With the Carolina Hurricanes diagnosed Eddie Lack with another concussion today, is there any rest for Ward in sight?
2016 had been almost as unkind to Eddie Lack as it had been to everybody else. Lack looked to win the starting position in what was viewed as an open competition for the starter’s position. However, his poor play put that to rest pretty quickly. One setback followed another when the Hurricanes diagnosed Lack with a concussion and placed him on IR. Lack remained on IR until the end of December before suffering another concussion before the Pittsburgh game. Right now the Carolina Hurricanes seem content to rotate AHL goaltenders in and out of the backup slot, but never want to start them. It seems Carolina is content to ride Cam Ward until he drops, but the question is should they?
Cam Ward the Workhorse
Cam Ward played 31 of the Carolina Hurricanes 37 games putting him on pace to play 68 games this season. But given his current rate of games played (he only sat one game in December), he very well could be headed for a total north of 70 games played. The last goalie to play that many games and do it well was Braden Holtby in the 2015 season, and sorry folks but Cam Ward is no Braden Holtby. Not to mention that Holtby did it a full eight years younger than Ward.
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And while Cam Ward has played better than in seasons past, he isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with a .916 SV%. Yes, he had a good run in late November and early December, but anybody watching now can clearly see the signs of the inevitable regression. The times when the NHL was naming Ward one of the three stars of the week seem so long ago.
Fatigue setting in
How much of Cam Ward’s recent play is Ward being Ward and how much is from overuse? It’s hard to say. But to think that his long string of starts has nothing to do with his slight drop in numbers would be foolish. The Carolina Hurricanes probably want to give Cam Ward more rest, but with Lack out who can fill in? Michael Leighton started two games but for some reason, management doesn’t think he can fill in more.
With the Canes wanting to make a push for the playoffs, they need their starting goaltender to be fresh. This is what makes Cam Ward’s usage all the more puzzling. It’s an 82 game grind, and at Ward’s age playing this many games will catch up with him. Canes fans can already see the drop in play; in November Ward only had two games with a sub .900 SV%. In December, that number climbed to five and last night against the Devils he posted a .882 SV%
With Eddie Lack out, Cam Ward starting ninety percent of the games the rest of the season isn’t the answer. Whether this means that the coaches decide to give Leighton or another AHLer more starts, or Carolina decides to acquire another backup goaltender, it’s a decision that needs to be made soon before the wheels completely fall off Cam Ward.