Ouch. What a season the Carolina Hurricanes had last year. Not much can be said about their disastrous effort during the 2009 portion of the 2009-10 season, but the 2010 part proved that the Hurricanes can still rock ‘em.
Save The Date (season matchups): October 27 in Carolina; November 24 in Carolina; November 28 in Washington; December 26 in Carolina; March 11 in Washington; March 29 in Washington,
Stocking Stuffers (notable additions): D Anton Babchuk (KHL); D Joe Corvo (free agency from Washington).
Gift Receipts (notable losses): C Rod Brind’Amour (retirement); LW Ray Whitney (free agency to Phoenix); G Manny Legace (free agency); D Brian Pothier (Swiss League).
Ghosts Of Christmas Past (last season): 35-37-10 – Third in Southeast Division – 11th in Eastern Conference
Last season really is a ghost for Carolina because the first half of the season was downright frightening. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde might be an even better comparison. A 2-12-4 start, including a franchise-worst 14 game winless streak of 0-10-4, spelled doom early for the Hurricanes. But the same team went on a 21-10-3 tear through the latter half of the season and missed the playoffs by only eight points.
Injuries and a suspect defense were the main culprits for Carolina’s woes. Important producers like LW/RW Chad LaRose, RW Erik Cole, LW/RW Tuomo Ruutu, and most importantly, G Cam Ward, missed significant time during different parts of the season. Ward suffered a leg laceration and an upper body injury and missed a total of 31 games. Legace filled in admirably, but won’t return this season. The Hurricanes will look to Justin Peters to grow up quickly and become an adequate back-up.
The Hurricanes’ D didn’t do much right. The team’s 3.06 GAA was good (or bad) for 26th in the league and no Hurricane defenseman scored more than six goals or had a +/- over 7.
The banged-up Hurricanes, however, still got plenty of production from C (center and captain) Eric Staal, who despite missing 12 games of his own, accumulated 70 points. LW Jussi Jokinen scored a career-high 30 goals, while second-year C Brandon Sutter scored 21 goals of his own.
Wish List (season outlook): The loss of a proven leader like Brind’Amour and a consistent producer like Whitney might rattle some teams, but the Hurricanes are poised for a return to glory with an injection of youth. Top draft pick Jeff Skinner is a dangerous sniper and D Jamie McBain had an exciting 14-game stint with the Hurricanes at the end of the season, where he dazzled fans with clutch plays. Former Edmonton first-round pick Riley Nash could also make an impact at some point during the season.
The return of Babchuk and Corvo to the aforementioned depleted defensive corps should light a spark underneath fellow defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason. But Ward’s resurgence will be the biggest factor. If Ward, who has three 30 + win seasons to his credit, can return to his Conn Smythe-winning form, the Hurricanes are a dangerous team. A Hurricane Watch is in effect.