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Wild vs. Hurricanes

Droschak: What's Gone Wrong for Canes?

Monday, 11.02.2009 / 4:01 PM / News
By David Droschak
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Droschak: What\'s Gone Wrong for Canes?
Waving the proverbial magic wand, giving the Hurricanes a 40-19-10 record over their final 69 games for a total of 97 points would be nice, wouldn’t it? That’s the point total Carolina needed to make the NHL playoffs last season, and eventually do some damage in the postseason.

Damage has been done, all right.  Just 30 days in, a new season of optimism turned sour as the team has limped out of the gate to a 2-8-3 record, including a nine-game winless streak that has everyone associated with the Canes a bit puzzled, a bit angry and a bit anxious as the week unfolds with winnable games at Florida and home Friday night against Toronto.

But it would be presumptuous of any of us to count any game in the win column at this point, since every other NHL club is penciling in the Canes for a “W” these days -- and with good reason.

Carolina is a team with little confidence and even less offense. A quick look at the NHL stats doesn’t paint a pretty picture for a veteran group that expected to contend for another run at an Eastern Conference title and possibly beyond. In addition to being 29th in points, the Canes are last in goals per game (2.08), penalty minutes per game (21.5) after leading the league in fewest minutes last season, second-period goals allowed (20), second lowest in face-off percentage and third-lowest in the NHL in 5-on-5 scoring.

In retrospect, the oldest team in the NHL should know how poor starts in this league are akin to a slow, painful death as February and March games suddenly take on playoff importance each time you step on the ice, creating a pressure-packed atmosphere that can be difficult even on a seasoned bunch.

While the management, coaching staff and players try to shift through the recent carnage to figure out answers, I’ll throw in my two cents on the top five issues facing this team from a bird’s eye press box view:

  1. Offense: For whatever reason, the team’s forecheck and cycling game, each hallmarks of a run to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are gone. This has allowed opponents to build up speed through the neutral zone and create juicy scoring opportunities against Cam Ward, who until recently has played very, very well.

  2. Defensive pairings: With three new physical players in the mix (Aaron Ward, Andrew Alberts and Jay Harrison) there has been little consistency and even poorer execution in the team’s zone. Too many turnovers have led to too many easy scoring chances.   

  3. Missed games: Granted, every team has injuries, but Carolina’s have been significant in the opening 13 games, especially on defense where Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason have each missed five games, while Erik Cole was out for 10 with a broken bone in his leg. In addition, Tuomo Ruutu was suspended recently for three games. Now, Eric Staal’s 349-game consecutive streak appears in jeopardy with an upper body injury. What’s next?

  4. Quick strikes: Opponents have scored consecutive goals in less than two minutes a half dozen times so far this season, many coming soon after the Canes have scored, like the other night after taking a 1-0 lead against San Jose. Such quick hits have killed the confidence of a team that was built by GM Jim Rutherford to have more mettle.     

  5. Power play: The Canes aren’t getting many (just 59 chances in 13 games) and aren’t scoring key man-advantage goals when needed. The point position has been a revolving door since the exits of defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Anton Babchuk. In 11 of 13 games, the Canes have scored one or fewer power-play goals. That’s not going to cut it in a league where good special teams rule.

And few can argue that much more is needed from the team’s top-end talent. Staal has just five points, while Rod Brind’Amour is already a minus-9 and Joe Corvo a minus-8. In addition, producing a solid fourth-line that is more than a group that eats up minutes should be a top priority as the team moves forward.

“Hopefully we don’t get in too deep of a hole where when we do turn it around we’re too far back to where we can’t catch a playoff spot,” Rutherford said. “For the most part, this is the same team that was pretty good in the second half last year and we felt that we added some of the pieces in the areas that we needed. I certainly wouldn’t want to point to the new players as the reason this isn’t going right; it’s the players that we rely on that have been real good for us in the past that aren’t right now.

“I’m totally surprised. I never saw this coming.”

Join the club. Me either.




1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYI 63 41 20 2 202 174 84
3 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
4 TBL 63 38 19 6 207 167 82
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 63 33 20 10 184 159 76
8 BOS 61 30 22 9 161 160 69
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 62 25 27 10 139 164 60
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 60 23 30 7 137 159 53
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43


J. Faulk 60 11 28 -14 39
E. Staal 55 18 18 -9 36
E. Lindholm 59 11 16 -15 27
J. Skinner 55 16 9 -15 25
R. Nash 57 7 15 -8 22
N. Gerbe 56 7 14 -11 21
V. Rask 58 8 11 -16 19
J. McClement 60 4 12 1 16
J. Staal 24 4 11 -1 15
A. Semin 36 2 12 -8 14
C. Ward 16 19 4 .914 2.35
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .906 2.60