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Carolina Hurricanes

30 Teams in 30 Days: Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes missed the playoffs last season and will come to training camp with a very similar roster to the one that finished the season in April.  For most teams, that would be a major concern, however, the Hurricanes are a lot more talented than most teams who missed the playoffs.  With this season looking like a make-or-break year for Peter Laviolette behind the bench, expect the Hurricanes to come full force right out of the gate.


Sure this team will miss Erik Cole, but the Hurricanes were willing to deal the veteran winger because of the depth they possess up front.  Down the middle, the Hurricanes have one of the best one-two-three centers in all of hockey.  Eric Staal, Rod Brind’Amour and Matt Cullen all have the ability to play good two-way hockey and can be trusted on the ice in all situations.  Staal just signed a massive long-term deal and should build on his bounce back campaign in 2007/08.  His speed, size and puck-handling ability make him a player that a franchise can build around and that is why the Hurricanes are doing just that.  Brind’Amour had reconstructive knee surgery near the end of last season and is hoping to return to the almost point-per-game clip he was sitting at prior to his injury.  Now, with most players you would be pretty concerned about their ability to bounce back from such an injury, but Rod Brind’Amour is a different type of player.  He is an animal in the workout room and I would be shocked if he isn’t ready to go and back to his old form early in the season.  After Brind’Amour, Matt Cullen solidifies the third center position for the Canes with good hands, strong awareness and an ability to quarterback the team’s power play.  Re-acquiring Cullen after his brief stint with the Rangers was a solid move by GM Jim Rutherford.

On the wings, the Hurricanes are also fairly deep.  With Justin Williams dominating on the boards and moving in and out of traffic with his soft hands, the sneaky offensive talents of Ray Whitney and the stick-handling ability of Sergei Samsonov, the team does not lack offense on the wings.  Throw in the gritty Scott Walker, Tuomo Ruutu (who we assume will move back and forth from forward to wing during the season) and Patrick Eaves and the Hurricanes are loaded up front.  Additionally, expect the young and physical Brandon Sutter to add a nice sandpaper element to the team’s forward lines.


What was once the team’s weak spot, as early as the middle of last season, is no longer the team’s obvious Achilles heel.  With the additions of Joe Corvo at the end of last season (boy that trade looks good now eh?) and Joni Pitkanen this off-season, the Hurricanes have added two great skaters who can move the puck and play the power play.  What’s more, the team can rely on these players to play big minutes.  The sturdy Niclas Wallin provides a solid veteran presence on the back-end (especially if the team deals Frantisek Kaberle like it is expected to) and can now focus on even strength and penalty-killing ice-time only.  This defense corps is not very big but the rugged Tim Gleason will be relied on to carry the physical load.  Add in Anton Babchuk, Josef Melichar and Dennis Seidenberg and this group has more depth than it has for the past couple of seasons. 


Simply, the key to the Hurricanes’ fortunes this season will come down to netminder Cam Ward.  Ward came into camp last season skinnier and fresher than he had before and his early season play allowed him to regain some lost confidence.  Unfortunately, the team hit the tank right around the mid-point of last year and not coincidentally, Ward’s play fell off dramatically.  Sure the Canes made a push at season’s end but their lost points earlier in the season were the reason for the team missing the playoffs.  If Ward can maintain consistency the Hurricanes should undoubtedly be a playoff team.  He had better be consistent, because the play of the backup goalies for Carolina last season was atrocious.  This season it is expected that Michael Leighton will be lining up behind Ward, so expect Ward to see plenty of action (65-70 games).


Ceiling: 3rd in the Eastern Conference

Floor: 10th in the Eastern Conference

If the Hurricanes play up to their abilities and get strong netminding, making the playoffs should not be a problem.


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