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The New Defense: Part One

Friday, 09.5.2008 / 1:55 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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The New Defense: Part One

Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford spent most of the offseason retooling the team’s defense.  While the goal of getting younger accomplished itself when Glen Wesley (39) retired and Bret Hedican (38) departed soon after the season ended, adding some mobility and offensive skill was still an issue.

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Rutherford accomplished that by bringing 24-year-old Joni Pitkanen in from Edmonton in exchange for Erik Cole, but the rebuilding process had already begun in that regard. 

Joe Corvo came over last season in a trade with Ottawa and immediately filled a long-open void in the team’s lineup - a skilled puckhandler with offensive capabilities, similar to Pitkanen. 

Through those two trades, the Canes went from having no defensemen with that skill set to having two can cause as much havoc on the offensive end as they prevent in their own. 

To demonstrate that change in dynamic, consider that Corvo’s 21 points as a Cane were just one less than the Hurricanes’ next most prolific scorer from the blue line, Frantisek Kaberle.  Corvo played only 23 games with Carolina.  Kaberle played 80.

“Our transition game will be much stronger,” said Rutherford.  “We’ve always looked for mobile, puck-moving defensemen and power play guys. We’ve had guys that have been OK, but not at the level of Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen.  These are two guys that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to both have 50-point seasons.”

Corvo ended up with a career high 48 points with Ottawa and Carolina last season, so 50 wouldn’t be a stretch at all, especially if he produces like he did after arriving in Raleigh.  That mark is also attainable for Pitkanen, who posted his best offensive season with 46 points with the 2005-06 Philadelphia Flyers.

While such things won’t be made certain until training camp is well underway, Corvo and Pitkanen, along with Matt Cullen (36 assists in 59 games), should cause other teams plenty of trouble while running the point on the power play.

Rutherford also indicated that formerly estranged defenseman Anton Babchuk, back from a year in a Russia and known for his hard shot, could be in that mix as well.

”We’ve got Pitkanen and Corvo ahead of him on the power play, but if he’s playing well there’s no reason he couldn’t be on the second unit and do well there,” said Rutherford.

At any rate, the days of the five-forward power play seem to be over.

We'll be back starting Monday with parts 2 and 3 as well plenty more content to preview the coming season.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81