Our day has come. Cardiac Cane writers provide their thoughts on the Carolina Hurricanes 2011-12 season. I think we covered it all, from leadership to netminders, to bridesmaids to Scarlet O’Hara. Enjoy!
Tuesday belongs to the Chicago Blackhawks, so check back tomorrow. Until then…Let’s Go Canes!
Up first, the ever entertaining Sally M. Brown…
I’m a gut feel kinda gal so my predictions for 2011-2012 aren’t based on those fancy things like science, math, and history. I am also really superstitious so pretend I am typing this with my fingers crossed as to not upset any hockey gods. ESPN is warning of a sophomore slump for Jeff Skinner. I don’t buy it. I think he is going to break 30 goals this season. With the off-season training he has put in combined with a year’s experience under his skates, I think his game will get better. ESPN does not love hockey.
Chad LaRose is a veteran player. I am not sure what kind of numbers Rosey will put up (I do not put stock in +/-) but he is going to emerge as a leader. Ruutu will as well using that experience he gained in the World Championships. Eric Staal is hungry. He’s a competitor. He’s used to being the oldest brother, and the best at everything. Finishing 9th is not something that is ok with him. He is going to show a little more fire this season and remind us why he wears the C. Brian Boucher is going to keep me from having a nervous breakdown every time Cam Ward needs a night off. I think he will be solid between the pipes. Tim Brent is going to get a huge welcome the first time he hits the ice in the RBC Center from his “tweeps.” I truly have no guess as to how our defense will gel. Our guys are tired of being the perennial bridesmaids of the Eastern Conference. I think we will finish 8th.
Now excuse me while I go google “How to undo a curse” and unsnarl my fingers.
Now for a guy’s perspective from Dan MacLachlan…
The Carolina Hurricanes have pretty high expectations coming into the 2011-2012 season. Considering how they lost out on the playoffs in the final game of the season last season, and have missed the playoffs 4 out of the last 5 years, it might be a “playoffs or bust” year for Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice, captain Eric Staal and the rest of his teammates. During the off-season, the Hurricanes added several key pieces that were needed from last year including a fourth-line center in Tim Brent, a back-up, veteran goaltender in Brian Boucher and some scoring to replace Erik Cole in Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart. They also added Tomas Kaberle to help the struggling power play (ranked 24th in the league last year) and provide even more offense to what is already a solid set of offensive defencemen.
To go with the new additions, there are higher expectations for the members of the Hurricanes who were with the team last year. Many want to see Eric Staal make that jump and have a season closer to the point production like he had during the 2005-2006 season, where he had 100 points (45G, 55A). There are also hopes that the Canes’ young rookie phenom from last year, Jeff Skinner, is able to avoid the “Sophomore Slump” and improve on his 63-point performance from last season. The defensive core will have a microscope on it most of the season as well, looking to improve the amount of shots that goaltender Cam Ward will have to face. Last season, Ward faced 2,375 shots, highest in the NHL. I expect new assistant coach Dave Lewis, who spent 14 years coaching in the league, to strengthen the defense and, in turn, help Cam Ward have an extremely strong season. Don’t expect the Hurricanes to make the playoffs if Cam Ward has an off year.
Lastly, Cardiac Cane’s crazy editor KP Kelly…
In the epic words of Scarlet O’Hara, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick us. We are going to the playoffs and when it’s all over, we’ll never be ninth seed again. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. As God is my witness, we’ll never be ninth again.”
Perhaps those weren’t her exact words, but the iconic actress validates my point. The Canes will make the playoffs this season. It may come down to a couple games, but fiddle-dee-dee they will do it! Here are the 8 reasons we will make at least 8th seed this season:
8. The Fans: We are the loudest hockey barn in the NHL. We can lift our Canes to victory. Epic tailgating, faithful roadsters, and caniacs of all sorts will provide fan support.
7. The Schedule: Fellow Cardiac Canes writer, Dan MacLachlan, provided a great schedule breakdown and I agreed with his points. It is a little less strenuous than the previous year and that can only aid our mission.
6. The Changes: We may have lost Erik Cole and Joe Corvo, but we gained strong talent in Anthony Stewart, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tomas Kaberle, and Tim Brent. These changes were made to improve our defense, particularly the power play. Throw in coaching changes with Rod Brind’Amour and Dave Lewis and Canes have filled some potholes from 2010-11.
5. The Finns: What is not to love about the Finns? Glass shattering Tuomo Ruutu leads the pack with his aggressive play-making skills. Ruutu snagged 57 points last season. Ruutu, Jokinen, and Pitkanen played in 224 games collectively and earned 144 points (43g, 101a) in 2010-11.
4. The Young’uns: Carolina has amazing young talent anxious to claim a full time role with the Canes. I want Zac Dalpe will be a Raleigh resident. This is the year of Dalpes, mark my word (Jinx freak out…spins counter-clockwise three times, eats black licorice). His performance playoff performance with the Checkers clearly illustrated his talent and worth. Side note: I am hoping Zach Boychuk disproves my doubt and claims a spot with the Canes that is worthy of a full timer.
3. The Leadership: Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter, Tim Gleason, and Chad LaRose each provide their own style of support for the team. I especially like LaRose emerging as a leader and Staal can return to a 80+ point season with added roster support. The numbers could really start to pile up should Skinner and Staal play well as a unit.
2. The Goaltending: Cam Ward is one of the best men in the NHL between the pipes. He played an impressive 74 games and averaged .923 SV%. With the addition of Brian Boucher, Ward can continue to perform minus extra weight upon his shoulders.
1. The Skinny: I wouldn’t be known as the coug that stalks Jeff Skinner if I didn’t mark the
rookie sophomore as the number one reason we will make the playoffs this year. Biased, yes, but have no doubt the Calder Memorial Trophy winner make a huge impact this season. Skinner showed no signs of an upcoming slump in his freshman year. He will make 30+ goals. He will come be key in those games we are fighting for a win. He will be our Frodo…our Lord of the Ring, er…Cup.
OK, now I must find Sally and undo the many curses I just placed upon the above players. While I do that, consider giving us a ‘like’ on Facebook and a follow on Twitter: @CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, and @Caniac 176
Tags: 2011-12 Anthony Stewart Brandon Sutter Brian Boucher Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Chad LaRose Eric Staal Jeff Skinner Joni Pitkanen Jussi Jokinen NHL Preview Tim Brent Tim Glea Tomas Kaberle Tuomo Ruutu Zac Dalpe Zach Boychuk