Thursday, October 5, 2006

Southeast Preview: Hurricane off the port bow

Because I have a certain level of begrudging respect for 'Canes fans, even if your captain looks something like Marv, and you need injuries to key players to win, I thought I'd honour the reigning Stanley Cup champs with inclusion in our exclusive little NW preview. It looks like a fun year, Canes fans. A fun year in which you will lose to us.

Carolina Hurricanes
Record: 52-22-8 (2nd in East)
vs Oilers: 4-3-0


Erik Cole / Eric Staal / Justin Williams
Ray Whitney / Rod Brind’Amour / Scott Walker
Andrew Ladd / Eric Belanger / Trevor Letowski
Chad LaRose / Kevyn Adams / Craig Adams
Cory Stillman (injured), Ryan Bayda, Brad Isbister (in minors)

Bret Hedican / Tim Gleason
Mike Commodore / David Tanabe
Glen Wesley / Niclas Wallin
Andrew Hutchinson, Frantisek Kaberle (injured)

Cam Ward
John Graeme

Notable Additions: Eric Belanger, Tim Gleason, Scott Walker
Notable Subtractions: Aaron Ward, rent-a-players Mark Recchi and Doug Weight, Cory Stillman and Frantisek Kaberle lost to injury for a long time

Outlook: They probably won’t be Stanley Cup champs again, but they’re still strong enough to compete, especially in the improving-but-still-not-scary Southwest (Tampa Bay will be about the same as last year, Atlanta has Kari Lehtonen but no number one centre or much of a second line, Florida is better up front but worse in net, and Washington still pretty much only has Ovechkin). The forwards, even with Stillman out for half the season, are a damn respectable bunch—easily among the top third in the league, probably in the top five. Cole and Staal will both probably be better this year, and they were both at least point-a-game players, and Williams wasn’t too shabby either (76pts in 82 games). They might run into a bit of offensive trouble if Brind’Amour slows down with age—Belanger is a pretty good two-way guy, but doesn’t look like someone who you could expect second-line production out of. There’s plenty of depth on the wings, though: Whitney might come down a bit, but he’ll probably get close to the 50 he had last year. Walker should bounce back from an injury year where he still scored .5pts/game, and I think Ladd is in line for a big year (he was a sparkplug in the Final series, even if he didn’t score much), especially playing away from the other team’s best defenders. The fourth line can’t score much, but also isn’t a minus line.

The D, while weaker, isn’t horrible. They lack an obvious PP quarterback with Kaberle out (though they have no problem playing forwards on D), but all of their top four can play tough minutes, and Wesley shouldn’t have too much trouble so long as he can stay under 20 minutes a game. Wallin and Hutchinson will be fine as fill-ins, but the Canes, like us, will have to rely on their forwards to dominate down low and lug the puck on breakouts. John Graeme isn’t quite as bad a goalie as John Tortorella made him out to be, and while he certainly seems to get worse the more you play him, he’s adequate insurance if Ward plays more like his regular season self than his playoff self. Ward might have just got a lucky run, but I trust playoff flash-in-the-creasers more than regular season flash-in-the-creasers, because their track record is better. That said, the Canes are going in with two goalies with regular season save percentages under .890 and GAAs over three. If you’re looking for a potential weak spot, there it is.

Against the Oilers: Well, they pretty much are the damn Oilers. Their top line is probably better, but our bottom lines have more offensive potential, their D has a bit more experience, but ours is probably more mobile, and their playoff-hot goalie given the starting reigns is young, while ours is old. Aside from that, the only difference is the cup rings (you bastards). I predict the one game we play against them will be a 6-5 affair, with the winning goal coming from Patrick Thoreson in the last few minutes of the third. The game will pretty much be long stretches of each team dominating play in the offensive zone, and will feature at least three PP goals scored by forwards on the point. Marc-Andre Bergeron will not see ice time against Andrew Ladd.

Overall: I say they take an even but weak Southeast, though a slip by Ward/Graeme or hot play by any of Tampa, Atlanta or Florida could easily knock them down to seven or eight. Once Stillman and Kaberle get back, this team is really good again, so I don’t see them finishing out of the playoffs unless they really tank it in the first few months, and they’ll probably do some damage in the postseason, though a repeat Finals appearance is a stretch, I think.


Mike The Sieve said...

What is that photo? It looks like a promotional poster for the Carolina Hurricanes' production of MacBeth. "Double, double, toil and trouble..."

AcidQueen said...

Watch it, or I'll turn you into a frog.

Mike The Sieve said...

Easy there, acidqueen. Put away the wand.

That's more a comment on the ridiculous "myNHL" campaign than it is on the Hurricanes, though whoever it was in the Carolina front office who thought Rod Brind'Amour needed something to make him look even more creepy should be fired.

Coluch said...

Nice picture of the Shitticanes / Brind'Amour...


Anonymous said...

The Canes were 20-something games over .500 last season in non-shootout games, while the Oil were .500 on the nose. And these are 'pretty much' the same teams?

macndub said...

Dear Anonymous retard,

The Sugarcanes schedule was 1.5 standard deviations easier than the Oilers. So screw you.

Pleasure Motors said...

Further to the "screw you," I meant pretty much the same in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and whatnot, which I think is pretty fair. Furthermore, that was last season, not this one (note the "p" in front of "review," which denotes looking forward, not back). If you'd like to point out the major differences you see between the two teams THIS season, feel free.

Anonymous said...

Well, for differences, I dont think the Oil have an Eric Staal. They have Hemsky, who is more skilled, but will he put up better numbers by season's end? I doubt it. I also think Carolina's other forwards are simply better. Brind'Amour, Cole, and Justin Williams: which Oil forwards will outperform these three? Then there's Whitney and when he gets healthy, Stillman. I think the Oil have versions of all these guys, but the Carolina forwards aren't just going on potential (Lupul, Torres, etc). They have performed and scored over entire seasons (not just a hot playoffs, i.e. Pisani) in the past.

Re: the Canes easy schedule. They went 7-2-1 against the West last year. Face it, LAST year they were a great team.

This is all moot anyway as we're underway and so far the Oil look great and the Canes clearly have Cup hangover.

court said...

Y'know what makes me happy? Carolina being at at the absolute bottom of the Southeast with one tiny little point. I will be gleefully cheering against them all year.