RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 03: Jussi Jolkinen #36 celebrates with teammate Jaroslav Spacek #8 of the Carolina Hurricanes after scoring a second period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during play at the RBC Center on March 3, 2012 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
When I stopped by Canes Country, the Carolina Hurricanes were a very different team. It was before their acquisition of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, two players that are sure to make an impact this coming year. However, from their responses and lurking around their board over the past few weeks, I've been able to piece together a workable understanding of their team.
The Canes are a lot like the Avs - young, fast, and up-and-coming. Just like us, more than half their team is under 25, including last year's Calder winner, Jeff Skinner. Their deepest position is defense, but they're overrun with a number of small, offensive defensemen (yay PMDs!) while they're still searching for big shutdown blueliners. They're also rather deep at center now with E. Staal, J. Staal, and Skinner, even though their wings are still a bit thin. Semin and Staal should help considerably, but it's still one of their weakest positions. They have as many bottom 6 players as we do, but they'd probably like some of our goalie prospects. A number of theirs left over the past year due to the KHL and redrafting and they'd like a little more of a future behind Cam Ward and the aging vet Brian Boucher.
The Canes prefer an up-tempo style that relies on skating, hitting, and working hard, but they're still slightly mistake-prone due to youth - basically, they play a very similar style to us. These similarities didn't escape their fan's notice either. A number of posters remarked on it, and some even offered more in-depth comparisons between our two teams. This first one is from PackPride17 comparing our players.
O'Reilly/Sutter (traded for J. Staal) - tough, solid, team guys
Duchene/(E.) Staal - talented scorers that appear to lose drive every once in a while
Landeskog/Ruutu - physical wingers that can score, but Landeskog has more upside
Jones/LaRose - good players that are slotted too high on each team
Johnson/Pitkanen - Very talented, mobile defensemen that make questionable plays at times
Hejda/Gleason - stable defensive defensemen that provide some leadership
The second is from surgalt and has a wider focus.
Even though Kirk Muller, their coach, said the Staals will be staring out on the same line, many of the Canes fans feel that the 1-2 punch of Staal and Staal is probably better than shifting one of the natural centers to a wing in the long run. Most of them think their setup will end up looking something like this:
Tlusty – E Staal – Semin
Skinner – J Staal – Ruutu
Jokinen – Welsh – LaRose
Stewart - Brent - Bowman
Gleason / Corvo
Pitkanen / Faulk
Harrison / McBain / Murphy (prospect) / Sanguinetti (prospect)
Despite the fact that Minnesota is getting all of the "Winning the offseason" props, Carolina made a number of very smart moves and has an owner that's clearly very committed to spending in order to make the team better right now. Even if their recent moves don't work out as planned, one thing is for sure - the Canes are going to be a very interesting club to watch next year.
If there's one thing that all the Canes fans seem to agree on, it's that they have the best tailgating in the league. Stormy, their mascot, is a pig, so one of the primary traditions of the Hurricanes faithful has become a pig roast with beer before games. It's only one of the reasons why people like the Canes - military support, character players, and lots of giving back to the community also rank high on their lists. They also consider it a very well-managed organization and believe that Jim Rutherford is one of the best GMs in the league. They're very content with Muller as their new head coach and believe their scouting and player development has been getting better over the past few years.
They have a number of fan favorites, but Chad LaRose, a physical and hilarious forward, and Skinner are the most noted. Pitkanen and Anthony Stewart (Chris' brother) have a reputation for being annoying underachievers, while defensively-responsible RW Patrick Dwyer seems to be the most underrated by people outside of the team. Parise was the most pined over player, but Stastny and Landeskog both got a lot of love and the Buffalo Sabres received the most hate.
They have a number of good prospects, but most are small, puck moving defensemen. Ryan Murphy was Skinner and Landy's teammate in Kitchener and taken #12 overall in the '11 draft. Big D-man Brian Dumoulin also ranked high on their list, but he was sent to Pittsburgh in the Staal trade earlier this year. Centers Jeremy Welsh and Victor Rask are also interesting young players, but a lot of the fans aren't getting their hopes up too much. They've not had much luck with prospects panning out in the past few years.
As far as the Avs go, they again noted our team's similarities. They like our tempo, but more than half of them don't get overly excited when they see us on the schedule. They do seem to think we're headed in the right direction, but they also think our management is a bit cheap. We lack superstars right now, but overall, they see us as a solid team on the rise.