As a Canes/NHL fan, July has always been the toughest month of the off season. The playoffs have long since ended, most of the free agents have been signed, and training camp seems forever away. As the summer weeks go by, I’m going to take a look at some players and positions that might be key to the Canes getting back into the playoffs next spring. One area you wouldn’t think would be a worry to Hurricane fans was in net. Since the 2006/2007 season, Cam Ward has been the undisputed #1 guy for the Canes. Except for the 09/10 season when he was injured and appeared in only 47 games, Cam has started at least 59 games (06/07) to as many as 74 games in the 10/11 season. He is considered by most around the league as a top of the line net-minder. The problem that pops up for the Hurricanes is when Cam is not in net. Many teams around the NHL face the same problem. For a team like the Canes, giving away points when you have to give Cam and his back a rest, could come back to bite them come April. With the news that Brian Boucher is out 4-6 months with shoulder surgery, Jim Rutherford has yet another problem area to worry about.
Since the Stanley Cup year of 2006, the Hurricanes have had a 45-56-14 record when going to their backup goalie. That line gets even worse when you take out the 14 games that Manny Legace, Justin Peters, and Micheal Leighton won in 09/10. Since the lockout, the Canes most successful backup has been Cam Ward himself. As a rookie Cam went 14-8-2 before taking over for Martin Gerber and leading the Hurricanes to the Cup. Last season proved to be especially troublesome for the Canes when Ward did not start. Boucher won only 1 of 8 starts and posted a 3.41 GA and .881 SA%. Justin Peters fared better with a 2.48 GA and .931 SA%. That only translated into one more win as Peters went 2-3-2 in his 7 starts. The timing of Boucher’s injury could not have been worse for Brian and the Hurricanes. How does GM Rutherford deal with this important position?
Do the Canes ride Cam through December waiting for Bouchers return or do they hand the backup job to the 25 year old Peters? Rutherford has said that the backup position will be something that he looks at later in the summer. It is a tough call. How does it help Peters to play a dozen games as Cam’s backup when he could be getting more seasoning in the AHL? Which ever way the Canes go, it is certain that they have to get better and more consistant play from their backup.