made the playoffs LONG ago with a re-tooled power play, more physical play, and better defense. Those weaknesses or failures lie at the feet of Ron Francis running the PATHETIC Power Play (24th, 15.5%), and Paul Maurice , not changing the style of play along the way. We’re now on the outside looking in. Francis needs to give up running the PP, and maybe “Moe must Go”.

  • Duke1977 Apr 5, 5:22 p.m.

    Everyone loves a winner, and I want them to win as much as anyone. But when all is said and... View More

    — Posted by ssi

    Well said!

  • wlcat609 Apr 5, 4:37 p.m.

    GO WINGS...thanks for the kind words. I fully realize that the 'coach' can only coach the personnel that the GM, management and scouts provide....but I really DO BELIEVE that the COACHING has the greatest impact on how the team performs.....and JR has been at the helm ever since the team came to North Carolina......

  • Paul M Apr 5, 4:10 p.m.

    lol i ment coach.

  • Paul M Apr 5, 4:08 p.m.

    Hockey seems to turn 'great' coaches into subpar ones quickly (Lavi?)(quote from earlier... View More

    — Posted by wlcat609

    good call wlcat609 its not always the couch thats the problem

  • jscott13 Apr 5, 3:27 p.m.

    MO MUST GO. They let Lavi go because he didn't get along with some people. Many great head coaches are like that. Bill Walsh was a tyrant, but he was the best at what he did. JR needs to choose between good beside manner or results.

  • RaleighHunts Apr 5, 3:24 p.m.

    We suck but we didn't suck as bad as everyone thought we would! There's something very fitting... View More

    — Posted by Hans

    Not even close. Hurricanes WON the stanley cup 5 years ago and went to the eastern conference championships 2 years ago... They have, in fact, been one of the more successful teams in the NHL over the past decade despite some subpar years.

  • wlcat609 Apr 5, 2:29 p.m.

    Hockey seems to turn 'great' coaches into subpar ones quickly (Lavi?)(quote from earlier opinion)...have you checked the Eastern Division standings lately?....this 'suppar' coach at least has HIS TEAM in theone of the top playoff positions NOW and if my memory is accurate, this 'suppar' coach was the ONLY COACH THAT COACHED THE CANES TO THEIR ONLY STANLEY CUP. I'd take this 'subpar' coach back in a heartbeat...I thought he got shafted when they let him go...I think this was yet another Cane management 'DO IT ON THE CHEAP' decisions! And you get what you pay for!

  • morgannyy Apr 5, 2:22 p.m.

    I like the makings of this team. We went from a very veteran team that you knew was going younger (and cheaper!) to an up and comer that looks poised to compete for years to come.

  • dbass Apr 5, 2:18 p.m.

    Pitkanen and Harrison are free agents after this season - let 'em go (ESPECIALLY Pits) and upgrade the D. Stillman, Cole, LaRose, Juice and Dwyer are all UFAs at forward - I's hate to see any of them go, but the lack of power play results seems to point toward needing an offensive upgrade too. Or does it?

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