Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Southeast Division Overview (Carolina)

When you think of the Carolina Hurricanes, you think one more game. That was all that separated the '05-'06 Stanley Cup Champions from repeating another playoff run. Just one game out.

Carolina's off season was a very quiet one. GM Jim Rutherford believes if it ain't broke, why make changes. "We have the structure here of a team that can win the Stanley Cup again," Rutherford told the Raleigh News Observer upon missing the playoffs last year. "That's why we have to be very careful with the decisions we make in June as to who will start the season with us next year. And that's why we want to get away from all the emotions and disappointment now and start to talk about who fits on our team and how we can improve our team to get back to winning."

As far as the 'Canes forwards are concerned, there is little change. But more is needed from Eric Staal who is returning from an off season (and a bachelor party) he would like to forget. Staal heroics in the play off run two seasons ago made him a star, but the Hurricanes need more out of the forward during the regular season if they wish to wash away an early departure come April. Eric Cole returns healthy and ready and Carolina has brought back Matt Cullen from the Rangers. It should be a dangerous offense working off the disappointment of last year.

Carolina's defense has also remained intact. Names like Mike Commodore, Frantisek Kaberle, Niclas Wallin and Bret Hedican will all be on the Hurricane blue line again.

Goaltending is not really in question for the 'Canes. Cam Ward will be the work horse for most of the season. But a costly John Grahame is also a capable starter.

Carolina's coach Peter Laviolette will have this team buzzing at the start of the season. The 'Canes are a dangerous team in the Southeast, and I think they have the potential to kick it into gear and take either first or second in the division.

For the Capitals, it will be important series for them this season to play Carolina tough. The Hurricanes have a well rounded team that has now played as a unit for a couple of years. Their offense will be as dangerous as it was last year, and it's defense just as gritty. Last season Carolina was 5-3-0 against the Capitals.

Tomorrow: Florida

NHL Notes:

Uncle Ted has set the bar for the Capitals. "Every person in the organization's expectation is that we will make the playoffs," Leonsis told reporters. Not so much as a promise, but a goal. We are all behind you Ted. Make it happen. "I could be wrong," Leonsis added. "Time will tell - but at least I've got a plan." Good high note to end on.

The season hasn't started (some training camps haven't even started yet) and already teams are trading. The Islanders traded Petteri Nokelainen for a conditional draft pick and Ben Walter from Boston. Not sure what this does for either Boston or Long Island, but time will tell I'd imagine.

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