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13 July 2007

Have the Canes done enough?

After bringing Lord Stanley to North Carolina in 2005-2006, the Canes had a very mediocre year. Finishing 40-34-8 and 12th in the East, eliminated from the playoffs officially during the last week of the season. Not even a chance to defend their title.
As disappointing as that was for the entire Caniac nation, despite the amazing outcome of the last game of the season, we knew that something had to give. My theory is that there was a bit of an expectation for their playoff spot to be "handed" to them. Not many changes had been made between the 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 seasons in our core. Our biggest loss was probably Matt Cullen on our third line. I don't think anyone expected the role he played to be so difficult to be filled. I believe a total of 4 forwards were brought in to fill the role and none of them were successful.
Many players fought off injury through the shortened offseason and then through the entire season. Whitney played a good portion of the season with hurt shoulder and Brind'amour was fighting through a foot injury as well. On top of that, our blue line seemed to take the hardest hit. Frank Kaberle missed half of the season after surgery, Tim Gleason seemed to get injured any time we played the Panthers, and Bret Hedican had hip injury after hip injury.
Honestly it probably was very possible for them to push harder to try and make the playoffs, but I doubt they would have made it past the first round had they made it.

More important than wondering what the heck happened this season was focusing on making the next season better. The biggest step for us was re-signing our free agents who are core part of this team. Ward, Whitney, Walker, and Wesley were all re-signed before the FA period began. We got rid of some "extra" baggage by letting Vasicek and Carter (both brought to try and fill that gap a bit) become free agents. Being that we had 8 defenseman under contract, we also let Tanabe become a free agent. He is the only one out of those three that I would have kept. He is a good offensive blue-liner and after the All-Star break, he really shone as a top defenseman for us. Jim Rutherford also decided to let Anton Babchuk go play in Russia after unsuccessfully trying to get rid of him since his falling out before the trade deadline.
Draft day we traded our 7th round pick for goaltender Michael Leighton to be our "third" goalie. I think this was a steal on our part and perhaps if John Grahame isn't able to stay after his contract is up at the end of this season, I think we could rely on him to back up Ward.

Free agency period began July 1st and after watching his first choice, Todd White, get snatched up JR picked up Blackhawks centre Jeff Hamilton with an $800,000 contract. I think this is another steal for us. Hamilton put up good numbers considering his team's overall success this past season. He can score on the shootout and also play point of the PP. Just what we need.
Although it seemed that Hamilton would for sure be playing 3rd line centre JR has now expressed that he is looking for someone who is a bit more of a solid 3rd line centre.
Rumours are now flying that we are looking to bring Matt Cullen back from the Rangers (who are looking to get their salary back under tha cap)

While many people think that we should be doing more to change our team, I really find that what we have done is sufficient and will help us have a great year. We are well rested with our core players resigned, a few alterations have been made with maybe one or two more in store. Unless they go out and aren't hungry for it, the Canes will be contenders this year, so watch out Habs! : )
Please feel free to share your thoughts here and/or email me your thoughts at kyanacek@peace.edu
Go Canes!

5 fanatics have replied:

JD FLYGUY said...

Although I agree with most of what you said, you can't overlook one of the most obvious shortcomings of the Canes this past season - the poor stats put up by Staal. One of the reasons the Canes did so well 2 years ago is the fact that Staal was an unexpected success. Granted, management had high hopes for him, but at the same time, he exceeded his expectations. By all means, good for him. He had a great year and no one can take that away from him. After that breakout season, management/coaching tended to expect a similar season out of him the next year. Thus, why they didn't make too many great changes from season to season. Because of his "inability" to produce like the prior season, the Canes suffered production-wise.

I know one player doesn't (shouldn't) make a team, this can't reallllly be overlooked. Well..in my opinion anyway.

Katy said...

I agree, but like you said I don't like putting the blame on one player. I think Staal was given some slack this past season, but we know he can put up the points and he needs to see more bench time if he isn't racking them up this season.

Mike Thompson said...

Staal's season didn't seem so bad to me. He was a joy to watch in 05-06, and he may have over-produced. Still, a 70 point player in only his second year, he is a far cry from 31 points in his first season. I expect he'll fall somewhere in the 80-90 point range for 07-08.

As a team, the Canes may have utilized the injury bug as an excuse at times last season and may have lost some of the competative fire after winning the cup. I expect this will be rectified this year. Overall, this a good team with a solid core of players. They should have a good year next season.

Mike Thompson said...

I meant 70 points in his second year since the lockout...

Katy said...

LOL I knew what you meant, no worries.
Staal's major issue was the he went week after week with no production. He was there or he wasn't. It was the same with several players, but I have the feeling that it won't be the same way this year. They know they can't sit around for the first part of the season and still expect to finish in the top 8.

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