Friday, September 28, 2007

We are heading down to old Tabacco road.
Bob from [ Canes Country ] is the man behind the preview of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Divsion: Southeast
2006-07: (40-34-8) 88 points
Playoffs: Just watching


Eric Staal - Rob Brind'Amour
(30G-40A-70P) - (26G-56A-82P)

Cam Ward
(30-21, 2.93GAA )

Greetings to everyone at ThePensblog! The
he staff here has asked me to provide a season preview of your first opponent this year, the Carolina Hurricanes. Before I start that, let me just briefly say a few things about myself. I've been a hard core Hurricanes fan and season ticket holder for several years. After the lockout, I started blogging and eventually came up with my current blog, "Canes Country". Feel free to drop by and visit anytime! I happen to also be a fan of several of the Penguins players such as Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, and Jordan Staal. You have a great, young hockey club here and I see nothing but positive things in the Penguins future! But enough about that, on to the Canes!

I'll start off in net, then work my way out. Cam Ward will be the starting goaltender again this year for the Canes. After winning the "Conn Smythe" and leading the Hurricanes to the Cup win in 2006, the youngster had a disappointing year last year, his first as a starting netminder in the NHL. While his win loss record wasn't bad at 30-21-6, his GAA and save percentage failed to make the top 30 in the league. Once again his backup will be John Grahame. Johnny was signed as a free agent last year and is an expensive backup at 1.4 million per year. He's been a big disappointment and I'm willing to bet that this will be his last year as a Cane. The good news for Hurricanes fans is that Ward has been working out hard all off season and has reportedly lost 20 pounds and feels as quick as he ever has. Will that be enough to help him get back to his "Conn Smythe" form? He will need to be in top form because there is no reason to expect Grahame to improve on his 10-13-2 record from last year.

In 2006-07, the Canes blueline had a horrific season. Due to numerous injuries, the team had to carry as many as 10 defensemen on their roster throughout much of the year. It was like a revolving door back there. Frank Kaberle missed 55 games, Bret Hedican missed 32, Tim Gleason missed 25, and the list goes on. The starting 6 this year is supposed be those three along with Mike Commodore, Nic Wallin, and Glen Wesley. Wallin and Wesley missed 15 games each as well last year. The 7th defenseman as it looks right now will be Dennis Seidenberg, a youngster who was acquired from Phoenix about half way through last year. He has very limited experience as a starting NHL defenseman. The three other guys who were on the roster last year are long gone. Andrew Hutchinson was traded to NY in the Matt Cullen deal, Anton Babchuk signed in Russia for the year, and David Tanabe is a free agent who has yet to be signed by anyone. Many Caniacs are hoping that the Canes sign him for some insurance, and I can't say I blame them.

Last year, this offensively challenged group was the lowest scoring defense in the entire NHL. Hedican still is a huge question mark again this season because he's been suffering with a bad hip. He's going to try to give it a shot, but he's a hipcheck away from spending another 30 games on the DL. Kaberle has already been under the knife again this offseason. He recently had some minor knee surgery and will miss all of training camp and the preseason. Glen Wesley isn't getting any younger, (age 39), and one can't expect him to be able to make it through a whole year injury free. What does this all mean? If they don't sign anyone else, the Canes will be relying heavily on some unproven depth from the minors. Look for unknown players like Casey Borer, Noah Babin, and Brett Carson to fill in the gaps, and it wouldn't surprise me to see one of them in there for the game against the Pens. This certainly is the weakness of the team once again this year.

Now we will look at the Canes primary strength, their forwards. Team captain Rod Brind'Amour just seems to keep getting better every year. Look for him to win most of his faceoffs, he's always one of the league leaders in that department. The Canes will be very strong up the middle as Eric Staal and Matt Cullen join Brind'Amour there. This year will be a big test for Staal. Can he return to his 100 point effort from 2 years ago? Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Justin Williams, Cory Stillman, Andrew Ladd, and Scott Walker will be joining them in the top nine. Whitney, Cole, and Williams are all 30 goal scorers. Stillman has been a consistent 80 point a year man throughout his career. (He's coming off an injury plagued season last year as well.). Ladd is a highly touted youngster who should break out this year. Walker is the team's tough guy who still chips in with 20 goals or more. I can't help but feel that as a group, those are the top 9 forwards in the league. But will they be able to put up enough points to compensate for a relatively weak defense? The 4rth line has some offensive punch as well with newly acquired Jeff Hamilton joining regulars Chad LaRose and Craig Adams.

In summary, while I am concerned about the Hurricanes defense I still believe that they have enough talent to win the Southeast Division this year. I think that they will finish the season with about 100 points. Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford likes to leave himself some salary cap room for playoff acquisitions, so I believe that if the Canes are playoff eligible, they will make a trade before the deadline to bolster their defense and that will help to make them a dangerous team come post-season. Of course, injuries are the key to everything. If the team can stay healthy, it should be an exciting year and anything can happen. If they can't, they could easily have a repeat of last year's disappointment.
Pensblog Take

As Bob mentioned. Last year was disappointing. But you have to take in consideration that the Canes had tons of injuries.
If all goes well. The Canes could be the team no one wants to play in the playoffs.
We're going to have to say the Canes are most likely going to win the division.


Steve In Denver said...

Um, no disrespect to the Canes preview author, but Carolina probably does not have the top 9 forwards in the NHL, as a group.

I would concede that they possibly have the top 9 forwards in Carolina, though. Unless you compare them to Duke and UNC's basketball teams.

OK...they have the top 9 guys in RBK jerseys with a little hurricane weather will play maybe 82-86 games this year if they eek into the, um, ok, they'll sell a lot of beer at their games, and I'm pretty sure there are hot girls in Carolina.

Bubba said...

I should point out that Frank Kaberle did indeed return to camp and has played in the pre-season. His health status has changed for the better since I wrote that report.

As for the "top 9 forwards" in the league remark, I admit, I might be a bit biased. But I'll stand by that comment for now.


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