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Did the Hurricanes blow a chance to rebuild?

Feb 27, 2012, 11:03 PM EDT

Tuomo Ruutu Getty Images

When you’re an NHL GM dealing with a rough season, the trade deadline forces some tough questions. The most important one is also often the toughest one, especially when “feelings” and reputations come tied to opinions:

How good is my team?

Or maybe it should be phrased this way instead: How far away is my team?

If you ask me, Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has answered that question with his heart instead of his head. Give Rutherford credit for this much, though: he’s confident in those beliefs – whether they’re justified or not. He told reporters including NHL.com’s Kurt Dusterberg that the team isn’t far away from getting it together.

“We need another top-flight forward to play with Eric Staal,” Rutherford said. “If we can maintain what we have now and add that player, then we’re getting real close to being a real good team again.”

A manic franchise

The Hurricanes have been a  strange duck of a team for a long time. Perhaps it comes with their feast-or-famine attacking system, but Carolina’s periodic successes tend to come based on sometimes-sudden waves of momentum. (Their runs to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals and 2002 Stanley Cup finals are the best examples.)

I cannot help but wonder if that leads to a “we can re-capture that magic” philosophy in the front office, then. Aside from when a Jeff Skinner slides to them in the draft, it seems like the organization is fueled by nostalgia – which kind of limits the talent pool.

Maybe Muller is the answer?

Then again, perhaps the Hurricanes are a lot like the Ducks in that “wait ’til next year” is bolstered by more than mere wishful thinking; it’s based on the promise of their new coach. Both teams have played much better hockey since making changes behind the bench, which might imply that previous troubles stemmed from the cooks rather than the ingredients.

I don’t think that’s really the case with Carolina or Anaheim in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the best argument I could muster in Rutherford’s defense.

***

Where do you stand then? Was it wise to keep the band together in Carolina? Do tell.

  1. danphipps01 - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:12 PM

    They really lack forward depth. They also lack elite puck-moving D. Really, their defense in general is unworthy of comment. Their best guy would be #3 at best on a contender. They’ve got a very hit-and-miss top forward in Staal and few people to support him in the offensive zone – and when they cough up the puck, Cam Ward lets it in because his days of being able to out-clutch Chris freaking Osgood are apparently long done.

    In short, the roster is average at some things, terrible at others. It’s not quite Columbus, but they can’t even be optimistic about the future sucking LESS, because unlike Edmonton, they apparently refuse to rebuild.

    • tavolacci - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:38 AM

      The Canes are real close to being one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, they have 13 Overtime Loses. Injuries to Joni Pitkamen and Boucher (most of the season), Skinner and LaRose have missed nearly a month and now Ward is hurt… If they could have just broke even with their overtime losses they would be right there, perhaps Rutherford stayed too long with Maurice (I rather have a GM who gives his team & coach a chance) if Muller could have come in a week or two sooner this team would be a Playoff Team. It’s a longshot, however this team has not given up on this season…

  2. tcclark - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Ask me when this awful team is forced to play Philly, Pittsburgh, NY, NJ, Washington, and an improving Islanders team 6 times a year.

  3. deeboy - Feb 28, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Carolina still has some holes. I don’t know if JR is correct in stating “we are close”, but they are definitely not horrible. The needs are clear. They need a top line winger to play with Staal. JR has already stated on the record that he’s identified 2-3 FA to be to fill that role and will pursue those guys aggressively in the offseason. Org depth here is not so good. They are waiting for one of their prospects to break through the AHL/NHL barrier in something more than a checking role.

    The defense has been MUCH better since Muller took over. They have some veteran pieces (Gleason, Allen) the best rookie D-man in the NHL this year in Justin Faulk, one of the best rookies from last year (McBain), and top-end prospects in the minors and college.

    Lots of injuries to key players and some bad luck this season have doomed them to the bottom of the standings.

    The one definitely truth in this article is that JR is a little too nostalgic in his past personnel moves. I was half expecting Corey Stillman to come out of retirement and the canes to trade for Ray Whitney….

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