The Beginning of the End for Carolina Hurricanes’ Cam Ward


Cam Ward’s recent performance is a cause for major concern.

After the Carolina Hurricanes re-signed Cam Ward to a two-year extension, many fans were hoping that Ward could give the Canes one more magical season. To his standards, Ward was stellar in the first half, boasting a .915 save-percentage (SV%). In the last four games however, Ward gave up a dreadful 5.25 goals per outing. He was pulled just thirty minutes into the January 17th game against Columbus in favor of rookie Alex Nedeljkovic; so these numbers could have been much worse. During that stretch, Ward’s save-percentage was a paltry .813. The recent struggles are an indication that this is the beginning of the end for the twelve year veteran.

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The Saskatoon native will probably not be selected in the expansion draft so Canes fans should get used to seeing Ward in some capacity until the end of next season. His role going forward is yet to be determined; but the fact that Ward is no longer a legitimate starting goaltender is clear. The league average for even-strength SV% this season is .917. Forty-seven games into the season and Cam Ward’s even-strength SV% is .910. At this point in his career, Ward is replacement level at best. Anyone who denies this fact must be an apologist because the facts are black and white. Maybe fans’ feelings about Ward stem from sentimentalism. Carolina fans need to put the homerism aside and realize Cam Ward plays at a statistically below-average level.  

Carolina’s success relies on a below average goaltender.

Cam Ward is a major reason the Carolina Hurricanes are within three points of a playoff spot; so it would be unfair to say that he has been a total disappointment.  Ward is hindered by the lack of a viable backup option.  For that reason, he has

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played in 40 of the team’s 47 games denying him adequate rest. Without a doubt, this plays a factor in his drastic regression. Sadly, the Canes lack a better option in goal. While very unfortunate, Carolina’s success (and lack thereof) is riding on the shoulders of Cam Ward. However, Ward is not at fault. With Eddie Lack’s injury and the unwillingness of the front office to plug this glaring hole; Cam Ward is tasked with carrying a very young and inexperienced Carolina team to playoff contention. This is not a short order for anyone.  

Still, there are other goalies in the league that have played more than Ward or a couple games less and put up much better numbers.  Cam Talbot has played 43 games with a .919.  Peter Budaj and Martin Jones have played 41 games with a .918 and .917 SV% respectively.  Tukka Rask has played 40 games as well with a .919 SV%.    Anderson, Bobrovsky, and Gibson have all played 38 games and all three of them are posting SV% greater than .920.  So it’s not like Cam Ward is the only goalie in the league playing a lot of games.

For a while, Ward looked like his was on the way to one of the best seasons of his career. He posted a .935 and .917 SV% in November and December, respectively. Playing time, age, and talent finally caught up to the longest tenured Hurricane. Cam Ward has regressed back to the Cam Ward that Hurricanes fans all know and love. His SV% in January is a pitiful .875. December 22nd was the last time Ward gave up less than two goals. These are not good signs for a historically under-whelming goaltender on the wrong side of thirty. 

What is next for both Carolina and Cam Ward?

The Hurricanes’ front office is probably pondering this themselves. Goalie prospects are so unpredictable; it is impossible to know if Nedeljkovic is Carolina’s goaltender of the future. Ideally, Eddie Lack will find his game and play like he did during his time in Vancouver. However, long-term health is more important than hockey as Lack needs to focus on his concussion recovery. This leaves acquiring a goaltender through free agency or trade. Whatever the scenario, the hope is that Ron Francis works his magic sooner rather than later.

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Cam Ward has been the most loyal and selfless player to ever suit up for the Carolina Hurricanes. Whether his NHL career ends in the crease or in the front office, expect him to be with Carolina Hurricanes for life. He has given Caniacs many fond memories — the most notable is hanging in the rafters at PNC Arena. Nonetheless, all good things must come to an end and the Cam Ward era is no different.