Tracking the Storm

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 - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72