We all have sports “truths” or “philosophies” we live by. The older I get, the more my sports truths are tested. Growing up watching Michigan football under Bo Schembechler, I believed that you had to run the ball and be able to stop the run to win. Now I see college and NFL teams throw the ball 35 plus times a week and win. In basketball, even if you didn’t have a seven footer, a team had to get the ball inside to win consistently. Now I watch this years version of the “dream team” toy with the worlds best without any semblance of an interior offense. Baseball used to be a marathon race of 162 games. Now you can fail to win anything over the entire summer, and still win the World Series by being a wild card entry. My last defense against this brave new world of sports in the NHL. Even though the game and league has changed greatly since the lockout, there is one truth that still applies. A team can win during the regular season with top line talent, but to win in the playoffs, you have to have depth. It’s nearly impossible to go from April until June, winning 16 playoff games, without help from 3rd/4th line players and 5th/6th d-line pairings. This brings us to our Carolina Hurricanes.
About $11 million was added to the payroll for the 2012/13 season. While it’s nice that the Canes have stepped up and actually added big name players, we shouldn’t get the idea that they are all of a sudden a “cap” team. Looking beyond this season, will the Canes have to sacrifice depth in order to pay for the top end talent the team has? What if Alex Semin turns back the clock to 2010 (40G-84pts.)? Jim Rutherford has already said that if things work out the Canes hope to have a long term relationship with Semin. That would mean multiple years instead of 1 year/$7 million. Jordan Staal’s contract goes up $2 million next year to $6 million. Jeff Skinner finishes his entry level contract, and if he bounces back like most fans think, the Hurricanes will want to sign him to a hefty raise, in case the Flyers/Wings/Penguins try to snap him up. The following year Justin Faulk will have his salary raised from the $900,000 he makes on his entry level contract. If all this money is due to core players (excluding Semin), do the Canes have to sacrifice in other areas?
The player I wonder the most about is Chad LaRose. Rosey turns 31 before the end of this up coming season. He will be a UFA who carries a $1.7 million cap hit. Chad has turned into a productive player since breaking in with the Canes in 05/06. Twice in the last 4 years, he has scored 19 goals. LaRose led the Canes last year with 5 game winners. Ten of his 19 goals came with the Canes tied or trailing by 1 goal. He was second on the team with 131 hits despite playing in only 67 games. Chad has his negatives. He is a combined - 38 for the past three seasons. In the games the Hurricanes lost in11/12, Chad was a -27. Regardless of how you feel about the +/- stat, that is a big number. Of his 23 minor penalties last year , 13 were for hooking or tripping. Beyond the stats, LaRose is a heart and soul type player for the Canes. He is a talker, an agitator. He gets under guys skin. He tries to check Zedano Chara every time the Bruins are in town. That is worth the price of a ticket. He is a guy that every winning team has, faults and all. But is he a guy that the Canes would pay close to $2 million a year for? Does Rutherford let LaRose walk if Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman or ever Zach Boychuk take that next step forward? It’s hard to imagine Chad leaving the Canes or Rutherford allowing him to leave. But then again, Eric Cole was traded and then left as a FA. The same goes for Matt Cullen. We know where Brandon Sutter plays now. Heck, even Ron Frances was traded. If it happened to them, it could happen to LaRose. After all, business is business.