This is part two of a two-part series. Grades for the forwards can be found here
The 2013 season saw injuries to several different defensemen during the season, including Justin Faulk, Joni Pitkanen, Bobby Sanguinetti and Jay Harrison. In some cases the defensemen rose up, while others faltered. Players are ranked highest to lowest:
Justin Faulk: A Faulk took the next step in his development towards becoming a player to build the ‘D’ corps around. He improves the Hurricanes transition game and is a threat to score from the point on the power-play. It’s a shame that Faulk was injured in March because the team relied on him in so many ways. Next season could be a big one for Faulk as he tries to make the U.S. team in Sochi.
Joni Pitkanen: B+ Pitkanen will never be as good as Faulk, but he does his job well as a puck-moving defenseman with above-average defensive play. This season was not any different than any of his other previous seasons, but he did not excel in a huge way to garner a higher grade.
Jay Harrison: B The Hurricanes’ most underrated defenseman would be Harrison, who sometimes logs over 20 minutes a game playing in a strong defensive-defenseman role. The Canadian defenseman is nothing flashy, but he is important to the Canes defense. Next season Harrison will look to build on this year and prove he can be a top-four defenseman.
Tim Gleason: B Gleason had a similar season to Pitkanen. He did his job of defending the Hurricanes’ net, but did not have an above-average season to his standards. However, he did play through a broken foot showing how much he cared about the team even when they were losing.
Joe Corvo: B- In the last year of his contract Corvo started the season slow, but became more effective after Faulk went down with an injury and was given more time on the power-play. Corvo ended up with six goals this season before missing the last couple of games with an injury. The Hurricanes may choose to go in a different direction than re-signing Corvo.
Marc-Andre Bergeron: C+ Bergeron is a one-dimensional defenseman. He can help on the power-play and that’s about it. But coach Kirk Muller used him in that role and it worked fine for the Hurricanes. Beregeron is a UFA this summer and will most likely not be in a Hurricanes sweater at the start of next season.
Bobby Sanguinetti: D It was not a good first year for Sanguinetti. He made a large amount of rookie mistakes despite being 25-years-old. This may have been Sanguinetti’s only shot at making an NHL roster and did not make the most of the opportunity. Sanguinetti is also a UFA. There is a chance the Canes could re-sign him depending on what they decide to do with the defense.
Cam Ward: A If Ward ever needed to prove how much he means to this team, he did it this season. While Ward was in net, the Hurricanes sat in third place in the Eastern Conference and atop the Southeast Division, but when he went down with injury, the whole team fell apart. It will be interesting to see how the team does with Ward in net next season.
Justin Peters: C+Peters did not have a great season, but he did well towards the end of the year when he played in more consecutive games. Now Peters needs to prove he can play as a backup goaltender only playing in a game every two weeks because he did not look strong in the last
game of the season after sitting on the bench for three games.
Dan Ellis: C Ellis looked strong at the beginning of the season, prompting GM Jim Rutherford to not add a goaltender when Ward was injured. Unfortunately for the Canes, Ellis was not able to perform as a starting goalie and the team could not rebound. Ellis works well in a backup role, but is no longer a starter, which is where the Hurricanes went wrong.
Because of injuries, the Hurricanes were forced to use several players from their farm team in Charlotte. Here’s the grades for three of them that played in a few games:
Brett Bellemore: B Bellemore played in eight games for the Hurricanes in late March/early April and played strong defense for the team. He also recorded two assists. It’s a little confusing why Muller did not give Bellemore a chance over Sanguinetti, but the 6-4 defenseman will have a shot at making the team next season.
Nicolas Blanchard: B- Blanchard is a fighter, but in his first few games with the Hurricanes he looked like he would be able to score a little also. He helped on the forecheck and had a few opportunities at goals, but could not bury one. However, the skill he showed in the first few games disappeared in his last few, looking like the fighter he actually is.
Jared Staal: C+ The Hurricanes gave the youngest Staal brother a cup-of-coffee in the NHL, playing in the last two games of the season. Staal looked OK, but if he wants to make it on the Hurricanes roster, he will have to work on his defensive and gritty play because he is not skilled enough to be in a top six in the NHL.