Hurricanes Guest Blog Writer: Matt Ross
I’m getting ready to head out to my men's league game tonight. I’m playing with a new team this session – there are a couple familiar faces, but for the most part, it’s a new squad. At 32, this is as close as I’ll get to feeling like I’ve been traded or scooped up in free agency—except, my “contract” is a post-game beer and not the millions that the big boys with actual talent make.
Regardless of what level you’re at, it’s always kind of strange being out of your comfort zone.
While change can be weird, it can also be a really good thing. It can get you out of a rut, help bring a fresh perspective and/or get you to experience things you might not have otherwise.
This is sort of the case for the Carolina Hurricanes and the many changes they’ve gone through – and the ones that are inevitably on the horizon. I’m a Blackhawks fan, but like many hockey people, there are other teams I like as well. One such team is the Hurricanes.
I started keeping an eye on Carolina when they became a frequent trade dance partner with Chicago. I like seeing ex-Hawks head there and continue their careers—whether it’s good or bad.
I can go on a soapbox about the trades between these two organizations, but I’d rather talk a bit about some of the recent moves/changes by Carolina these past few months from my outsider’s perspective...
What got the ball rolling was Thomas Dundon taking the reigns as the new owner. It’s obvious this guy wants to put Carolina on the NHL map with some of his plans for arena improvements, etc. Embracing the team’s past was a nice touch and hooking fans up with lower-bowl seats is never a bad thing. As far as I can tell, he seems hands-on and willing to do what it takes in the Carolina market, even if that means stepping on some toes—which is something you need someone to do from time to time.
Cleaning out some of the front office was also important. Promoting Rod ‘The Bod’ Brind'Amour to the head coach (and resident ass-whooper) position should payoff. A true hockey guy who served as the Captain that led the Canes to their only cup back in 2006, but more importantly, has been a part of the organization for years, has positive relationships with players/personnel and understands what needs to be done to become a winning team.
Obviously, the most fun changes have come in the form of players the Canes have added via trade and free agency; the big ones being Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan now on the blueline—although, I’m curious to see how deHaan does coming off that injury. Even with the loss of Hanafin, the Hurricanes have a pretty heavy crew on defense—one that should be very solid—with a nice mix of young guys like Slavin, Pesce, and TVR.
The two biggest issues that face the Canes are lack of scoring and the man/men in the bluepaint. I actually think the two issues are connected. While I think the scoring could come around with help from the backend, getting better goaltending performances should mask the low scoring and help put more tallies in the W column.
So the biggest question is: Will Scott Darling be the true #1 the Canes need?
I was surprised when Darling got the offer he did to come to the Canes. A 4- year deal at roughly $4 M a year is great from the Darling camp perspective, but one that was probably reserved more for a seasoned/experienced guy who has proved he’s a starter. Darling was coming off a couple solid years as a backup and some stellar relief appearances, but had no experience as “the guy” so-to-speak. Again, he played great in his role as a backup and seemed like he was poised to take the next step, but when he did, he struggled. It was a gamble by Carolina in terms of the offer and thus far hasn’t paid off. It could be that Darling finds his form, or maybe he doesn’t. Time will tell, but I think bringing Petr Mrazek in on a one-year deal is good move. Say what you will about him, but I think Mrazek has potential. His signing feels less like a “show me what you can do” and more like an idea to push Darling into that starter they think (but realistically) need him to be. Mrazek is similar to Darling in a sense that he’s a guy who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations either. Two young guys now trying to prove they belong can hopefully create a solid goalie competition that brings forward their best play.
We’ll soon be getting some answers with the season right around the corner...