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Carolina Hurricanes offseason recap

First-round pick Noah Hanifin joins a talented group of young defensemen
First-round pick Noah Hanifin joins a talented group of young defensemen

Last year: 30-41-11, eighth in the Metro Division. Missed the playoffs by 27 points.

Key additions: Noah Hanifin, Eddie Lack, James Wisniewski

Key subtractions: Anton Khudobin, Alex Semin, Patrick Dwyer, Brett Bellemore

Offense: The Staal brothers are still serviceable players, but they are no longer stars capable of carrying an offense. The present and future lies with junior Elias Lindholm and 23-year-old Jeff Skinner, whose quick rise has been thwarted by a myriad of injuries.  Lindholm, Skinner and Eric Staal are really the only players that should even be sniffing top-six roles on a decent club. There are few players with upside like Victor Rask, but for the most part Carolina’s anemic attack is comprised of recycled parts.

Defense: Is Lack really an upgrade over Khudobin? At least he should get a bit more help, with No. 5 pick Hanifin joining Justin Faulk as long-term pillars along the blueline. With Haydn Fleury also on the way, the ‘Canes defense could turn a corner quickly especially if Ryan Murphy becomes a real contributor. Wisniewski will be an upgrade over anyone Carolina had last year other than Faulk and trade deadline casualty Andrej Sekera, but essentially giving up a needed third-round pick to acquire him and switch from Khudobin to Lack seems a little strange for a team with no real hope of competing in the near future. Still, Carolina has assembled a few pieces on defense that could turn this unit into a strength in short order.

Franchise direction: The ‘Canes are well past the point when they should have blown up their roster. There are few veterans left of any value, with the Staals’ values decreasing with each hit. Wisniewski is an attractive trade chip, but beyond that it’s slim pickings. Carolina could choose to cut bait with Skinner in hopes of landing more young pieces, but they’d be risking replacing quality with quantity. Even the most optimistic members of Carolina’s front office have to realize that the club’s roster is miles away from being competitive and far worse than every other division rival with the possible exception of the Devils. It’s hard to see what the vision is here.

More offseason recaps: Penguins, Devils, Islanders

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  • Carolina will again be the cellar dweller this coming season. I hope that they finish ahead of Filthadelphia just for kicks, LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Yup, maybe the Devils too, just for good measure. :).

    Today is the 12th, and really, it hasn’t been much of a number in Rangers history except for one guy–Don Maloney. He played parts of nine seasons with the Rangers. When he burst on the scene as a 20yo at the end of the ’78-’79 season, he energized the team, especially Esposito, and along with 22yo Don Murdoch, the three formed a very effective top line that led the Rangers to a stunning run to the SCF. Maloney had a spectacular post-season.

    In the ’84 playoffs vs the Isles, he scored that controversial late goal in Game 5 to tie the game. I always wondered, if there had been video review back then, would that goal have counted? Can you imagine what it would have been like that night waiting for the decision from Toronto? Either way, it would have gotten ugly at the Coliseum!

    He was arguably the Rangers best player for the first 5-6 years of his career before injuries started to take their toll. A great guy and a real good Ranger!

    • Don Maloney, really? How can you so severely overlook the invaluable contributions from Olli Jokinen, Patrick Rissmiller, and Ales Kotalik?

      • Olli! The missed shot in the shoot out that cost us a playoff spot and, who knows, maybe a deep playoff run that season! Ugh!

          • Yes, it was a huge missed opportunity when the East bracket had big upsets, at least in terms of seeds. Flyers beat a very good Devils team in five games. Then, because the Bruins upset a good Sabres team, that set up a 6 vs 7 matchup between the Flyers and Bruins (unwatchable given my hatred of both teams!). Flyers win in 7. Then the 8th seed Canadiens, after shocking higher seeded Washington and Pittsburgh, faced the Flyers in, as you mentioned, a rare 7 vs 8 Conference Final which of course Philly won.

            So if Olli could have put that puck in the net, who knows what might have happened?

          • I’m not sure, but I think that was the year we were hobbling around with guys like Anders Erikkson and Jody Shelley. I doubt that we would’ve made any noise in the playoffs. We probably just would;ve lost to Washington, which was the trend at the time.

          • Correct. You are probably right. Just wishful thinking on my part I guess! 🙂

  • Right On Eddie! “The Mafia line” is one of the greatest line names in hockey history. Espo and the two Dons……… classic!

    My pops was at that All Star game in 1984 at the Brendan Byrne Arena when Don Maloney took home the MVP trophy. I was only 7 years old in 79′ but I looked up his stats. 26pts in 28 regular season games and 20pts in 18 post season games. We could use that kind of playoff production from a few of our current forwards. I believe Don Maloney was one of the Sassoon boys if I’m remembering correctly? A memory worth forgetting lol

    • Actually, it was brother Dave, Duguay, Espo and Hedberg. One of the cheesiest commercials ever, yet, in its own bizarre way, kind of compelling too!

      My best memory of the commercial was its unintended affect that season. The Rangers, after upsetting the Isles in the ’79 playoffs and going to SCF, were the toast of NY. The Yankees had had an off year and were reeling due to the tragic death of Thurman Munson as well as Billy Martin being fired (for the second out of what would be five times!). The Mets, Jets, Nets, Knicks and Giants were all awful. The Isles were considered choke artists after another playoff failure. The town was, at that brief moment in the Fall of ’79, totally a Rangers town! The expectations were high, everyone was on board, and cheesy commercials featuring Rangers were no surprise!

      But the Rangers faltered. They made the big trade for Barry Beck. A very good player but totally disrupted team chemistry. JD was not the same after injuries. They had a mediocre regular season. So as the team struggled at times, the Boo Birds were in full force. I’ll never forget one chant that I loved, as a salute to the Sasson commercial, during a particularly bad game–“Ooohh….la la….YOU SUCK!” Emanating from the Blue Seats of course and enveloping everyone at MSG. I was laughing so hard I almost fell out of the press box. I remember going in the dressing room after the game and asked the players about it, and even they thought it was pretty clever!

      The Blue Seats NEVER disappointed!

  • The NHL Network aired the Rangers/Devils 1994 games 6 and 7 this morning. Watching those games just never gets old!!! I think it’s only fitting (after the signing of Stoll this week) to mention the impact those bottom 6 forwards had on that team especially in the playoffs that year. In the first period of game 7, Keenan rolled the fourth line of MacTavish, Kocur and Gilbert out there as many times as he did the Messier line. They set the tone by throwing their body around every chance they got, and Esa Tikanen was an absolute menace to anyone wearing a Devils jersey. You just can’t underestimate these heart and soul guys who excel in the dirty areas of the ice.

    • Chris, I LOVE watching those games! So much fun and never gets old! Agree completely.

  • I live in the Carolina market (Atlanta reverted to Carolina territory after losing the Thrashers). Your comment regarding the offense couldn’t be more correct. Calling it anemic is almost a compliment.

    Defense isn’t an issue with that team. From November 13 through January 30, Cam Ward posted a 2.30 GAA and had a 6-14-3 record. In December alone he was 2-7-1 with a 2.11 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

    Lack is an upgrade over Khudobin and he’s younger, but neither would start over Ward at this point in their respective careers. I think they drafted Hanifin because he was too good to pass on at #5 (given he was the #3 ranking by central scouting), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hoping that Strome slipped to them.

  • To Chris72, I say: bravo! …and to all others, I say: by the by, any of those energy, grit, heart, soul guys on the current roster? Allow me to answer: NONE other than Glass (whose big problem is his contract, moreso than his play). I wholeheartedly disagree with all those who say the rule changes and other evolutions of this great sport render those types of players dinosaurs or useless. Can’t field a team made up just of those types, but they are instrumental to a winner. BALANCE, I say; BALANCE. Ok, let me have it….

    • I’m intrigued by what you are saying. Not sure I totally agree but partially agree. Every successful team needs those so-called “heart and soul” players. But what defines that? Is it just size that suggests such qualities? Fighting ability? Isn’t a Dominic Moore a heart and soul player? Isn’t Zuc? What about Girardi? Despite the flaws in the latter’s game, doesn’t he play with more heart, soul and courage than anyone else on the ice?

      I guess I define such a player as someone who’s value can’t be measured just in terms of stats alone, but brings other intangibles of value to the table. I think the Rangers have their share and aren’t really lacking in that regard. Not that you can’t use more of those types, but not at the expense of speed, shooting and passing ability, etc.

      As for the guys Chris mentioned, I think MacTavish and Gilbert in their prime were good players who certainly could play in reasonably effectively in the modern NHL. At the point at which the Rangers acquired them in ’94, they were certainly contributors but were clearly on the downside of their careers, and in fact both were done as players within 2-3 years after they hoisted the Cup as Rangers. I’m not so sure the 35yo MacTavish or the 32yo Gilbert could play on a SC contender in this day and age, given the speed of the game today. Maybe. Maybe not.

      Kocur? I’m not 100% sure he’d be as effective in today’s NHL even in his prime as he was in the NHL of 20 years ago. Clearly, his presence brought intangibles that helped the ’94 Rangers win the Cup. Would he be a guy that could play in today’s NHL? I’m skeptical that his one note approach to the game would not be enough. I’d put my money on Gilbert and MacTavish in their prime before I’d bet on Kocur.

      But it’s a great point and a fascinating discussion. Very interested in what you and the other have to say about it!

      • It really is a great conversation guys! The culture of the NHL has changed so much since the 90’s. At one point the Rangers had Joey Kocur, Tie Domi and Kris King on the same roster for a couple of seasons. Kocur and Domi especially were there mainly to enforce. There were, and are, a handful of players that both enforce and have great offensive ability (Clark Gillies comes to mind). For the most part however, these roles would be filled by two different players. In the 90’s, accumulative fighting majors wouldn’t affect your availability for upcoming games. That is no longer the case. I think the type of player Eddie, rjcy and myself are debating is this “hybrid” player who lands somewhere in the middle of enforcer and high energy, chronic pest role player.

    • Too many people look at it either or, which isn’t really the case. Every team needs team guys. Team first guys can be gritty, but don’t have to be. Zuc is a team first guy, but when people think typical heart and soul they refer to guys like Brandon Prust. And YES, you are correct that players like that are necessary. Like you say balance.

      The problem with lumping Glass into this category is that he cannot play hockey effectively. And that is the main problem. Skill should be blended with size and grit should be balanced with finesse throughout the roster. But not at the expense of dressing anchors on skates. And look at any metric- that is what Glass does to things like possession, shot attempts for vs shot attempts against, etc.

      Everyone- even the fancy stats ‘nerds’- loves a bruiser. Over powering someone physically in order to gain control of the puck is an extremely effective measure in the sport. Big hits are a huge part of why we love the game.

      Too many times people read “I’m not convinced the Rangers should dress McIlrath” as “I hate physicality”, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. IF he can play, I would prefer him and what he brings to the lineup over many of our other defensive options. Niklas Kronwall, for example, is a guy who can lay the boom with the best of them. IN CONJUNCTION with that, he is a phenomenal defenseman. And that defensive ability is more important to have in the line up over a guy who can just hit.

      Greg Campbell’s inspirational penalty kill with a broken leg (or foot) in the Bruins march to the 2011 Stanley cup was a thing of legend, and YES, we all like that in our bottom 6 to compliment guys like Nash or Gaborik or whomever is supposed to be scoring your goals. I don’t think anyone disagrees. You just can’t have them at the expense of better options. Simply put, there are better options than Glass. Find me another “blue collar” guy who can actually play, and I think we are all happy.

      • Well said. Agree completely!

        To some extent, I think there are many Rangers fans who are still scarred by the beating Schultz laid on Dale Rolfe 41 years ago. Even if those fans weren’t around then, it still resonates. In fact, that moment not only scarred fans, but influenced future personnel decisions for years to come. It’s popular lore to say the Rangers just stood around and lacked courage, but Rolfe will tell you, Park will tell you, not so. Game 7 of the ECF. The league had the third man in rule. Schultz fought the undersized Rolfe trying to bait Park, Ratelle, Gilbert, etc to jump in. If they had, they would have been ejected. Then people wold have screamed at the Rangers lack of discipline. Rolfe, while getting pummeled, screamed “Do NOT jump in”. The optics on it were bad and left an indelible mark on everyone who saw it. But its impact on Game 7 I think was negligible.

        The Schultz fight effectively ended the Rangers run of great seasons. Ratelle was traded for Espo, in part to get bigger up front. Francis was fired and Ferguson brought in, in part to make the Rangers tougher. Heck, for two seasons the Rangers abandoned their classic uniform in favor of a look that would apparently make them look “meaner”. They got meaner and got awful. A few years after that, the Rangers unloaded three key players (Hickey, DeBlois and McEwen) from their ’79 Cup Finals team all to get Barry Beck, a good but in my view somewhat overrated defenseman all because he was 6-3 215. Disrupted team chemistry and the Rangers became extremely mediocre.

        I’m sure there were others in between, but even in the mid-90’s, after another Cup run, the talented Sergei Zubov was shipped off to the Penguins as part of a deal that landed Ulf Samulesson. Smith and Campbell didn’t think Zubov was “tough enough”.

        This has always been a hot button for me. I always cringe when I hear people say “we need to get bigger”, “we can’t get pushed around”. “let’s play this player because he’s big and tough”. Agree completely with Hatrick. That’s all fine, I’m all in favor of size and intimidation (although I think that’s somewhat overrated in today’s NHL because most of them are already big guys and I don’t believe many modern day NHL players can be intimidated). But I will take speed, smarts, great shooting and/or passing skills, tremendous defensive instincts, what have you, over just size and fighting ability any day!

        • Well done Eddie. Appreciate the history…..I wasn’t around for those days but man must it have been crazy

          • Agree with both of you. To me, a true power forward looks like Cam Neely, John LeClair and Kevin Stevens. Size, hands, skating and toughness

  • Carolina is my favorite rebuild team in nhl 15. Burned it down for 2 years, won the Stanley Cup in the third

    • I was gonna mention this for my greatest Ranger to wear 12. In NHL 14, I acquired Patrick Marleau from San Jose and had him play wing on a Marleau/Richards/Nash line. I won the Cup (who doesn’t?) on a OT game winner from Marleau. That’s got to count for something, right?

  • The 13th…..number 13, and since we started this on the 14th last month, our final installment of our salute to the Rangers numbers on the calendar!

    13, as one could guess, was not a number that many Rangers would dare to wear. The list has been short. Bob Brooke scored a big OT goal in Game 4 of the ’86 Patrick Division Final vs Washington. Kevin Hayes of course is wearing the number now, and perhaps he will truly make the number memorable for years to come.

    But until then, the best number 13 had to be Sergei Nemchinov. Six seasons, including the ’94 Cup. Not tremendously talented, but a solid two way guy, highly intelligent. Would do all the little things to help you win. I always thought, if only there had been a way to transfer Nemchinov’s brain and keen hockey sense into the body of the talented but enigmatic and immature Alexei Kovalev, the Rangers would have had themselves a superstar!

    • I’m with you 100% Eddie. Sergei was an excellent penalty killer and responsible two way centerman.

      Does anyone have an objection to starting the 14th with All Time NHL greats to wear that number?

      • Well, I’ll read it with great interest for sure, but my memory bank may not be real good when it comes to rivals’ uniform numbers. But hey, we still have, what, five weeks to go until camp starts? So I’m up for anything.

        Here’s another possibility we discussed. Create an all-time Rangers roster. Four lines, three defensive pairs. Two goalies. And maybe 2-3 “black aces”. That would be a fun project to try!

        And you have to make the lines “logical”, meaning not just select the top 12 scoring forwards in Rangers history, but also look for those grinders who can effectively fill the 4th line roles. After all, we are designing this team to “win”! Any takers on that? 🙂

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