LBC hit up our sister blog Canes Country with a few questions about Florida's next victim, um... I mean opponent tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes. Here is the report we got back.
After losing their first eight games last season and an 0-2 start so far, are the Hurricanes looking at another winless October?
A team can't be that bad two Octobers in a row, can they?
A couple of factors contributed last season that I don't believe to be as impactful this year. The Canes had significant injuries to their top six forwards heading into 2014-15. Jordan Staal (broken leg) and Jeff Skinner (concussion) were hurt in the preseason, and Eric Staal (core injury) and Alexander Semin (wrist) started slow recovering from offseason surgeries. Team health is much more stable this season. Losing defenseman James Wisniewski will be a setback, but not to the degree the team dealt with last year.
The second factor was adjustment to a new structured coaching system led by a first year head coach and a new staff. Once Bill Peters' system started to click together and the team got healthy, they started winning more games.
Bottom line, don't get too overconfident about tonight's game just yet. Though if it's late October, and the Canes still haven't hit the win column, we will hold out hope forOctober 30th. The Avalanche haven't won at PNC Arena since 2008.
Will this be the final season in Raleigh for longtime stalwarts Eric Staal and Cam Ward?
Perhaps, but it's still a bit too early to tell. After six straight seasons with no playoffs there's a sentiment that maybe it's time to cut ties and move on from the two remaining players from the Canes 2005-06 Stanley Cup roster. Both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Both are still very good players and well-liked in the locker room and in the community. Both say they want to stay here. But they are paid to produce at an elite level and their recent performances have not been commensurate to their paychecks. Eric Staal scored 54 points last season and will make $9.5m in salary ($8.25m cap). Cam Ward had a .914 save percentage and will make $6.8m ($6.3m cap). That's a lot of cash that a rebuilding club could use for new talent.
Without career years, neither player will be extended without a substantial pay cut. Unless the team is in the playoff mix at the trade deadline, I don't see the organization being in a desperate position to retain either player, which should give GM Ron Francis the upper hand in negotiations, and both players should be valuable at the deadline to teams that need to bolster a playoff roster.
How excited are Canes fans about first-rounder Noah Hanifin?
You guys picked up the stud defenseman in last year's draft. How's that working out for you?
Yes, we're pretty darn giddy here in Raleigh. I think we got the steal of the draft when Hanifin became available as the fifth overall selection. For background, he made the US squad as an underage player for the 2014 IIHF U18 tournament, then entered Boston College at 17 as the youngest player in their team's history. After being drafted by the Canes he decided to forego NCAA eligibility, signed an entry-level agreement at prospect camp, and earned a spot on the roster coming out of training camp (stop me if any of this begins to sound familiar).
Just making the team as an 18-year-old defenseman is impressive, but he's been so solid in his first games at NHL pace. He's mature from a physical sense in terms of build and strength, but also thinks the game with poise and confidence. He's an excellent skater, moves the puck well and know what to do with the puck when he gets it. The broadcast team said he may have been the best Canes player on the ice against the Red Wings Saturday night. He demonstrated solid play in all three zones, had four shots including one that was tipped in for his first career point, and won several defensive battles to prevent scoring opportunities. If anything, the greatest challenge for the Canes (and fans) may be tempering expectations and not asking him to do too much too soon.
Watch him this season when you get the chance. He's the real deal.